Just a few weeks after Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down again, NASA has cleared the way for Endeavour to return to the Space Station as soon as March 11, representing the quickest turnaround of Space Shuttle missions in years.
In fact, NASA plans to have a total of six Shuttle missions in 2008, so it shouldn’t be long after Endeavour touches down until the next mission is blasting off.
Endeavour’s mission will be to begin construction of a huge addition to the Space Station from the Japanese Space Agency, which will take three missions to fully assemble.
The final part of Kibo, which means ‘hope’ in Japanese, will include an outside area to do experiments in space itself. Don’t get too excited though – this part won’t launch until 2009.
Also included in Endeavour’s mission will be a test of a heat-shield repairing technique. This is vital for the Shuttle mission that will repair Hubble in August 2008, because if any problems were to occur with this while the Shuttle was at Hubble, the astronauts would be stranded – it’s not like at the Space Station where you can just wait for another Shuttle to come and rescue you.
I’ll keep you posted on the latest developments coming up to Endeavour’s launch. And make sure you don’t miss the launch itself – even watching it on TV is one of the most exhilarating things I can ever remember doing. Go Endeavour!