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Endeavor Begins Its Final Mission

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The space shuttle Endeavor, which replaced Challenger after it was destroyed twenty-five years ago, has lifted off for its final voyage. (Photo: Luke Renner)
The space shuttle Endeavor, which replaced Challenger after it was destroyed twenty-five years ago, has lifted off for its final voyage. (Photo: Luke Renner)

WORLD

  • Endeavor successfully launched final mission after electrical problem
  • Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords able to watch her husband take off in space shuttle
  • Scientific equipment "Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2" to locate dark matter and antimatter

The space shuttle Endeavor, which replaced Challenger after it was destroyed twenty-five years ago, has lifted off for its final voyage.

Endeavor's launch had to be postponed for two weeks due to electrical trouble, and its final mission involved carrying five Americans, an Italian, and scientific equipment to the International Space Station.

The scientific equipment, known as the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, aka AMS, will be brought to the International Space Station along with the crew. This $2 billion magnetic instrument was developed over 16 years by scientists from 16 countries. Ironically, Endeavor's final mission will last for 16 days.

The magnetic detector will seek to measure dark matter particles. Dark matter is believed to be the majority of mass in the universe. Scientists are hoping to collect data that will explain why the universe is expanding at its current rate.

The particle detector will also seek antimatter, which are particles believed to be in equal amounts to matter but have never been found. German scientist Stefan Schael says that he is hoping that AMS will achieve much more than what is currently expected.

Arizona Congresswoman Giffords in the Crowd

Over 45,000 people watched Endeavor take off for the last time. One of the faces in the crowd has been receiving a lot of media attention: Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords survived an assassination attempt that left six people dead and caused her serious injury. Now after months of support from her husband, she watched him take off on Endeavor's last flight. The 47-year old navy captain was almost unable to make the space flight due to a long leave of absence.

Endeavor is famous for carrying the first Hubble telescope repair team in 1993 and the first American piece of the International Space Station in 1998. It has circled the planet over 4,500 times, spending a total of 283 days in space.

NASA is steadily bringing its 30-year shuttle program to a close; Endeavor's final resting place will be in Los Angeles at the California Science Center.

Key Statistics – Endeavor Facts

  • May 16, 2011: Endeavor makes its final voyage, bringing the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the International Space Station.
  • March 2, 1995: Endeavor uses Spacelab to conduct 23 experiments on the first internet advertised shuttle mission.
  • December, 1993: Endeavor shipped a team to repair the Hubble Space Telescope while in orbit.
  • May 7, 1992: Endeavor's first mission to recover the INTELSAT VI satellite, which was no longer functioning.
  • May 1989: Endeavor, whose name was the first to be chosen in a contest, was commissioned to replace Challenger.

By Nicole Manuel for
Nicole Manuel is a freelance economics, finance and blog writer with a degree in economics and over two years of experience.

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