Atlantis lifts off with Mir repair gear
May 15, 1997
Web posted at: 9:04 a.m. EDT (1304 GMT)
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (CNN) -- The space shuttle Atlantis
rocketed off its Florida launch pad on time Thursday in a
brilliant blast of light and smoke, headed for Russia's Mir
Mission managers say the 4:08 a.m. launch was perfect.
Shuttle Launch Director Jim Harrington
describes the launch
(327K/30 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
The mission is vital to both NASA and the Russian space
agency. For the United States, the mission will pick up U.S.
astronaut Jerry Linenger from Mir, where he has spent the
last four months, leaving astronaut Mike Foale in his stead
for another four and a half months. Linenger's return comes
none too soon for him -- his wife, eight months pregnant, is
expected to deliver their second child in June.
Just as important as the crew swap are life-support supplies
filling up the Atlantis cargo bay. A new oxygen generator
will replace one that failed on Mir, forcing the cosmonauts
to burn oxygen candles in order to breathe. The shuttle is
also bringing fresh food, and supplies for other broken Mir
The crew of seven bringing these life-sustaining supplies
into orbit is the most ethnically diverse NASA has ever
assembled. Foale, 40, a British-born astrophysicist, will be
the fifth NASA astronaut to live on Mir.
Commander Charlie Precourt trained in France, and the
European Space Agency sent Jean Francois Clervoy to NASA for
this trip. The Russian space agency added Elena Kondakova to
Flight engineer Carlos Noriega is the first Peruvian-born
astronaut -- his family moved to California when he was five.
And astrophysicist Edward Lu's family came to the United
States from China.
The two ships will dock Friday, at 10:34 p.m. EDT -- a time
set specifically to prevent sun glare from distracting
shuttle Commander Charlie Precourt as the two spacecraft hook
up. Atlantis is due to land back at Kennedy Space Center on
May 24 at about 7:52 a.m.
Special section: CNN Interactive's extended coverage
- NASA: Russia will come through with key part of space station - May 15, 1997
- Atlantis to embark before dawn on mission to Mir - May 14, 1997
- U.S. astronaut nears end of stay on Mir - May 5, 1997
- NASA to put another U.S.astronaut aboard troubled Mir - May 2, 1997
- NASA struggles to finish space station with Russians - Apr. 18, 1997
- Supplies, repair kits reach Mir - Apr. 8, 1997
- Russia launches supply rocket for Mir - April 6, 1997
- Orbiting Russian, U.S. spacecrafts beset by glitches - April 5, 1997
- Space station crew waits for supply ship - April 5, 1997
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