Astronauts board space shuttle Atlantis for launch

November 16, 2009 By MARCIA DUNN , AP Aerospace Writer
The space shuttle Atlantis is seen on launch pad 39a of the NASA Kennedy Space Center shortly after the rotating service structure was rolled back, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2009, Cape Canaveral, Fla.. Atlantis is scheduled to launch at 2:28p.m. EST, Monday, Nov. 16, 2009. (AP Photo/NASA, Bill Ingalls)

(AP) -- Astronauts climbed aboard space shuttle Atlantis on Monday for an afternoon liftoff to the space station, as the sky over the launching site gradually cleared.

Forecasters put the odds of acceptable at an improved 80 percent. Low clouds were the sole concern for the 2:28 p.m. liftoff.

The six astronauts grinned and waved as they headed to the late Monday morning. Commander Charles Hobaugh was the first one into the shuttle.

With a couple hours remaining before liftoff, NASA detected an electrical issue that seemed to be associated with the cabin lighting. Launch commentator George Diller said engineers saw the same thing on a previous flight and might wait until the shuttle is in orbit to deal with it.

Atlantis is loaded with big spare parts for the International Space Station. NASA wants to stockpile as much equipment there as possible before the shuttle fleet is retired next year.

The 11-day flight will keep the astronauts in orbit through Thanksgiving. They will unload nearly 30,000 pounds of pumps, tanks and other spare parts, as well as science experiments. Three spacewalks will be conducted to carry out the work.

It is NASA's last shuttle flight of the year and among only six remaining.

Gathering for the launch were about 100 Twittering space fans who won invitations from NASA. They were among the first to sign up online last month for this first-ever launch "tweetup."

NASA put up a white circus-like tent at the press site of Kennedy Space Center, expressly for the crowd. The long rows of tables covered with laptops were briefly vacated as the crowd walked over to the main road to the pad to watch the crew drive by in the so-called astrovan. The crowd cheered and waved to the astronauts, and immediately posted Twitter updates.

"100 nerds against the road waving at the astrovan," one wrote.

"I was begging the to take me with them as they stopped and waved at us," another tweeted.

NASA estimates the 100 tweeters have a following of more than 150,000. The space agency sees it as a beneficial outreach program.

On the Net:



©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: NASA clears Atlantis for Monday launch to Hubble

Related Stories

NASA fuels space shuttle for 6th launch try

July 15, 2009

(AP) -- Hoping stormy skies clear in time, NASA fueled space shuttle Endeavour for a sixth launch attempt Wednesday, the eve of the 40th anniversary of the liftoff for the first moon landing.

Atlantis 'Go' For Launch to Station on Nov. 16

October 29, 2009

( -- NASA's space shuttle Atlantis is targeted to begin an 11-day flight to the International Space Station with a Nov. 16 launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Liftoff is scheduled for 2:28 p.m. EST. ...

Recommended for you

NASA selects investigations for future key planetary mission

October 1, 2015

NASA has selected five science investigations for refinement during the next year as a first step in choosing one or two missions for flight opportunities as early as 2020. Three of those chosen have ties to NASA's Jet Propulsion ...

Dawn team shares new maps and insights about Ceres

October 1, 2015

Mysteries and insights about Ceres are being discussed this week at the European Planetary Science Conference in Nantes, France. NASA's Dawn spacecraft is providing scientists with tantalizing views and other data about the ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.