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Shuttle Launch



Shuttle Atlantis Heads for Space Station

                     By Brad Liston

                     CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - The space shuttle
                     Atlantis roared off its Florida launch pad on
Friday with
                     an international crew of astronauts on a supply and

                     assembly run to the orbiting International Space
Station.

                     The space station is being readied for its first
                     long-duration crew expected to arrive in November.

      Friday's launch, the 99th in the nearly 20-year history of
shuttles sent soaring
      from the Kennedy Space Center, came at 8:45 a.m. EDT (1245 GMT),
just
      ahead of a massive storm system working its way toward the coastal

      complex from the Atlantic Ocean.

      ``Have fun,'' launch director Mike Leinbach told the crew moments
before lift
      off.

      ``Thanks, we sure will,'' called back mission commander Terence
Wilcutt, a
      U.S. Marine Corps colonel.

      When Atlantis reaches the International Space Station, the crew
will find it
      has grown from seven stories to 13 stories since the last shuttle
crew visited
      in May.

      Altogether, the complex now looks like bottles and cans of various
shapes
      and sizes laid end to end with solar panels and antennas jutting
from the sides.

                           The Atlantis crew of five Americans and two
                           Russians will offload about 4,800 pounds
(2,200
                           kgs) from the shuttle's pressurized cargo
hold.
                           They will also unload some 1,300 pounds (589
                           kgs) from a Progress cargo ship docked to the

                           station.

      Most of the cargo is hardware for the Russian service module
Zvezda, which
      arrived at the station in July. It also includes supplies for
long-duration crews,
      including a toilet, exercise equipment, clothing and food. Zvezda
will serve as
      headquarters for the first long-duration crew, known as Expedition
One.

      Astronaut Edward Lu and cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko will perform a
      space walk during the Atlantis mission, connecting power and data
cables to
      Zvezda.

      For the first time, the space walkers will use a Russian method of
securing
      themselves while working outside a shuttle. They will scamper up
and down
      using a pair of tethers in the manner of rock climbers, always
held by one
      cable as they move to a new position and secure the other.

      Also on the mission with Wilcutt are pilot Scott Altman and
mission
      specialists Daniel Burbank, Rick Mastracchio and cosmonaut Boris
      Morukov.

      The Atlantis mission is scheduled for 11 days but NASA has said it
would
      like to extend that to 12 if enough fuel can be conserved after
launch.

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