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STS-123 Crewmembers Prepare For ISS Docking

16-Day Mission Will Install Kibo Module, And A BIG Robot

Following their spectacular ride into orbit in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, the STS-123 crew onboard the space shuttle Endeavour got down to business, in preparation of their scheduled rendezvous with the International Space Station late Wednesday.

"This is a great launch and a real tribute to the team to get it ready to go fly," said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for Space Operations, following Endeavour's liftoff at 0228 EDT Tuesday.

The STS-123 mission started with a rare night launch for Endeavour's crew, commanded by veteran astronaut Dominic Gorie. Gregory H. Johnson served as Pilot.

The mission specialists for the flight are an international mix of experienced and first-time crew members. Robert L. Behnken, Mike Foreman, Rick Linnehan, Garrett Reisman and Japanese astronaut Takao Doi all have critical roles during the 16-day mission by Endeavour.

The first module of the Japanese-built Kibo laboratory complex was packed inside Endeavour's cargo bay, along with a Canadian-built robotics system that will enhance the capabilities of the International Space Station's robotic arm.

The Japanese Logistics Pressurized (JLP) module for the Kibo complex represents the first manned spacecraft for Japan. "With this flight, I believe we fully became a real partner in the International Space Station project," said Keiji Tachikawa, president of JAXA, the Japanese space agency.

Dextre is the robotics system that Endeavour lofted into orbit. With it, Canada is making a literal extension to what the nation already built, NASA says; the country built both the space shuttle robot arm and the robotic arm used on the International Space Station.

"Today we are marking another point in our space history," said Guy Bujold, director of the Canadian Space Agency.

It will take the STS-123 crew more than two weeks in space and five spacewalks to accomplish the goals of the mission.

Expedition 16 Flight Engineer Leopold Eyharts, who arrived at the station aboard Atlantis in February, will return to Earth with the Endeavour crew as Reisman takes his place on the station.

(Launch image courtesy of NASA)

FMI: www.nasa.gov

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