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Space Shuttle Endeavour Launch Remains on Track


All systems are go for Friday's scheduled launch of the space shuttle Endeavour's mission to the International Space Station. VOA's Jessica Berman reports the mission comes amid uncertainty at the US space agency NASA over the direction it will take under the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama.

NASA officials have given the green light for launch Friday night of the space shuttle Endeavour barring any bad weather.

But for now, the head of the mission management team, LeRoy Cain says everything look good for lift off. "Everybody is 'go' to proceed on toward launch on Friday of STS 126. So, we're ready to go. The vehicle and crew and the ground teams have prepared very hard for this mission."

Endeavour's seven astronauts will be bringing extra bedrooms, another bathroom and a kitchenette to increase the living space aboard the orbiting scientific outpost, which currently houses three permanent astronauts.

The expansion is designed to make room for a total crew of six astronauts to live and work aboard the space station beginning in the middle of next year.

The shuttle is also delivering a recycling system which will turn waste water and urine into drinkable water on the space station.

During the 15-day mission, Endeavour's crew will perform four complicated space walks to repair and lubricate a massive solar array joint which is essential for the panels to track the sun. They will also perform preventive maintenance on the second solar joint.

With an aging space shuttle fleet that's increasingly in need of repair and due to be retired in 2010, NASA officials are looking toward the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama for the future of the space agency.

The space agency has planned between ten and twelve more shuttle flights, but Cain says it's possible the program could be extended. "However many more times we are directed to fly as a matter of policy, we will do it with flight safety being at the very top of the list in terms of things of importance," he said.

Meanwhile, NASA officials say there's a forty percent chance that a cool front of rain and heavy clouds moving toward the launch pad in Florida could postpone Endeavour's Friday's lift-off until Saturday.

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