British-born astronaut Dr Nicholas Patrick on final night shuttle flight

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Space Shuttle Endeavour lifts-off from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. Endeavour’s six member crew will deliver a large room with a cupola to the International Space Station. (Terry Renna/AP)

by Nico Hines
Times [UK]
8 February 2010

It has been an iconic sight for decades, but today a NASA space shuttle blasted into the night sky for the last time – with a British-born astronaut on board.

The Endeavour shuttle left Cape Canaveral in Florida early this morning carrying six astronauts and a payload of new equipment for the International Space Station.

The space shuttle reached orbit before dawn, igniting the sky with a familiar flash of light. Thick, low clouds that had delayed a first launch attempt on Sunday returned, but cleared away just in time for the launch…

…Among the crew was Dr Nicholas Patrick, 45, originally from Saltburn-by-the-Sea, North Yorkshire.

Dr Patrick is part of a small band of British-born astronauts to have made it into space…

There are just four more shuttle missions scheduled this year before the famous ships are retired. “For the last night launch, it treated us well,” Mr Leinbach said.

There currently are no American vehicles to replace the shuttles, which began flying in 1981. For the near future, Nasa is buying transportation flights to the space station from Russia, which charges $50 million per seat on its Soyuz capsules…

The complete article is at the Times.

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