A Bit Jittery

endeavour at cape canaveral getting ready (AP photo)

Working by remote control, engineers at the Kennedy Space Center began pumping a half-million gallons of super-cold liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen rocket fuel into the shuttle Endeavour’s external tank early Wednesday, setting the stage for launch on a space station assembly mission at 6:36:42 p.m., ….

(That’s Eastern time.)

…if all continues to go well, Endeavour’s crew — commander Scott Kelly, pilot Charles Hobaugh, Tracy Caldwell, Rick Mastracchio, Dave Williams, educator-astronaut Barbara Morgan and Al Drew — will begin strapping in around 3:15 p.m.

I always get a bit uneasy when one of these things is about to launch or land. This mission has added significance (re: Challenger), as you may know. There’s more in the story by CBS’ Bill Harwood, from which I quoted above. (See also an AP/Yahoo story by Rasha Madkour…and there’s a slide show.)

As a means of distracting myself (and maybe you) from the whole thing, here’s a bit about the Endeavour itself, from NASA’s site on the craft. I noticed just now, by the way, that this is one of rare examples where the combination of “o” and “u” is used the British way (hurrah! 😉 ) on this side of the Atlantic. This is because it is a name (although I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had been changed to protect the delicate sensibilities of the populace, as is commonly done with book and movie titles), and:

Endeavour was named after a ship chartered to traverse the South Pacific in 1768 and captained by 18th century British explorer James Cook, an experienced seaman, navigator and amateur astronomer. He commanded a crew of 93 men, including 11 scientists and artists.

Cook’s main objective, tasked by the British Admiralty and the Royal Society, was to observe the Transit of Venus at Tahiti. This reading enabled astronomers to find the distance of the Sun from the Earth, which then could be used as a unit of measurement in calculating the parameters of the universe.

Cook’s achievements on Endeavour were numerous, including the accurate charting of New Zealand and Australia and successfully navigating the Great Barrier Reef. Thousands of new plant specimens and animal species were observed and illustrated on this maiden voyage. Cook also established the usefulness of including scientists on voyages of exploration.

Ah, “the usefulness of including scientists”…


[Update: It’s up! Sigh.]

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