Atlantis shuttle set to blast off

The US space shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to blast off from Florida on a mission to deliver spare parts to the International Space Station (ISS). Lift-off is planned for 1928 GMT (1428 EST) on Monday from the Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral.

There are just five more shuttle launches scheduled before the planned retirement of the fleet in 2010. The mission is set to include three spacewalks to store hardware on the outside of the orbiting outpost.

"Atlantis is ready to go, in really great shape," said shuttle launch manager Mike Moses at a news conference. The weather is also looking good for Monday's launch; meteorologist Kathy Winters said there was just a 10% chance of weather prohibiting the launch.

This mission is dedicated to building up the store of replacement parts on the space station, which is nearing the completion of its construction phase.

These spares include pump modules, gas tanks, two control moment gyroscopes and component for the space station's robotic arm. But the astronauts will also help prepare the way for the next shuttle mission, during which the last US space station module will be delivered: the Tranquility node with its attached cupola.

The cupola is a window module to provide crew members with a direct view of operations outside the space station and an observation point for watching the Earth.

Captained by Charlie Hobaugh, a colonel in the US marines, the all-male crew of Atlantis arrived on Thursday at Kennedy Space Center from Houston, Texas, where they have been training for the mission. The six astronauts will spend the US Thanksgiving holiday in orbit. They will return to Earth with a seventh crew member, Nicole Stott, who's been living at the space station for nearly three months

The 11-day space outing will be the fifth and last shuttle mission for 2009.


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