CNN logo


Tech half banner

Atlantis blasts off for Mir rendezvous

lauch January 12, 1997
Web posted at: 7:30 a.m. EST

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (CNN) -- Space shuttle Atlantis headed for a rendezvous with Russia's Mir station Sunday, blasting off its Florida launch pad in a dazzling light show that could be seen for hundreds of miles.
( 1.3 M/31 sec. or 5.2 M/31 sec. Shuttle Atlantis launch QuickTime movie) movie icon

Atlantis lifted off precisely on time at 4:27 a.m. EST, destined for its fifth link-up with the Mir orbiting complex.

"Looks like a good morning to launch," said launch director Jim Harrington in the final minutes of a trouble- free countdown.

The shuttle was still visible from viewing sites at the Kennedy Space Center nearly 8 minutes after launch when it was about 300 miles (480 km) out, 70 miles (112 km) above the Atlantic Ocean.

NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin and Russian space officials toasted the successful blastoff with vodka. Alcohol is normally prohibited at the launch site.

Shortly after reaching orbit, Atlantis began a 66-hour chase through space to catch up with Mir. At the time of the liftoff, the space station was orbiting high above the Galapagos islands in the Pacific.

Aboard Mir, cosmonauts Valeri Korzun and Alexander Kaleri, along with U.S. astronaut John Blaha, watched a replay of the launch beamed up to them from Russian mission control near Moscow.

Atlantis is due to dock with Mir on Tuesday night, for the fifth time in one-and-a-half years. American astronaut Jerry Linenger will replace Blaha, who has been aboard the orbiting Mir since September.

After docking with Mir, Linenger and the others are to spend the next five days moving nearly 6,000 pounds of supplies and other gear between the two spacecraft.

Ready to come home

Blaha said he was looking forward to returning to Earth and being reunited with his wife.

"The first thing I'm going to do is meet my wife. I'm going to hug her and kiss her real big, and take it from there," he said.

He's also hoping Atlantis will return to Earth as planned on January 22, just in time for the Super Bowl.

Linenger, a Navy captain and medical doctor, will become the fourth U.S. astronaut to live aboard the Russian space station.

At the age of 41, he is the youngest American to embark on a mission to Mir and also the least experienced, with only one 11-day shuttle flight to his name.

During his four-month flight he will perform more than 80 experiments and make a six-hour spacewalk, the first from Mir by a U.S. astronaut.

Atlantis is scheduled to return to Mir in May to bring Linenger home. He is hoping to be back on Earth in time for the birth of his second child, due in late June.

Joining Linenger aboard Atlantis was mission commander Mike Baker, co-pilot Brent Jett and mission specialists Jeff Wisoff, John Grunsfeld and Marsha Ivins.

Atlantis' launch is the first of eight planned in 1997. The year is due to end with the first shuttle mission to assemble the NASA-led international space station.

Reuters contributed to this report.


Related stories:

Related sites:

Note: Pages will open in a new browser window

External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.


Watch these shows on CNN for more sci-tech stories:

CNN Computer Connection | Future Watch | Science & Technology Week

What You Think Tell us what you think!

You said it...

To the top

© 1997 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.

Terms under which this service is provided to you.