The Space Shuttle Atlantis lifted off on time this morning at 4:04 a.m. Central from the Kennedy Space Center, FL, and, after a smooth climb to orbit, is now en route to deliver a new doorway to space to the International Space Station later this week.
Atlantis Commander Steve Lindsey, Pilot Charlie Hobaugh and Mission Specialists Janet Kavandi, Jim Reilly and Mike Gernhardt will install an airlock named Quest on the station, increasing the orbiting complex's onboard capabilities for maintenance and construction and completing a major milestone in the station's orbital construction. The International Space Station crew - Commander Yury Usachev and Flight Engineers Jim Voss and Susan Helms -- was informed of Atlantis' launch just minutes after liftoff. The station crew spent the day preparing for the shuttle's visit. Earlier in the week the station crew performed final checks of the orbiting outpost's Canadian-built mechanical arm, an arm that will be used to attach the airlock, and reported the arm in excellent condition.
Atlantis is planned to dock with the station at about 9:51 p.m. Central on Friday. After opening Atlantis' payload bay doors and preparing the shuttle for an extended stay in space, Atlantis' crew will go to sleep at 9:04 a.m. Central today. The space station crew, now in its fourth month aboard the complex, will begin its sleep period at about 5:30 a.m. Central.
The station crew will awaken at 2 p.m. and Atlantis' crew will awaken at 5:03 p.m. today. When they awaken this afternoon, the shuttle crewmembers will spend their first full day in space checking out equipment in preparation for the major events to come on their 11-day mission: Friday's docking with the station and three space walks, the first to begin on Saturday, to install the new airlock.
The next mission status report will be issued at about 6 p.m. Central.
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