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Endeavour blasts off with seven member crew

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Space shuttle Endeavour lifts off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. -- Photo credit: NASA/Jeffrey Marino

CAPE CANAVERAL (BNS): After postponing its scheduled blast off several times, NASA finally launched space shuttle Endeavour and its seven-member crew from its Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 6:03 p.m. EDT Wednesday.

The mission will deliver the final part to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Kibo laboratory and a new crew member to the International Space Station (ISS), the US space agency said in statement.

Endeavour's 16-day mission includes five spacewalks and installation of two platforms outside the Japanese module. While one platform is permanent that will allow experiments to be directly exposed to space, the other one is an experiment storage pallet that will be detached and return with the shuttle.

During the mission, Kibo's robotic arm will transfer three experiments from the pallet to the exposed platform. Future experiments also can be moved to the platform from inside the station using the laboratory's airlock.

Shortly before liftoff, Commander Mark Polansky thanked the teams that helped make the launch possible. “Endeavour has patiently waited for this. We're ready to go, and we're going to take all of you with us on a great mission,” he said.

Polansky is joined by pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialists Christopher Cassidy, Tom Marshburn, Dave Wolf, Canadian Space Agency astronaut Julie Payette and Tim Kopra. Kopra will replace space station crew member Koichi Wakata, who has been aboard the station for over three months. Kopra will return to Earth during the next station shuttle mission scheduled for next month, NASA said.

Endeavour's first landing opportunity at Kennedy Space Centre is scheduled for July 31. STS-127 is the 127th space shuttle flight, the 29th to the ISS and the 23rd for Endeavour.

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