Mission Endeavour
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Mission Endeavour

(Update: 8:25 p.m. EST)

Space Shuttle Endeavour lit up the sky at the Kennedy Space Center as it launched tonight, racing up the east coast of the United States on its way to orbit

Seven astronauts are on board.  Their flight is scheduled to run just shy of fifteen days.

By space shuttle standards, the flight of STS-126 sounds mundane: Endeavour is being sent to the International Space Station, carrying a second toilet…two small sleeping compartments for astronauts…an exercise rig…a refrigerator…a waste water recycling system (yes, astronauts in the future are expected to drink purified urine and perspiration; most say that’s fine with them as long as they don’t think about it very hard).

But, of course, sending astronauts into space is not yet mundane.  The flight costs roughly $1.1 billion, the ship travels at 17,500 miles an hour, and the temperatures around them in orbit can go up and down by several hundred degrees in a few minutes.

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Ned Potter is the science correspondent for ABC’s “World News with Charles Gibson.” He has reported on such topics as space exploration, the human genome and climate change.

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