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KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLA. --  In the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, space shuttle Endeavour's STS-123 Pilot Gregory Johnson looks over part of the payload on the mission, the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, known as Dextre.   Dextre will work with the mobile base and Canadarm2 on the International Space Station to perform critical construction and maintenance tasks. The crew is at Kennedy for crew equipment interface test, a process of familiarization with payloads, hardware and the space shuttle.  The STS-123 mission is targeted for launch on Feb. 14. It will be the 25th assembly flight of the station.  Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett KSC-07pd3498

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLA. -- In the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, space shuttle Endeavour's STS-123 Pilot Gregory Johnson looks over part of the payload on the mission, the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, known as Dextre. Dextre will work with the mobile base and Canadarm2 on the International Space Station to perform critical construction and maintenance tasks. The crew is at Kennedy for crew equipment interface test, a process of familiarization with payloads, hardware and the space shuttle. The STS-123 mission is targeted for launch on Feb. 14. It will be the 25th assembly flight of the station. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett KSC-07pd3498

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KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLA. -- In the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, space shuttle Endeavour's STS-123 Pilot Gregory Johnson looks over part of the payload on the mission, the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, known as Dextre. Dextre will work with the mobile base and Canadarm2 on the International Space Station to perform critical construction and maintenance tasks. The crew is at Kennedy for crew equipment interface test, a process of familiarization with payloads, hardware and the space shuttle. The STS-123 mission is targeted for launch on Feb. 14. It will be the 25th assembly flight of the station. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The Space Shuttle program was the United States government's manned launch vehicle program from 1981 to 2011, administered by NASA and officially beginning in 1972. The Space Shuttle system—composed of an orbiter launched with two reusable solid rocket boosters and a disposable external fuel tank— carried up to eight astronauts and up to 50,000 lb (23,000 kg) of payload into low Earth orbit (LEO). When its mission was complete, the orbiter would re-enter the Earth's atmosphere and lands as a glider. Although the concept had been explored since the late 1960s, the program formally commenced in 1972 and was the focus of NASA's manned operations after the final Apollo and Skylab flights in the mid-1970s. It started with the launch of the first shuttle Columbia on April 12, 1981, on STS-1. and finished with its last mission, STS-135 flown by Atlantis, in July 2011.

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30/11/2007
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Kennedy Space Center, FL
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NASA
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