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Shuttle Launch

Sky Clear for NASA's 100th Shuttle Launch

.c The Associated Press

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Oct. 5) - After days of rain, the sky was clear and the 
forecast much improved as NASA headed into the final hours of the launch 
countdown Thursday for space shuttle Discovery. 

Discovery is scheduled to blast off at 9:38 p.m. on NASA's 100th space 
shuttle flight. Its destination is the international space station. 

Shuttle weather officer Ed Priselac put the odds of acceptable conditions at 
80 percent. There was only a slight chance of rain or low clouds; forecasts 
earlier in the week were grimmer. 

``It's looking pretty good,'' Priselac said. 

Discovery is loaded with two new pieces for the space station, a girderlike 
truss and a docking port for future shuttle visits. 

The 18,000-pound truss contains antennas and motion-control gyroscopes. The 
seven-member shuttle crew will use the shuttle robot arm to attach the truss 
and docking port to the space station. The astronauts will go out on four 
back-to-back spacewalks to wire up the pieces. 

Astronauts have not hooked up major pieces to the space station since the 
initial components were launched in 1998. The last three shuttle visits were 
essentially supply runs. 

Once Discovery's 11-day mission is completed, the space station's first 
permanent crew will be able to move in. 

NASA astronaut Bill Shepherd and two Russian cosmonauts are scheduled to lift 
off from Kazakstan on Oct. 30. They will spend four months aboard the space 
station before returning to Earth via the space shuttle. A new three-person 
crew will take their place. 

Shepherd and his crewmates are in Russia preparing for their flight.

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