Shuttle Endeavour Prepares for Early Morning Lift-Off

by Kristen Dahlgren
NBC News

FLORIDA - The Space Shuttle Endeavour is on the launch pad and ready to head to a historic meeting in space.

Endeavour's astronauts say even if they had planned this mission from scratch themselves, they couldn't have packed in any more thrills.

"Sixteen days on orbit, five space walks, international hardware, night launch, night landing. It is all there to make this flight a really exciting flight," said Shuttle Commander Dominic Gorie.

If all goes according to plan, Endeavour is set to liftoff at 2:28 eastern, only the 30th shuttle night launch ever, and the second since the Columbia disaster.

The liftoff in the dark will by no means be the highlight of this upcoming mission.

When Endeavour docks with the International Space Station it will bring the United States,  Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan together in orbit for the first time since the start of space station construction.

"For years we have been calling it an International Space Station, and now we are truly there," Gorie said.
During what is also the longest shuttle mission ever to the I.S.S., Endeavour will bring the Canadian robot addition called "Dextre".

It will do some of the maintenance work spacewalkers used to.

The mission will also bring the huge Japanese "Kibo" laboratory, part of a $6.5-billion science complex to be attached to the station.

In Japanese, "Kibo" means hope.

With weather looking almost perfect for the overnight launch, the hope is there are no last minute technical issues to stop Endeavour from its historic flight.