The last shuttle to be launched at night rose off its launch pad before dawn this morning, atop a torrent of fire that seemed as bright as the sun. On board Endeavor (STS-130) is Cupola, a relatively huge bay window to be attached to the International Space Station (ISS) that will give astronauts the most magnificent view ever seen from space (short of taking a spacewalk). Expect great pictures from this 1.6-ton behemoth — it's 9.7 feet wide and 5 feet long with seven windows all around, including a 31.5-inch circular window, the largest ever flown into space.
Also along for the ride is Tranquility, whose technical name is the unassuming "Node 3." That module will have six "birthing locations" (or in plain terms, places to plug in more modules), three of which aren't scheduled to be used, and one will be where Cupola will be connected. Tranquility will also contain the most advanced life-support systems ever flown in space, recycling wastewater and generating oxygen.