Commander Christopher Ferguson pumped his fists in the air and, along with his six crewmates, waved to the crowd before heading to the launch pad in late afternoon under a slightly hazy sky. He was the first to board the fueled spaceship and snapped a salute before crawling inside.
"Welcome aboard, Chris," Launch Control radioed.
Up at the space station, commander Mike Fincke exclaimed "Yippee!" when told everything was looking good for an on-time launch.
"We're about to get an extreme home makeover. It's an exciting day," Fincke radioed to Mission Control. "It doesn't get better than this, my friends."
Endeavour and its astronauts will spend 15 days in orbit, including Thanksgiving. The shuttle held enough irradiated turkey dinners for everyone, with plenty of space-style candied yams, corn bread stuffing and cranberry-apple dessert.
Filling the payload bay were thousands of pounds of equipment for the space station - enough to allow NASA to double the size of the space station's three-person crew by June.
Among the additions: two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchenette, exercise machine and NASA's revolutionary new recycling system designed to turn urine and condensation into drinking water.
All this will transform the space station into a five-bedroom, two-bath, two-kitchen home capable of housing six residents.
"In a way, this is a working man's flight," NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said as the shuttle's fueling got under way.
"This is something that's the size of a small ship, and it needs a lot to keep it running. This is one of the flights where we deliver those things," Griffin told The Associated Press.
The accouterments - as Griffin calls them - also are intended to make life "bearable" for the astronauts spending months there.
Endeavour's five men and two women will help install all the new equipment, with help from the space station's three residents.
The shuttle crew also will take on a lube job on the orbiting outpost.
A massive joint that rotates half of the space station's solar wings toward the sun has been jammed for more than a year; it's clogged with metal grit from grinding parts. The spacewalking astronauts will spend most of their time working on that joint and also add extra grease to a twin joint that is working fine - in order to keep it that way.
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