Part mute The U-S space shuttle "Endeavor" is still closing in on its target in space. The crew is trying to retrieve a science satellite launched last March by Japan. One of the mission specialists in the six member crew is Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata. Koichi Wakata is the third Japanese astronaut to fly aboard the space shuttle series. Wakata will hull back the satellite carrying scientific data, which was launched last March by Japan, by using a robot arm. Pursuing a satellite in low earth orbit has not been without its perils. The U-S space shuttle altered its planned course Friday to avoid a near clash with a defunct military satellite. The close encounter with the dead U-S. Air Force satellite occurred as the shuttle was tracking down a Japanese experimental satellite for retrieval Saturday. The Endeavor fired its thrusters to get 10 kilometers away from the satellite's orbit. Without the course alteration the shuttle would have come within one km of the military satellite, officials said. Due to the maneuver, the shuttle's rendezvous with the Japanese satellite, known as Space Flyer Unit (S-F-U), will take place some 20 minutes earlier than originally scheduled.
English/Nat For the first time, the U-S space shuttle will carry a Japanese astronaut on its mission to outer space. Despite freezing temperatures, NASA officials are say all systems are go to launch "Endeavour" early Thursday morning. And they say Endeavour's mission is not affected by funding cuts brought on by the government shut down. But one senior space agency official says future shuttle flights could be in jeopardy if the budget impasse isn't resolved. Shuttle "Endeavour" stands ready for launch just after 4.18 am (0918 gmt) Thursday on a busy mission. High on the list are plans for Endeavour to chase and capture a Japanese science satellite. The Japanese probe was launched about a year ago to conduct onboard biological and atmospheric experiments. Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata joins the crew of Endeavour as a payload specialist for the mission. SOUNDBITE: (English) "I feel very lucky to be able to fly on this complicated mission. It involves the key elements for the space station. And, one of the future responsibilities for me is to act as a liaison type of person between Japanese Space Agency and NASA to be well, better prepared for the future space station assembly missions." SUPER CAPTION: Koichi Wakata, Japanese astronaut. The crew will also release and retrieve another probe and conduct two space walks during the nine-day mission. NASA is hoping cold weather, and the potential for icing on the shuttle's fuel tanks, will not keep Endeavour on the ground. The main concern is ice formation on Endeavour's external fuel tank - chunks of ice could fall off at lift-off and damage the orbiter. Both the pad and shuttle are equipped with heaters, added since the "Challenger" accident 10 years ago this month. Forecasters expect an 80 percent chance of good weather. Florida has been shivering recently amid a cold snap that accompanied the blizzard in the East. SOUNDBITE: (English) "If the winds abate somewhat we do have a concern that more ice will acreed on the tank, and it could be at least potentially an issue." SUPER CAPTION: Ed Priselac, shuttle weather officer. The crew went through extensive water tank training to simulate the zero-gravity conditions they will experience. The agency says Endeavour's trip will go despite a funding shortfall brought on by the partial federal shutdown. But with a large number of NASA workers idled by the shutdown, some observers are concerned that shuttle safety has been compromised. NASA officials deny the claim, but admit that a lack of money may soon become a problem. They fear that plans for future shuttle flights could be halted if NASA is unable to pay its shuttle contractors.