Endeavour Blasts Off Into the Night Sky

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - The space shuttle Endeavour and its crew of seven blasted into the night sky Friday, bound for the international space station and the most extreme home makeover project ever attempted by astronauts.

The shuttle rose off its launch pad just before 7:00 Friday night, Topeka time, in a brilliant flash of light visible for miles around.

“We’re about to get an extreme home makeover. It’s an exciting day,” space station commander Mike Fincke radioed to Mission Control. “It doesn’t get better than this, my friends.”

Endeavour’s astronauts will double as kitchen and bathroom installers once they arrive at the space station Sunday, hooking up extra cooking and sleeping equipment so the space station’s crew can expand next year. They will deliver a new refrigerator as well, giving station residents much-desired cold drinks for a change.

The nighttime launch was a special treat for onlookers. Only about a quarter of all shuttle flights begin in darkness, and this one made for a spectacular show. The moonrise that preceded the launch was an extra touch; the nearly full moon provided a breathtaking backdrop.

“The vehicle’s in good shape, the weather’s beautiful,” launch director Mike Leinbach. “Good luck, Godspeed, and have a Happy Thanksgiving on orbit.”