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US Space Shuttle Endeavour Launches With New Lab, Robot


Space Shuttle Endeavour has launched on an ambitious mission to deliver a new science laboratory and robotic system to the International Space Station. VOA's Brian Wagner reports from Miami.

The seven-person crew aboard Endeavour lifted off during a rare nighttime launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA officials say the 16-day space mission will include the longest shuttle visit to the International Space Station in the program's history.

The Endeavour is delivering the first of three sections of a Japanese-built science station, called Kibo. Astronauts also will attach a Canadian-built robotic arm system that will assist astronauts during space walks and perform other tasks.

Canadian astronaut Julie Payette says the two-armed Dextre system will enable crew members to carry out delicate operations on the space station. "There may be times when it will be very useful to use the robot to change out a piece of faulty equipment on the space station without having to schedule a long space walk."

The Endeavour also is carrying astronaut Garrett Reisman who will remain on the space station, allowing French astronaut Leopold Eyharts to return to Earth.

The next shuttle launch is scheduled for May when Discovery is to deliver the second portion of the Kibo laboratory to the space station.

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