via Space.com., the Space Shuttle Endeavor lifted off this morning for its ISS construction mission STS-123 with a seven person crew. The mission is slated to be the longest in duration yet for the shuttle fleet, scheduled at 16 days with at least five spacewalks planned. It was just the second night launch for the shuttle since the Columbia tragedy. It is the second of six planned mission for the fleet this year.
"During their planned 16-day mission — the longest station-bound flight yet — the crew will perform no less than five spacewalks to install a giant Canadian robot, deliver the first piece of Japan's school bus-sized Kibo laboratory and conduct a series of on-orbit science experiments.
Riding aboard the orbiter with Gorie are pilot Gregory H. Johnson, mission specialists Robert Behnken, Mike Foreman, Rick Linnehan, Garrett Reisman and Japanese astronaut Takao Doi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The launch marks the first spaceflight Johnson, Behnken, Foreman and Reisman.
Reisman will stay aboard the ISS as a member of the Expedition 16 and 17 space station crews. He will relieve European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Leopold Eyharts, who will return home on board Endeavour."
The first two spacewalks (and mission days) will be to unpack and assemble the 11 foot Canadian "Dextre" robot arms which will allow ISS crewmembers the ability to conduct repairs from inside the station. The third spacewalk will install the first of three of the Japanese built Kibo laboratory components. The last two excursions will be to test the ability to repair the shuttle's heat tiles and to repair the bearings in the damaged ISS solar array discovered on the last construction mission.