Update – the launch has been postponed. Current scheduled date is the 16th of May 2011.
It was scheduled for its final launch last Friday and the mission is being commanded by Captain Mark Kelley – whose wife was the Congresswoman shot in the head and who will hopefully be well enough to watch the launch.
NASA has already retired the Space Shuttle Discovery – which had its last flight in February.
Endeavour is the youngest of the shuttles and was built to replace Challenger, the shuttle that exploded. In total there were 6 Space Shuttles:
- Enterprise – was a prototype that was originally to be refitted to be the second to fly in space – but design changes meant that it was cheaper to build a new shuttle – Challenger.
- Columbia – this shuttle disintegrated on re-entry on Feb 1st 2003.
- Challenger – this shuttle exploded just after launch Jan 28th 1986
- Discovery – this shuttle launched and took parts to the Hubble Space Telescope.
- Atlantis – this shuttle will be the last one to fly – it is a back up to the final Endeavour launch and will fly by itself for the last time in June.
- Endeavour – when Challenger exploded there were plans again to refit Enterprise – but it was again cheaper to start again using spares from Discovery and Atlantis.
In total the Space Shuttles will have flown into space 135 times.