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Endeavour Delivers a Station "Makeover"
Space shuttle Endeavour lifted off on its STS-126 mission at 7:55 p.m. Eastern time November 14, 2008, rising into the night sky above NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Launch Commentator Candrea Thomas: Booster ignition and liftoff of space shuttle Endeavour, preparing our home in space for a larger, international family.
The astronauts on board embarked on a 16-day mission to provide an "extreme home makeover" to the International Space Station, with improvements inside and out to support a six-person resident crew beginning next year.
Commanded by Chris Ferguson, the flight crew included Pilot Eric Boe and Mission Specialists Steve Bowen, Shane Kimbrough, Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper and Don Pettit.
Mission Specialist Sandra Magnus replaced outgoing station flight engineer Greg Chamitoff, who lived aboard the outpost since June as part of the STS-124 mission.
Endeavour caught up with the station on flight day three, completing a slow backflip below the orbiting laboratory to allow an up-close look at the shuttle's protective skin.
The two vehicles linked up minutes later as the pair flew 212 miles above northern India, near the China border.
Endeavour carried the Leonardo reusable cargo carrier, packed with about 14,500 pounds of new station hardware, including additional sleeping compartments, exercise equipment, a second toilet, kitchen equipment and a water recycling system.
The recycling system's Urine Processor Assembly, which will convert wastewater to clean water, was up and running by the end of the mission.
The STS-126 crew returned samples to Earth for testing.
The mission was highlighted by four spacewalks totaling nearly 27 hours of work, with Piper, Bowen and Kimbrough each participating in three.
During that time, they cleaned, lubricated and replaced parts on the station's port and starboard solar alpha rotary joints, which allow the station's power-generating solar arrays to follow the sun.
The spacewalking astronauts also prepared the Japanese Kibo module for the addition of the Japanese Exposed Facility next year, and installed a video camera and Global Positioning System antenna.
The joined shuttle and station crews celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday in orbit, enjoying some free time before beginning preparations for the next day's undocking.
Endeavour departed from the station November 28 after more than 11 days of docked operations.
Finke: And Endeavour, this is the International Space Station. You were great. Thanks for the incredible makeover and leaving the station in fantastic shape. And thanks to your heroic efforts, we are one step closer to a six-person crew. So from the International Space Station, Godspeed and a soft landing.
Due to stormy weather in Florida on the November 30 landing day, Endeavour touched down at 4:25 p.m. Eastern time under clear blue skies at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
NASA Commentator Kelly Humphries: Final reveal for Endeavour's home improvement to the International Space Station is now complete.
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