- The Washington Times - Monday, November 11, 2002

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) NASA loaded a tank of fuel into space shuttle Endeavour yesterday for a middle-of-the-night delivery run to the International Space Station.
Good weather was forecast for liftoff at 12:58 a.m. today. In keeping with post-September 11 security measures, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration did not reveal the launch time until Saturday night.
Endeavour will carry up a three-man crew to replace the space station occupants, who have been on board since June and should have been back by now. The shuttle also holds a $390 million girder that will be installed on the station by a spacewalking team.
It is NASA's second shuttle flight in as many months and, in many ways, is a replica. An almost identical 14-ton beam was attached to the orbiting outpost in October; this one will be hooked to the opposite side of the long aluminum framework.
The one American and two Russian space station residents marked their 158th day in orbit yesterday. On Saturday, they said goodbye to three cosmonauts who dropped off a new Russian lifeboat and returned to Earth in the old one.
Peggy Whitson, the space station's science officer, and her two male crew mates were supposed to come home last month, but their mission was extended because of the summer-long grounding of the shuttle fleet.
For Mrs. Whitson, one of the toughest adjustments to space life was the food; the menu repeats every eight days and consists almost entirely of canned or rehydrated cuisine. She said she is looking forward to rich foods and lots of sauces once Endeavour brings her back to Earth.
Replacing Mrs. Whitson and her crew mates will be Americans Kenneth Bowersox and Donald Pettit and Russian Nikolai Budarin. Mr. Pettit, originally an understudy, was assigned to the four-month mission over the summer when the prime science officer was grounded by doctors because of an undisclosed medical issue.
Endeavour's crew also includes John Herrington, the first American Indian astronaut and part of the Chickasaw Nation. About 200 members of the tribe were on hand for his launch.
By the time Endeavour's 11-day flight is over, NASA will have hauled up 90,000 pounds of space station equipment this year, said shuttle program manager Ron Dittemore. Shuttle crews also will have conducted 18 spacewalks in 2002, the most for a single year.
"That's good stuff," Mr. Dittemore said.
NASA marks two years of continuous human presence aboard the space station this month. Construction is expected to continue until 2008, two years later than planned.

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