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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 space station.


Mission managers say the 4:08 a.m. launch was perfect.

Shuttle Launch
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(871K/20 sec. small frame QuickTime movie)

Shuttle Launch Director Jim Harrington
describes the launch

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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 systems.


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 the crew.


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.


Shuttle mission

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