December 4, 2007

NASA: Atlantis Ready for Thursday Launch

The U.S. space agency started the countdown Monday for the launch of space shuttle Atlantis on an 11-day mission to the International Space Station.

Atlantis is to lift off Thursday from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 4:31 p.m. EST during a 10-minute launch window. NASA weather officer Kathy Winters said the forecast called for an 80 percent chance of acceptable launch conditions.

The seven STS-122 astronauts arrived at Kennedy Monday to begin their final preparations for the mission. Astronaut Steve Frick will command the seven-man crew during the mission to attach the European-built Columbus laboratory to the space station. Frick, along with astronauts Alan Poindexter, Rex Walheim, Leland Melvin, Hans Schlegel and Leopold Eyharts will also conduct a series of spacewalks during the mission.