Atlantis launched, heads for International Space Station
Saturday, June 9, 2007
Atlantis and its seven astronauts lifted off at 7:38 p.m. EDT (2338 GMT) from the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The launch pad, newly refurbished by NASA, had not been used since the launch of Space Shuttle Columbia, which ended in disaster on Feb. 1, 2003. Atlantis is scheduled to dock with the space station at around 1930 GMT tomorrow.
The goal for the Atlantis crew is to carry out the two missions that were left incomplete from the previous flight due to broken and jammed equipments. During the flight, the shuttle and its seven astronauts will deliver a new segment and will install energy-producing solar panels to the International Space Station. The payload is the heaviest ever flown to the space station, and includes a 45-foot (14-meter), 35,678-pound (16,183 kilogram) aluminium segment that will become part of the station's superstructure.
The mission, STS-117 has been dogged by trouble. It was scheduled to launch in March, but a hailstorm in February damaged the orange external fuel tank, so the shuttle had to be rolled back into the Vehicle Assembly Building for repairs. After repairs, the tank had white specks visible in the orange insulation, and there was some concern over whether the insulation would hold. Falling foam insulation was blamed for the Columbia crash, in which all seven astronauts aboard were killed.
But yesterday's launch appeared to be flawless. "Give me more speckled tanks," the shuttle program manager, N. Wayne Hale Jr., was quoted as saying.
The delay in the launch of Atlantis also pushed back other missions.
NASA faced a scandal earlier in the year when one of its astronauts, Lisa Nowak, was fired after being charged in the attempted kidnapping of a fellow astronaut, William Oefelein, with whom she had been having an affair.
- Irene Klotz, Reuters. "Space shuttle blasts off on construction mission" — , June 9, 2007
- Mike Schneider, Associated Press. "Patched-up shuttle Atlantis blasts off" — , June 9, 2007
- John Schwartz. "Shuttle Atlantis appears to have a flawless liftoff" — , June 9, 2007