NASA sets April 29 launch for Endeavour shuttle
WASHINGTON — The US space agency on Tuesday confirmed plans to launch the shuttle Endeavour on its final mission to the International Space Station on April 29.
NASA’s confirmation came following a flight readiness review meeting at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The 14-day mission, known as STS-134, will include the last spacewalks by a US shuttle crew at the orbiting lab, and will mark the second-to-last flight of the US shuttle program.
Atlantis is set for its final journey into space at the end of June, and its return to Earth will mark the official end of the US space shuttle program after 30 years.
Endeavour will be commanded by Mark Kelly, whose wife, Arizona lawmaker Gabrielle Giffords, is recovering from a gunshot wound to the head but is expected to attend the liftoff.
The six-member crew includes five Americans and one Italian astronaut, Roberto Vittori.
The crew will deliver “a particle physics detector, known as the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2 (AMS)… designed to measure cosmic rays to search for various types of unusual matter, such as dark matter and antimatter,” NASA said.
The shuttle will also bring along the Express Logistics Carrier 3, a platform for spare parts which will stay at the space station.
Astronauts are planning to step out on four spacewalks to do maintenance work and install new components.
The crew, which also includes pilot Greg H. Johnson, mission specialists Michael Fincke, Andrew Feustel and Greg Chamitoff, will arrive at Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, April 26, for final launch preparations.
The mission will be the 25th flight for Endeavour, and the 36th shuttle trip to the ISS.
After the US space shuttle program ends, astronauts will rely on Russia’s space capsules for transit to the orbiting research station.