NASA Launches Shuttle Tonight

Shuttle Atlantis is scheduled for launch at 6:38 this evening. It's the first launch of the year. As Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports, the mood at Johnson Space Center is calm and excited all at the same time.

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Atlantis' eleven-day mission is NASA's first launch since last December. NASA spokesperson Kylie Clem says the teams at Johnson Space Center's Mission Control are focused and ready to start monitoring the space flight.

"It's exciting because this is the first shuttle launch of this year. And Atlantis is going to the International Space Station again. So that in itself is exciting because this mission specifically is adding another set of solar ray wings which will increase the power that the station can use for the science laboratories that we're expected to start adding later this year from our international partners."

Today's launch will continue the construction project that was started back in September. Crews were supposed to continue work on the International Space Station in March, but a February hail storm caused damage to the shuttle and that launch had to be scrubbed. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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