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Shuttle Atlantis Lifts Off on Mission to Rendezvous With International Space StationAired May 19, 2000 - 6:09 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDRIA HALL, CNN ANCHOR: Liftoff of the space shuttle Atlantis is just minutes away, and CNN space correspondent Miles O'Brien joins us live from the Kennedy Space Center to talk us through and take us through the fourth launch attempt, which I'm sure will be a success, Miles. Let's hope so at least.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Andria. Yes, we can hope so.
So far, it has been a beautiful morning here for a space shuttle launch and a nearly flawless countdown. Let's take a look at some live pictures at launch pad 39A, the space shuttle Atlantis fully fueled and ready, its seven-member crew strapped in, ready for what is a relatively urgent repair and maintenance mission to the 18-month-old International Space Station, less than a minute away.
Let's listen to NASA's George Diller, followed by NASA's Eileen Holly.
GEORGE DILLER, NASA: The flight data recorders are activated. The final check of the shuttle rocket boosters (UNINTELLIGIBLE) now under way. T minus 31 seconds, the handoff to Atlantis' computers has occurred.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty-five seconds, 20 seconds, 15 seconds, 10 seconds.
DILLER: T minus 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, engines start, 4, 3, 2, 1, and liftoff of space shuttle Atlantis, a space shuttle for the 21st century.
EILEEN HOLLY, NASA: Houston is now controlling the flight of Atlantis.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger roll, Atlantis.
HOLLY: The roll maneuver is complete. Atlantis is now in a heads-down wings-level position headed toward a rendezvous with the International Space Station. Twenty-eight seconds into the flight, Atlantis' engines are now throttling down to 72 percent of rated thrust as the orbiter passes through the area of maximum aerodynamic pressure. Atlantis currently at an altitude of 3.6 miles to about 2.5 miles down range from the Kennedy Space Center. All systems on board are performing well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Atlantis, go with throttle up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Copy, go with throttle up.
HOLLY: Atlantis' three...
O'BRIEN: The call coming from Rick Sturco in Houston as he radios Commander Jim Halsell. "Go with throttle up" means that the space shuttle has gone through a period of time when it throttles back on its engines because it is going through a part of the atmosphere that is thicker, and thus they don't -- they cannot travel at full throttle. Once they get a little bit higher, then they throttle up to more than 100 percent of the performance ratio of the engine.
Now a minute 30 seconds into the launch, the solid rocket boosters will come off in about 30 seconds from now. Obviously a very critical moment in the flight, the solid rocket boosters doing about 75 percent of the work getting the space shuttle Atlantis into orbit.
Let's listen to Eileen Holly from Mission Control in Houston for a moment.
HOLLY: One minute and 48 seconds into the flight, Atlantis now down range from the Kennedy Space Center 22 miles with an altitude of 24 miles. The next major event will be the burnout and separation of the twin solid rocket boosters. And booster officer confirms good separation of the two solid rocket boosters.
O'BRIEN: You've just seen the solid rocket booster separation. You see them floating away looking like burning cigarettes there. That bright star in the middle of your screen the space shuttle Atlantis as it continues it's 8 1/2 minute power flight into orbit.
As it stands right now, this liftoff has gone off without a hitch, the space shuttle Atlantis, the seven-member crew, well on their way to the rendezvous with the International Space Station, that International Space Station right now somewhere over the Middle East. It will take them three or four days to -- three days, I should say, to reach it. They'll rendezvous, dock with it, conduct a space walk, add supplies, reboost it and change out some batteries. They have a busy 10-day mission ahead and the place to hear all about it is right here on CNN -- Andria.
HALL: Miles, maybe you can tell us a little bit more about the mission, their number-one and two priorities as they go to dock at the International Space Station.
O'BRIEN: Well, the number-one priority are the batteries. There are a half dozen batteries on a Russian-built piece on the International Space Station, the so-called Zarya Module. And four of those six batteries have failed. Now, part of the problem is that the Zarya Module, the space station for that matter, should have been inhabited a long time ago. And, essentially, what has happened is the warranty has expired on the vacant status for the International Space Station. So they're going up to change out those batteries, which, incidentally, haven't been charged up properly by Russian ground- controllers. That's number one on their list.
The second thing they need to do is reboost the International Space Station. Although it is in space, it is slowly dropping about a mile and a half every week as it touches the outer parts of the atmosphere. And it needs to be in higher orbit for what is hoped to be the July docking of the Russian-built service module, which is a key piece. It will provide the early crew quarters, propulsion and navigation for the International Space Station. The Russians hope to have that in orbit in July. It is now more than two years late. It remains to be seen whether that will be on time. Nevertheless, the space station needs to get a free boost upward -- Andria.
HALL: So today's launch was a key factor in trying to move that mission forward. Miles O'Brien, thanks a lot for keeping us up to date on this one. We appreciate it.
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