CAPECANAVERAL, Fla. ? NASA's space shuttle Endeavour and its seven-astronaut creware cleared for their planned Aug. 8 launch, mission managers said today at theKennedy Space Center (KSC).
So far, themission has faced poor weather, a pesky air leak and even sabotagedequipment for the International Space Station (ISS) leading up to thelaunch approval.
Despite thelast-minute challenges and a 24-hour delay, said space shuttle program managerWayne Hale, the STS-118 mission is still ahead of schedule with a 6:36 p.m.(2236 GMT) launch on Wednesday from Pad 39A.
"Weaccelerated the launch of Endeavour by two days," Hale said, explainingthat a launch conflict with other space missions also set to fly created theneed for speed. "But by my count, we're still a day ahead of where wewould have been ? and we're ready to go fly."
Veteranastronaut and commander ScottKelly will lead the STS-118 astronauts on their 11-to-14 day mission toinstall a new starboard piece of the space station's main truss.
Teacher-turned-spaceflyerBarbaraMorgan, NASA's first professional educator astronaut, is trained as one ofthe crew's mission specialists. During the NASA's Teacher in Space program,Morgan served as the backup for New Hampshire high school teacher Christa McAuliffe, whodied along with six other astronauts on January 28, 1986 aboard the shuttleChallenger.
The STS-118mission's overarching goal is to continue assembly of the space laboratory, andprime it for further construction. While orbiting above Earth, theastronauts will also deliver ISS supplies, spare parts, make repairs to thegrowing station and conduct a handful of experiments.
As NASAreadies Endeavour for launch, however, the agency is also mindful of completingthe ISS with a space shuttle fleet set toretire in 2010.
"It's abig job putting together the International Space Station, but we're going totake it one step at a time," Hale said, adding that maximizing the use ofeach flight will be necessary.
Haleexplained that preserving NASA's current workforce will be essential to theachieving the agency's goals.
"Asthe program winds down, we want to retain our critical people, that's probablyour number-one challenge," Hale said. "What makes this [space]program happen is the people that support it."
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