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Updating STS-106

Space Shuttle Blasts Off

.c The Associated Press

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Sept. 8) - Space shuttle Atlantis blasted into orbit 
and gave chase to the international space station on Friday, providing a 
perfect kickoff to the torrent of launches that lies ahead.

It was the first time a space shuttle took off on its first try since John 
Glenn's return to orbit in 1998.

What's more, Atlantis' launch was flawless, welcome news for a space agency 
planning to fly to the space station eight times over the next year.

''It's a great day,'' said NASA's new launch director, Mike Leinbach.

All week, NASA had worried that rain might postpone Atlantis' delivery 
mission with a load of supplies. But the storm remained offshore, allowing 
the shuttle boosters to ignite at 8:45 a.m., right on time.

''Make station into a home,'' Launch Control urged the seven astronauts and 

''We intend to do just that,'' replied commander Terrence Wilcutt.

The uninhabited space station was soaring over Hungary, 6,600 miles away, 
when Atlantis vaulted off the pad. It should catch up early Sunday.

Wilcutt and his crew will arrive at a space station that's nearly twice as 
big as it was the last time astronauts visited in May. The reason is Russia's 
Zvezda control module, which soared in July after more than two years of 

Because of its heft, Zvezda had to be launched without most of its contents. 
Those went up on a Russian supply ship that docked in August.

The five Americans and two Russians will have to unload the supply ship as 
well as the shuttle.

Among the thousands of pounds of gear for use by the first permanent crew, 
due to arrive in November: oxygen generator, carbon-dioxide removal system, 
color TV monitor, ham radio, exercise machine, batteries, wrenches, sockets, 
flashlights and, not to be forgotten, a toilet.

There are also American and Russian meals, a food warmer, gas masks, note 
pads, pens, Russian-to-English and English-to-Russian dictionaries, towels, 
toothpaste, soap, sunblock and no-rinse shampoo.

The shuttle crew members will have just four days to haul everything into the 
space station and put it away or set it up, unless they can conserve enough 
power for an extra day. Shuttle officials are optimistic the flight will be 
extended to 12 days, thanks to Atlantis' on-time launch.

Before anyone ventures inside, though, two of the crew will go out on a 

Astronaut Edward Lu and cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko will hook up power and 
data cables between Zvezda and the rest of the Russian segment on Monday, and 
install a 6 1/2-foot boom for an instrument that measures Earth's magnetic 

They will have to climb 110 feet up the 140-foot space station, hand over 
hand, to do the job. No one has ever ventured so far from the shuttle while 

Even more spacewalks - four - are planned for the next shuttle visit, by 
Discovery next month. That's when the real construction work begins; 
astronauts will attach the first piece of truss, or framework, to the complex.

The U.S. power supply will go up on Endeavour in November, and the American 
lab, Destiny, will fly on Atlantis in January.

NASA expects construction to last well into 2006.

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