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2/29/2008
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Space Shuttle Endeavour Launching In Early March

The space crew will transport a segment of a Japanese laboratory and systems for the International Space Station's robotic arms.

NASA plans to launch the space shuttle Endeavour on March 11 for a 16-day mission.

NASA announced Friday that the shuttle is almost ready to go to the International Space Station to work on expansion. Administrators said the flight crew plans five spacewalks.

The shuttle will carry the first part of a Japanese laboratory complex called Kibo and a Canadian robotics system called Dextre for the station's robot arms.

The robotics system is used for repairing the space station, moving objects, and retrieving equipment. Dextre looks like a human body and can turn at the "waist" and "shoulders," supporting arms and "hands" that can grip.

Dominic Gorie will command the shuttle crew and Gregory H. Johnson will serve as pilot. The crew also includes Mission Specialists Rick Linnehan, Robert L. Behnken, Mike Foreman, Garret Reisman, and Japanese astronaut Takao Doi.

"It's not just a Japanese flight, or a Canadian flight," said Dana Weigel, the lead station flight director. "This flight truly is the first time that it requires every single partner actively participating to make everything work. I think that's a great milestone."

Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations, predicted that the mission would be complex, but said that a thorough review showed that the teams are ready.

"It was a very thorough review, we covered lots information, lots of data," he said. "It's a tribute to the teams that they worked so well with the vehicle ... they've done a phenomenal job."

"We're right on the timeline," Mike Leinbach, space shuttle launch director, said in a statement. "Endeavour is doing really well and we're ready to launch on the 11th."

NASA said that two days of evaluations and launch preparations confirmed the readiness of the shuttle, crew, and payload.

The launch is planned for 2:28 a.m., Eastern Time.

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