NASA launches space shuttle Atlantis

NASA launches space shuttle Atlantis


Space Shuttle Atlantis STS-129 lifts off launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on Monday in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The astronauts are scheduled for a 11 day mission to deliver vital equipment and supplies to the International Space Station. Getty Images/AFP

Atlantis was launched at 2:28 pm (1928 GMT) yesterday from the Kennedy Space Center near Florida's Cape Canaveral carrying six astronauts and some 27,000 pounds (12,300 kilos) of gyroscopes, ammonia tanks and other equipment.

"A perfect launch, right on time," said a NASA spokesman after the shuttle reached orbit about eight minutes into its flight, hurtling at a speed of more than 15,000 miles (24,000 kilometers) per hour, NASA said.

Moments before the lift-off, launch director Mike Leinback wished the crew godspeed, declaring: "All the vehicle systems are outstanding today, the weather is near perfect for a good lift off today."

Space agency officials said the mission was crucial as just five more shuttle launches remain before the planned September 2010 retirement of the fleet and the spare parts will add years to the space station's life.

"You'll see this theme in some of the flights that are going to come after ours as well," said mission director Brian Smith. "This flight is all about spares, basically, we're getting them up there while we still can."

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