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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Countdown for Space Shuttle Atlantis

Aired October 7, 2002 - 14:44   ET

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

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: The countdown is on for space shuttle "Atlantis" after more than a month of delays, due to a host of problems. The shuttle is now ready for take off later today. CNN's Miles O'Brien is live from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida with the latest. He's been waiting for it.
We want you to come home, Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, we're having fun down here. And you've got to remember, there are a million moving parts on a space shuttle. So really when you think about it, it's amazing it ever gets off the ground, when you consider all the things that can go wrong.

The space shuttle fleet has been grounded for four month. There were some critical cracks found inside the fuel lines that feed those main engines with liquid hydrogen. Those cracks had to be welded over. But it took a long time for NASA to figure out exactly why those cracks were there and figure out how best to fix them.

Well, now they have finally gotten to the point where they feel comfortable with what they have. They've welded them over. This crew of the space shuttle "Atlantis" is now ready to launch in about an hour's time from now. So far this countdown has gone off without a hitch. The weather has been a little bit dicey this afternoon, but I'm told by listening to the chief astronaut, Bobby Frequart (ph), who's flying around in a Gulfstream jet looking at the weather that it looks like it's OK for launch today. Now, the crew, as we said, strapped in, among them the commander, Jeff Ashby, his pilot, Pam Melroy, she is on her second flight, one of the few female pilots in the space shuttle program.

And I asked her a few weeks ago what goes on her mind as she's being strapped in to this amazing machine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAM MELROY, SPACE SHUTTLE ATLANTIS PILOT: Today's game day, and the clock just seems to tick so slowly towards the time when you get dressed. You get dressed. You walk out. As you drive out to the pad, people are melting away around you. They just -- they just all peel off, you know, until it's just you and your crew left going out there. And you kind of think, this is kind of weird. Everybody else is running away as fast as they can, and we're headed out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP) O'BRIEN: All right. Well, there's an extra-special treat for those of us not in Pam Melroy's seat today. For the first time in 110 launches so far of space shuttles, there will be a camera affixed to the exterior of "Atlantis, " specifically its orange external fuel tank, the gas tank, if you will. For the space shuttle.

Let me show you a tape which gives you an idea of where this particular camera is located. It's located up on that external tank. And it shoots back down on to the orbiter. We should be able to see the space shuttle as it goes all the way from launch, all the way up into orbit, to the point where that external tank separates. Live pictures of that space shuttle as it goes up. You've seen it probably on some of the unmanned launches in the past. NASA decided it was time to offer that kind of camera on the space shuttle.

As a matter of fact, I've got the test article, as they call it, for that camera right here in my hand. I don't know if you can see it, but the camera is nothing more than something the size of say a lipstick if you will. It's all protected by this insulating foam and shoots right down that tank. It should give us an amazing picture, Kyra. I hope you'll tune in for it.

PHILLIPS: Absolutely. Cool stuff, Miles O'Brien, thank you so much.

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