July 11, 2001 Space Shuttle Atlantis is poised for launch July 12 to open a new doorway into space.
The shuttle and its five-member crew will deliver the new American-made Joint Airlock to the International Space Station. The six-ton portal will provide astronauts living aboard the space station access to and from space wearing either Russian or American space suits, without the need of a docked shuttle. This gives the orbiting outpost an unprecedented degree of self-reliance.
"Once the airlock is installed, the hatches between a visiting space shuttle and the space station can remain open," said Mike Hawes, NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Space Station. "This is important because in previous missions we've had to open and close the hatches several times to maintain correct pressure during spacewalks. Now, we'll be able to keep those doors open, providing greater efficiency during joint orbital activities."
Atlantis is scheduled for liftoff at 5:04 a.m. EDT from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, FL. Atlantis' mission, designated STS-104, will be the fourth space shuttle flight this year and the 10th shuttle mission dedicated to assembly of the International Space Station.
Atlantis' mission includes three spacewalks to install and outfit the station's new airlock, including the first-ever outside spacewalk to originate from the station. This mission also features unprecedented use of two robotic arms on two different spacecraft, as the shuttle's Canadian-built remote manipulator system will operate in tandem with the station's newly installed Canadarm2 robotic arm.
Atlantis' crew will be commanded by Air Force Lt. Col. Steve Lindsey, a veteran of two space shuttle missions who flew with John Glenn during STS-95 in 1998.
The crew also includes pilot Marine Corps Maj. Charlie Hobaugh and mission specialists Mike Gernhardt, Janet Kavandi and Jim Reilly. Gernhardt and Reilly, who have been training for this mission for four years, will perform the planned space walks, while Kavandi will operate the space shuttles robotic arm.
"The term Joint Airlock means that it's applicable to both the U.S. suit, the EMU, and to the Russian suit, the Orlan suit," said Gernhardt. "The main objectives of our flight are to install four High Pressure Gas Tanks -- that would be two oxygen, two nitrogen -- to activate and checkout the airlock, and then to make the first spacewalk from the Joint Airlock, and demonstrate the viability of the whole process and sort of usher in the space station era of EVA."
With the addition of the Joint Airlock, the space station will have about 15,000 cubic feet of inhabitable volume, more room than a conventional three-bedroom house.
Atlantis will be the second shuttle to visit the station during the stay of the Expedition Two Crew, made up of Russian Commander Yuri Usachev and American Flight Engineers Jim Voss and Susan Helms, now in their fourth month aboard the complex
Atlantis is scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center at 12:56 a.m. EDT July 23.
Additional information on STS-104 and the International Space Station is available on the Internet at: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov
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