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Space shuttle Atlantis launched Thursday

The crew is now inspecting the heat shield and preparing to dock with the International Space Station.
Provided by NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
Space shuttle Atlantis races into the sky on mission STS-122 to the International Space Station. The launch is the third attempt for Atlantis since December 2007.
NASA/Sandra Joseph, Tony Gray, Robert Murray
February 8, 2008
After a successful launch Thursday, space shuttle Atlantis' (STS-122) crew is busy during its first day in orbit, inspecting the space shuttle's heat shield and preparing for tomorrow's arrival at the International Space Station. STS-122 is on an 11-day mission to continue construction of the International Space Station.

During the three scheduled spacewalks, astronauts will enter the European Space Agency's module for the first time and deliver the Columbus lab, expanding research facilities that will make it possible to perform life, physical, and material science experiments.
The STS-122 crew members pause alongside NASA's Astrovan to wave farewell to onlookers before heading for Launch Pad 39A.
NASA/Kim Shiflett
Crewmembers started the heat shield inspections today about 9:40 a.m. EST. They are using Atlantis' robotic arm to check the spacecraft's underside, nose cap and the leading edges of its wings. The crew is using a 50-foot long boom extension on the end of the arm to inspect some of the hard to reach shuttle surfaces. The inspections are slated to wrap up about 3:05 p.m. today.

The preparations for Saturday's activities include the extension of the shuttle's docking ring and the check out of tools they will use to rendezvous and link up with the station. Docking is set for 12:25 p.m. Saturday.
Atlantis climbs toward space.
NASA TV
The inspections are being conducted to see if any damage occurred to the heat shield during the climb to orbit that began when Atlantis lifted off at 2:45 p.m. yesterday from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Over the next few days, engineers and flight controllers will analyze the data collected by the STS-122 crew.

The check out of spacesuits is also on today's schedule. The STS-122 crew will use the spacesuits during the mission's spacewalks at the space station. The objective of the spacewalks during STS-122 is to install and prepare the European Space Agency's Columbus research laboratory for use.

STS-122 is also delivering to the station European Space Agency astronaut Leopold Eyharts, who will replace Flight Engineer Daniel Tani as an Expedition 16 flight engineer.
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