Astronauts board space shuttle Atlantis for launch

Nov 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:

NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/main/index.html

Twitter: http://twitter.com/nasatweetup/ksc-sts-129-tweetup

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Amazing raw Cassini images from this week

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA fuels space shuttle for 6th launch try

Jul 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

Oct 29, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- 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 ...

Recommended for you

SpaceX rocket explodes during test flight

3 hours ago

A SpaceX rocket exploded in midair during a test flight, though no one was injured, as the company seeks to develop a spacecraft that can return to Earth and be used again.

Amazing raw Cassini images from this week

21 hours ago

When Saturn is at its closest to Earth, it's three-quarters of a billion miles away—or more than a billion kilometers! That makes these raw images from the ringed planet all the more remarkable.

Europe launches two navigation satellites

22 hours ago

Two satellites for Europe's rival to GPS were lifted into space on Friday to boost the Galileo constellation to six orbiters of a final 30, the European Space Agency (ESA) said.

SpaceX gets 10-year tax exemption for Texas site

22 hours ago

Cameron County commissioners have agreed to waive 10 years of county taxes as part of an agreement bringing the world's first commercial site for orbital rocket launches to the southernmost tip of Texas.

Voyager map details Neptune's strange moon Triton

Aug 22, 2014

(Phys.org) —NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft gave humanity its first close-up look at Neptune and its moon Triton in the summer of 1989. Like an old film, Voyager's historic footage of Triton has been "restored" ...

User comments : 0