Shuttle Atlantis Blasts Off On Supply Mission To Space Station

11.17.09 | FL News Team

Space Shuttle Atlantis is racing toward the International Space Station following its successful launch yesterday from the Kennedy Space Center. Atlantis and its six-man crew are going on an eleven-day mission to the I-S-S to unload 30-thousand-pounds of cargo and drop off key replacement parts that will be critical for the longevity of the station. Only the shuttle has the capacity to lift some of the biggest components, and with just five shuttle flights remaining before the fleet is retired, NASA is trying to send up as many spares as possible. During this last shuttle mission of the year, the crewmembers will conduct three spacewalks while in orbit before undocking and landing back at the Kennedy Space Center on November 27th.

The first spacewalk is scheduled for Thursday. It involves installation of a spare antenna along with lubrication of a grapple mechanism and the Japanese robotic arm. The second and third spacewalks are set for Saturday and Monday. Landing is scheduled on the 27th, the day after Thanksgiving. The shuttle will also bring astronaut Nicole Stott back to Earth. She's been living in space as part of the ISS crew for the past three months.