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Moroccan security concern won't stop shuttle launch

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (CNN) -- Despite the closure of an emergency landing strip in Morocco due to security concerns, Thursday's launch of space shuttle Atlantis is still a go, NASA says.

The landing strip was closed because there will be no one to man it.

"We were advised by the State Department as part of an overall threat situation in that area," said NASA spokesman George Diller Tuesday. "We couldn't assure the safety of our people over there for this launch so rather than take a chance we decided not to send anyone over there."

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The State Department warned Americans Monday about possible terrorist activities against U.S. interests in Morocco and evacuated some government personnel.

Diller said the Morocco landing site is "not essential for this launch."

NASA has two other emergency landing sites in Spain, Diller said. Weather forecasts at both sites are good, so the closure of the Morocco site is no threat to Thursday's launch.

Atlantis is scheduled to lift off at 5:04 a.m. EDT. The five-member crew will deliver a new airlock to the International Space Station. This will be the fourth space shuttle mission this year and the 10th shuttle mission dedicated to building the space station.

The shuttle is set to return to Kennedy Space Center on July 23.

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