Space Shuttle Endeavour and its five-member crew this week
will open a new chapter in the saga of the International Space
Station (ISS) with their launch, now set for 10:06 p.m. EST Nov.
30. On a mission of space-flight firsts, the crew of STS-97 will
unveil a new star on the horizon by adding a pair of giant solar
wings to the orbiting platform.

Endeavour will carry a 17-ton package of immense solar arrays and
associated batteries, electronics and cooling equipment to the
space station — the heaviest and largest station elements flown
to date. Once deployed on ISS, this first set of solar sails will
measure 240 feet tip-to-tip, a wingspan greater than that of a 777
jumbo jetliner.

“When all the solar arrays are fully deployed, they will generate
enough power to run 15 average-sized homes on Earth,” said W.
Michael Hawes, Deputy Associate Administrator for Space
Development at NASA Headquarters. “People will be able to look up
and see the brightest new star in the sky. Only the Moon and star
Sirius will shine brighter.”

Folded into two boxes only 20 inches thick for launch, the solar
arrays contain more than 64,000 individual power-generating cells.
The sails being unfurled to their full length should be one of the
most stunning scenes ever transmitted from Earth orbit.

Veteran astronaut Brent Jett (Cmdr., USN) will command the
mission. Michael Bloomfield (Lt. Col., USAF) will serve as pilot.
They will be accompanied by Mission Specialists Joe Tanner, Carlos
Noriega (Lt. Col., USMC) and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Marc

Astronauts Tanner and Noriega will serve as high-tech
electricians, performing space walks to install the giant solar
panels, connecting wires and cables. Special cameras affixed to
their helmets will capture stunning views of their work in

The current set of arrays will quintuple the amount of electrical
power available on the station, paving the way for delivery of the
first research laboratory, the U.S. Destiny module, on STS-98 in
January. Once in orbit, the Destiny module will be the most
sophisticated science laboratory ever launched into space.

The solar panels will provide a much-needed power boost to the
station and its Expedition One crew, led by American Commander
Bill Shepherd, allowing the crew to begin its first science

Experiments include a student project that will study the effects
of weightlessness on soybean and corn seeds; an experiment
sponsored by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the
U.S. Air Force that will study control mechanisms for future
satellites; cameras and equipment that will be used to track
environmental changes and other areas of scientific interest
around the world as part of continuing Earth observations by the
station crew; and several medical evaluations that will study the
operation of the treadmill and resistive exercise equipment on the

Endeavour also will be the first shuttle to visit the Expedition
One crew since it arrived at the station Nov. 1, and the crew of
STS-97 will drop off additional supplies.

For more information on how to see the ISS in the night sky,

For additional information on STS-97 and its crew, visit:

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