Space shuttle Endeavour and a crew of seven are blasting into the night sky, bound for the international space station.
The shuttle rose off its launch pad Friday a little before 8 p.m. The brilliant flash of light was visible for miles around.
Endeavour's astronauts will double as kitchen and bathroom installers on the mission, undertaking the most extreme home makeover ever attempted in orbit once they reach the space station Sunday. The shuttle is loaded with thousands of pounds of space station equipment. The home improvements are needed so NASA can double the size of the space station crew next year.
Commander Christopher Ferguson pumped his fists in the air and, along with his six crewmates, waved to the crowd before heading to the launch pad in late afternoon under a slightly hazy sky. He was the first to board the fueled spaceship and snapped a salute before crawling inside.
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Up at the space station, commander Mike Fincke exclaimed “Yippee!” when told everything was looking good for an on-time launch.
Endeavour and its astronauts will spend 15 days in orbit, including Thanksgiving. The shuttle held enough irradiated turkey dinners for everyone, with plenty of space-style candied yams, corn bread stuffing and cranberry-apple dessert.
Filling the payload bay were thousands of pounds of equipment for the space station – enough to allow NASA to double the size of the space station's three-person crew by June.
Among the additions: two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchenette, exercise machine and NASA's revolutionary new recycling system designed to turn urine and condensation into drinking water.
All this will transform the space station into a five-bedroom, two-bath, two-kitchen home capable of housing six residents.
“In a way, this is a working man's flight,” NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said as the shuttle's fueling got under way.