Dwayne Brown/Bob Jacobs

Headquarters, Washington, DC

(Phone 202/358-1600)

RELEASE: 00-136

This week’s launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis begins an odyssey
unique in the history of human space flight. If all goes as
planned, at 8:45 a.m. EDT Friday, Sept. 8, five American astronauts
and two Russian cosmonauts will soar into orbit and begin
preparations necessary to declare the International Space Station —
the largest building in space — open for business.

The mission includes a six-and-a-half hour spacewalk by Astronaut
Ed Lu and Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko to a point 100 feet above the
Shuttle’s cargo bay, the farthest any tethered spacewalker has ever

Under the watchful eye of spacewalk choreographer Dan Burbank, the
two spacewalkers will ride as far as possible on a Canadian-built
“arm,” then use tethers and handrails. They will install a six-
foot long magnetometer and a boom that will serve as a three-
dimensional “compass” for the station, and connect telemetry,
electrical, and communications cables.

“NASA, with its international partners, has managed to bring the
world together under one roof in space,” said NASA Administrator
Daniel S. Goldin. “The vision and cooperation needed to create
this unique global village, and the scale of the construction
project are unprecedented in the chronicles of any space program.”

The Shuttle mission also includes:

a kidney cell experiment designed to explore how human genes
respond to the unique environment of space;

a test run of a miniaturized sensor to take real-time measurements
of the Shuttle’s environmental and life support systems;

a host of student experiments including one called “The Pittsburgh
Steelers in Space,” designed by students at the DePaul Institute
for the Deaf in Pittsburgh, PA, to determine the effects of
microgravity and radiation on the oxidation of various types of
steel and the minerals involved in the manufacture of steel.

While researchers and scientists look forward to the day the
station has full-time occupants, the crew of Atlantis first have to
complete some down-to-Earth tasks. Those include stocking the space
station with supplies, unpacking gear, and hooking up equipment
needed by the its first permanent residents, who are scheduled to
be launched in November.

Among the supplies being unloaded this mission are laptop
computers, vacuum cleaners, a color printer, clothing, food warmers
for the “kitchen,” trash bags, critical life support systems,
television cables, and even the first space station toilet.

“We’ve got a framework and a solid foundation,” said pilot Scott
Altman, who compared the mission with building a house in orbit at
17,500 miles per hour. “It’s now up to us fix the pipes, run the
cables, and try to have it ready for the next crew to move in by
the time we come home.”

The astronauts will also unload equipment for the space station’s
“health clinic,” including its first exercise equipment — a
specially outfitted bicycle and treadmill that won’t disturb the
sensitive microgravity experiments on board.

Once fully outfitted and permanently staffed, the International
Space Station will be a research laboratory unparalleled by
anything on Earth. After two decades of science aboard the Space
Shuttle, scientists will now have a more advanced, round-the-clock
orbiting outpost.

“When you’re up there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a
year, you can get a lot done,” said NASA Chief Scientist Kathy
Olsen. “You don’t have to try to cram everything into a two- or
three-day window, or have to spread your research over a number of

Included on this Shuttle flight is an experiment that will examine
how microgravity alters gene expression in kidney cells, which
enables kidneys to develop and function normally. This experiment
will increase our understanding of how the human body adapts to
space, which ultimately may advance our knowledge of human disease

The two tiny sensors tested by NASA on this flight make real-time
measurements in the Shuttle’s environmental and life support
systems, thanks to breakthroughs in miniaturization that have led
to the introduction of a 1-inch in diameter wireless system that
can send temperature measurements to a laptop computer for five
months. This new technology will significantly reduce the time it
takes to obtain on-orbit temperature measurements and will increase
the capability to monitor temperatures over long periods of time.

“This mission truly represents the beginning of a long and fruitful
adventure for NASA and the international space community,” added
Goldin. “The space program has led to thousands of new technologies, new
breakthroughs in medical research, new medicines, new discoveries that have
literally changed the lives of people all over the world. I can’t wait to get

The launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis can be seen on NASA
Television, which is located on GE-2, Transponder 9C, at 85 degrees
West longitude, vertical polarization, with a frequency of 3880
MHz, and audio of 6.8 MHz.

You can also see the launch on your computer at home or office.
Details can be found at:


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