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Atlantis 'Go' For Liftoff TomorrowAired May 18, 2000 - 1:21 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: The Atlantis space shuttle is scheduled to take off from Earth tomorrow on a mission to make repairs to the International Space Station. The repair mission has been delayed several times now.
But as CNN space correspondent Miles O'Brien reports, the space station itself is behind schedule, too.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): By now, the $60 billion International Space Station should have looked like this. Instead, it remains like this: a fledgling, and an ailing one at that. So the seven-member crew of the space shuttle Atlantis is making an urgent house call.
JIM HALSELL, ATLANTIS COMMANDER: The reason we're flying this flight on this date is to extend the life of the space station.
O'BRIEN: The station was supposed to be home and office to a three-person Russian and American crew by now. The reason for the delay: The Russian-built crew quarters, the so-called service module, has not been put into service due to a lack of cash and confidence in the proton rocket that will carry it into space. The Russians now say they have their act together and the service module will fly in mid- July.
But meanwhile, the manufacturer's warranty on the station has expired.
SCOTT HOROWITZ, ATLANTIS PILOT: So our job is to go up and replace these serviceable items, fix a few items that have failed, and basically get the station in a posture where it's ready to receive the service module, which will lead onto what our mission originally was going to be.
O'BRIEN: This mission was supposed to fly after the service module docked at the station, so the crew had been trained to activate it for the first station keepers. When NASA managers re-jiggered the schedule and the mission in February, they took the three service module experts off the flight. There were replaced with a crew scheduled to live aboard the space station next year.
HALSELL: We literally lived together and trained together, spending, in some cases, more time with each other than we do with our own families for more than a year. So there were some close bonds there and it was, from a psychological point of view, it was a difficult transition to make.
O'BRIEN: Last month, NASA tried to launch Atlantis on three consecutive days, but each time, high winds kept the orbiter grounded. This time around, the forecast looks better. But Florida weather is no easier to predict than a Russian launch schedule.
O'BRIEN: That said, the weather office this morning here at the cape issued a new forecast and they're saying it is 100 percent "go" on the weather forecast for launch. All this time I thought the only certainties were death and taxes -- Lou.
WATERS: Well, we'll check tomorrow and see if that holds up.
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