Atlantis to embark before dawn on mission to Mir
May 14, 1997
Web posted at: 9:08 p.m. EDT (0108 GMT)
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (CNN) -- The space shuttle Atlantis
was to lift off before dawn Thursday on a mission to swap
U.S. astronauts aboard the Russian space station Mir.
NASA's Cape Canaveral launch was set for 4:08 a.m. EDT (0808
GMT) to pick up astronaut Jerry Linenger from Mir and drop
off his replacement, Mike Foale.
Launch pad workers at the Florida launch site have handled
two minor technical glitches since Monday, shuttle test
director Doug Lyons said.
Technicians dried one of Atlantis' steering thrusters because
of a moisture buildup in the combustion chamber. Also,
engineers got bad readings from two electronic units that are
part of the system to separate the solid-fuel rocket boosters
and external fuel tank from Atlantis after liftoff.
Lyons said the units appeared to be working well again.
The shuttle's crew of seven, including a Russian woman and a
French astronaut from the European Space Agency, were to
start taking their seats aboard Atlantis about 1 a.m. EDT
Forecasters were optimistic that the weather would cooperate
during the shuttle's seven-minute launch window.
Atlantis was to dock with Mir on Friday night. Linenger, a
42-year-old Navy captain and medical doctor, has been
working aboard the orbiting outpost since January.
Linenger's four-month stay on Mir has been a rough one. The
space station's oxygen-making machine was damaged in a brief
but serious fire, and there were a string of breakdowns in
Mir's life-support systems. When the air conditioning system
broke down, it caused the air cleaner that removes carbon
dioxide from the air to fail.
"You should worry about Mir. I worry about Mir, and if our
people give a sense you shouldn't worry, the communication
process isn't working," said NASA Administrator Daniel
"Whenever human life is involved, I worry. There have been
very severe problems on Mir."
Atlantis's cargo bay is filled with spare parts and
replacement systems for Mir, including a new oxygen
generator; a valve for a still-unbuilt backup unit for
removing carbon dioxide from the air; hoses, clamps and caps
for plugging leaks in the cooling system; and carbon monoxide
Foale, 40, an astrophysicist with both British and U.S.
citizenship, is to spend nearly five months on Mir. He said
he was more worried about the launch of Atlantis than the
"The most dangerous thing I'll do is go out to the space
shuttle on launch morning, and that is where the risk lies,"
Foale said. "Once you're in space with life-support systems
running, the risks are less immediate."
Foale will be the fifth NASA astronaut to live on the
If the shuttle remains on schedule, Linenger will end his
stay on Mir just in time to witness the birth of his second
child, expected in June.
Correspondent John Holliman and Reuters contributed to this report.
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