UK astronaut, five others prepare for Nasa space launch

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Miami (US), Feb.7 (ANI): British astronaut Nicholas Patrick and five colleagues are preparing to launch themselves into space today with the help of NASA.

They will travel in the Space Shuttle Endeavour, and have reportedly brushed up on mission procedures and exerciseat Florida's Kennedy Space Centre, reports The Telegraph.

Dr. Patrick, a former Harrow schoolboy and Cambridge graduate, will spend 13 days in orbit, undertaking three perilous spacewalks to bring construction of the 100 billion dollar ISS close to completion with the attachment of the Tranquility crew module.

Circling Earth at 17,500mph, Dr Patrick and fellow spacewalker Robert Behnken will attach a new 15-ton crew module, Tranquility, and a multi-windowed observation chamber, known as a cupola, to the ISS to give astronauts their first 360-degree window on the world.

Mission STS-130 will be the first in a series of five final flights scheduled for Nasa's space shuttle fleet.

Plans for a new generation of spacecraft to succeed the shuttle and take astronauts on missions to the moon, Mars and beyond have been thrown into disarray by President Barack Obama's announcement last Monday that he plans to scrap America's present human spaceflight programme, despite nine billion dollars having already been spent on it.

His proposal to hand the private sector responsibility for building the next generation of spacecraft to run astronauts and cargo back and forth to the space station, and send Nasa's long-haul exploration goals back to the drawing board, has cast gloom over the Nasa workforce, which now faces vast job cuts. (ANI)

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