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NASA Hopes Third Time is the Charm for Space Shuttle Atlantis

Aired April 26, 2000 - 2:23 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: NASA today will attempt a third straight try at launching the space shuttle Atlantis.

CNN space correspondent Miles O'Brien is at the Kennedy Space Center again.

Normally, they only go two days in a row, and then take a day off. Why are they going for three, Miles?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, the International Space Station needs some help fairly quickly. It is losing altitude fairly quickly, its batteries are draining fast, NASA would like to get up there and get things fixed quickly before they have to use propellant to re-boost that International Space Station, propellant they would like to preserve for later when a key Russian piece in July, hopeful, the Russian service module docks. So they want to get up there soon.

If they don't launch today, they might have to wait until mid-May because there are some unmanned launches at Cape Canaveral, which would get in the way of a shuttle launch.

Let's take you out to the launch pad, launch pad 39-A, and give you an idea of what is going on here today at the Kennedy Space Center. The space shuttle Atlantis is fueled up and ready to fly. The crew of seven is strapped in, and the weather here is good.

All day long the weather forecasters have been looking at the rain in Spain, and we're told right now that one of the trans-Atlantic emergency landing sites has opened up, is clear, and the weather is OK for a lunch. So it looks right now as if we have a very good possibility the space shuttle Atlantis will not be held on the ground here today because of weather on the other side of the Atlantic ocean.

The seven-member crew is led by Commander James Halsell, who is on his fifth flight. And this is them suiting in the suit room not too long ago. There Mary Ellen Weber, one of the mission specialists on this particular mission, Yuri Usachev, a Russian cosmonaut who spent 370 some odd days aboard the Russian space station Mir, will be joining this crew. He is also a member of the second permanent crew of the International Space Station.

This space station. as we said, needs some repairs. It is dropping a little faster than it should be right now, and is a little bit lower than ground controllers would like. And so the space shuttle, when it gets there, as part of its role, will give it a 20- mile nudge upward. If they can't get there soon enough, as we say, the Russian ground controllers will fire the thrusters on the International Space Station using some of that precious propellant up there in orbit.

Now, if all goes well, the space shuttle Atlantis will launch here at 3:29 p.m. Eastern time. We will be watching it closely. The weather appears to be holding, and so far we haven't heard a thing in the countdown that would indicating there are any technical problems with this incredibly complicated machine.

Miles O'Brien, CNN, reporting live from the Kennedy Space Center.

WATERS: All right. So we are about an hour away, and it looks like a go, as they used to say.

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