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Japan celebrates Shuttle Endeavour mission

Artist's impression of the Kibo Japan built module when fully operational.
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) March 27, 2008
Japan on Thursday hailed a new era in its space research as the US shuttle Endeavour returned to Earth after setting up the first part of Japan's micro-gravity laboratory.

Endeavour landed safely in Florida after a 16-day mission which included a record five spacewalks.

Its main tasks included installing the first part of Japan's Kibo lab, which will be the International Space Station's largest module when completed in March 2009.

Kibo "is going to open up a new era for Japan in the space programme," said Japanese astronaut Takao Doi, who returned on board the Endeavour.

Kibo, which means "hope" in Japanese, will be used to conduct zero-gravity experiments to help Japan develop new products such as pharmaceuticals.

"I am glad to see that the International Space Station programme is progressing step by step, which is wonderful news for the world as well as for Japan," chief government spokesman Nobutaka Machimura told a news conference.

At the headquarters of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in suburban Tokyo, around a dozen staff members watched live video footage of the landing, JAXA official Nobuyuki Otake said.

"People were holding their breath as they watched the arrival of the Endeavour and then sighed with relief and burst into applause," he said.

Japan joined the project to build the International Space Station, which was championed by then US president Ronald Reagan, in 1985.

tokyo is expected to spend more than one trillion yen (10 billion dollars) on Kibo. The world's second largest economy has been stepping up space research and aims to send an astronaut to the moon by 2020.

"I expect the construction of Kibo will be completed steadily so that it contributes to fields such as product engineering and medical treatment," Science and Technology Minister Fumio Kishida said.

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Astronauts Successfully Complete Fifth Spacewalk
Washington (AFP) March 23, 2008
Two astronauts from the US shuttle Endeavour have successfully completed a fifth and final spacewalk of their mission, stepping into the void to attach a 50-foot sensory boom to the outside of the International Space Station.

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