Cape Canaveral, Florida -- NASA launched the last but one mission for its space shuttle programme using the Endeavour orbiter craft 16 May 2011.
According to press reports, two small pieces of the insulating polyurethane foam on the external fuel tank came loose during the ascent, but NASA (the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration) said that these were unlikely to have caused problem.
The astronauts aboard Endeavour have begun an intensive but routine scan of their craft's heat-shield tiles to make sure no damage occurred during liftoff.
An announcement from NASA said that the crew will perform a standard scan of Endeavour's thermal protection system using the Orbiter Boom Sensor System attached to the end of Endeavour's robotic arm.
While the inspection is underway, mission specialists Mike Fincke and Drew Feustel will start preparing the spacesuits onboard the shuttle that will be transferred to the International Space Station after docking Wednesday for use during the mission's four spacewalks.
The shuttle payload includes two new vaccines, one of them National Pathfinder Vaccine 10, which is aimed at two common infections: salmonella, which commonly contaminates the US food chain, leading to food recalls and gastrointestinal illnesses, and an antibiotic resistant form of Staphylococcus aureus, the most common bacterial agent found in combat infections.
In the unique space station environment of microgravity scientists can assess cellular changes that determine bacterial virulence, especially changes in gene functioning.