After receiving final clearance to launch from NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin earlier in the day, Atlantis’ astronauts blasted off on time from the Kennedy Space Center tonight at 9:34 p.m. Central time to begin the seventh docking mission to the Mir Space Station.
Atlantis lit up the central Florida coastline as Commander Jim Wetherbee, Pilot Mike Bloomfield and Mission Specialists Vladimir Titov, Scott Parazynski, Jean-Loup Chretien, Wendy Lawrence and David Wolf began their planned 10-day flight to transfer Wolf to the Mir to replace astronaut Mike Foale, who is nearing the end of his four-month mission on the Russian complex.
Shortly after reaching orbit, the astronauts began to activate Shuttle and Spacehab systems and planned a minor firing of the orbital maneuvering system engines to refine Atlantis’ path to the Mir, which was flying over Southern Europe at launch time at an altitude of about 215 nautical miles with Commander Anatoly Solovyev, Flight Engineer Pavel Vinogradov and Foale aboard.
The astronauts are scheduled to begin an eight-hour sleep period at 2:34 a.m. and will be awakened at 10:34 a.m. Central time Friday morning to begin their first full day in space.
Atlantis and the Mir Space Station are both in excellent condition with all systems functioning normally.
The next STS-86 status report is scheduled at 8 a.m. Central time Friday.
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