Space Shuttle "Atlantis" Blasts Off

Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer
Associated Press
February 7, 2008

After two months of delays, the space shuttle Atlantis blasted off today at 2:45 p.m. ET from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The shuttle is now en route to the International Space Station carrying Europe's two-billion-U.S.-dollar science lab named Columbus that spent years waiting to set sail.

Atlantis and its seven-person crew roared away from the seaside launch pad after overcoming fuel-gauge problems that thwarted back-to-back launch attempts in December.

All week bad weather had threatened to delay the flight. Most recently, the same cold front that spawned killer tornadoes across the South stayed far enough away to cut NASA a break.

(Related photos: "Tornadoes Ravage U.S. South" [February 6, 2008].)

The sky was cloudy at launch time, but rain and thunderstorms remained off to the west.

"All systems are go," launch director Doug Lyons told the astronauts on board. "I'd like to wish you a successful mission and safe return."

Shuttle commander Stephen Frick replied: "Looks like today's a good day, and we're ready to go fly."

Labs in Space

About 300 Europeans gathered at the launch site to see Atlantis take off with the Columbus lab, which is the European Space Agency's primary contribution to the space station.

It will join the U.S. lab, Destiny, in orbit for seven years.

A larger Japanese lab—Kibo, or "Hope"—will require three shuttle flights to get off the ground, beginning in March.

Continued on Next Page >>


SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES

ADVERTISEMENT

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC'S PHOTO OF THE DAY

NEWS FEEDS     After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.   After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.

Get our news delivered directly to your desktop—free.
How to Use XML or RSS

National Geographic Daily News To-Go

Listen to your favorite National Geographic news daily, anytime, anywhere from your mobile phone. No wires or syncing. Download Stitcher free today.
Click here to get 12 months of National Geographic Magazine for $15.