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Long-Delayed Space Shuttle Mission Begins - 2002-11-24

The U.S. space shuttle Endeavour has blasted off from Florida after weeks of delay due to technical problems. The spacecraft is carrying a new crew to the international space station and more new hardware for the research outpost.

The American and Russian station team that has been in orbit since June will hand over its duties to a fresh one in a few days. A U.S. commander will relieve a Russian one as part of the alternating command rotation.

As the new trio moves in, the years-long assembly of the station moves ahead, with installation of another section of its expanding backbone. The combined shuttle and station crews will mount another 15-meter aluminum girder. It is the third of 11 trusses that will eventually span 100 meters to hold heat radiators, power and data relay equipment for future research laboratories.

Like last month's visit by the shuttle Atlantis, two astronauts will make three space walks to connect the newest truss section to the established structure.

One of the space walkers will be John Herrington, the first American Indian in space.