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NASA Delays Atlantis Shuttle Launch Until Monday


26 August 2006

Officials at the U.S. space agency, NASA, have decided to delay until Monday the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis, on a mission to continue construction on the half-finished International Space Station.

NASA has not yet given a reason for the delay. But engineers were still inspecting the launch pad at Florida's Cape Canaveral on Saturday, to check for damage from a lightning strike the day before. Thunderstorms were predicted for Sunday, with better conditions on Monday and Tuesday.

Engineers also were watching Tropical Storm Ernesto, which is brewing over the Gulf of Mexico. It is not expected to affect the Florida launch site. But the shuttle mission could be cut short if Ernesto comes too close to NASA's Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas.

Astronauts on the 11-day mission are expected to attach a 16-ton addition to the space station. It will include two solar panels meant eventually to generate one-quarter of the space station's energy.

Construction on the space station has been stalled since the shuttle Columbia disintegrated on re-entering the earth's atmosphere in 2003, killing all seven astronauts aboard. NASA is under pressure to finish space station construction before the shuttle fleet is retired in 2010.



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