The weekend weather forecast is shaping up to give NASA?s space shuttle Endeavour a good chance of blasting off before dawn on Sunday.
Endeavour and its crew of six astronauts have a 70 percent chance of pristine weather conditions for their planned 4:39 a.m. EST (0939 GMT) launch from NASA?s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sunday. The predawn blastoff is slated to be NASA?s last ever shuttle launch in darkness.
Kathy Winters, NASA?s shuttle weather officer, said only the potential for high winds poses a threat to the upcoming shuttle launch. At launch time Sunday, those winds are still expected to be within acceptable limits, she added.
Commanded by veteran astronaut George Zamka, Endeavour?s five-man, one-woman crew is set to fly a 13-day mission to the International Space Station. The shuttle is hauling a brand-new room for the station, called Tranquility, as well as a seven-window observation portal dubbed the Cupola.
Zamka and his crewmates arrived at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral late Tuesday night and are on a skewed night-day schedule. During their ?daytime? in space, it will be late at night or before dawn in the United States.
?Welcome to the STS-130 night shift,? Zamka said, referring to his mission?s designation. ?It?s the only shift we?ve got.?
Endeavour astronauts plan to perform three spacewalks to hook up the new Tranquility module. They will be working closely with the space station?s five-man crew.
The space station is currently home to two American astronauts, two Russian cosmonauts and a Japanese spaceflyer. They?ve spent the month gearing up for Endeavour?s arrival by moving a spare parts shelf, staging a spacewalk to activate a new docking port, and moving a Soyuz spacecraft to that rooftop parking spot.
But the work in space hasn?t stopped there. Earlier today, an unmanned Russian cargo ship launched toward the space station from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan (though it was nighttime at the Central Asian launch site).
The space freighter, dubbed Progress 36, is carrying more than 2.5 tons of fresh food, equipment and other supplies for the space station crew. It will arrive Thursday night at 11:30 p.m. EST (0430 Friday GMT).
Endeavour?s launch is the first of NASA five final shuttle missions planned for this year before the three-orbiter fleet is retired to make way for future spacecraft. It will mark NASA?s 130th shuttle flight since the fleet began launching astronauts to orbit in 1981.