Shuttle's last night launch
The American space shuttle has made its final night launch. The Endeavour left Earth just before dawn in Florida on a mission to deliver a huge window to the International Space Station.
We're very close now to the end of the shuttle, and Endeavour's ascent into dark skies was an important step on the path to retirement. Nasa plans just four further shuttle missions after this one and all of them will launch in daylight hours.
Endeavour carries two new modules for the space station. One will hold life-support systems; the other is a dome-shaped control room where astronauts will monitor robots working on the outside of the platform. The Cupola, as it's known, contains the biggest window ever sent into space.
But while Endeavour was speeding to the station, all the talk back at the Kennedy centre was about what would replace the shuttle. President Obama has just cancelled the rockets Nasa was working on, to the annoyance of many in Congress. And the space agency's head, Charlie Bolden, told reporters here he would be asking politicians for patience while he sought a new way to develop the type of powerful, heavy-lift rocket needed to take astronauts back to the Moon:
"What I hope they will allow me to do is convince them that we can put ourselves on a path to attain a heavy-lift launch capability within the next couple of decades. Ideally, I would like to be flying a heavy-lift launch capability between 2020 and 2030."
Charlie Bolden has conceded there is currently a lot of anxiety among Nasa workers about what happens beyond the shuttle. A recent report found up to 7,000 people could lose their jobs when the orbiter is retired.
Jonathan Amos, BBC Science Correspondent
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