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Endeavour endeavour

3/12/2008

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With a few thousand dollars of camera bodies, lenses and tripods set at various focal lengths and exposures to best take advantage of our once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity, we thought we were well-prepared for the 2:28 a.m. lift-off.

However, you can never be completely ready for a one-time event as brief as this one. It was made even shorter by the fact that cloud cover at 6,300 feet reduced the viewing time of Endeavour's liftoff to about 15 seconds.

This was only NASA's second night launch since the 2003 Columbia disaster.

All space shuttle launches that involve docking with the International Space Station, as this one does, are timed so the launch site, as moved by the Earth's rotation, is best positioned for linking with the ISS's position in the sky — no matter what time of day or night.

Planned during Endeavour's 12-day docking period are five spacewalks and the installation of a Japanese Experiment Module and a Canadian Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, the details of which are, well, space-age, for sure.

(The Canadian SPDM has been described as a robotic praying mantis with a toolbelt.)

But at 2:29 a.m. Tuesday, Overstreet, Towell and I were left with one overwhelming feeling: "For all the hours we've spent here, that happened way too fast."

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