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
"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
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
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
"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)