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Countdown Begins For Shuttle Launch

Mon., May 12, 1997

NASA began the countdown Sunday night to send space shuttle Atlantis to Russia’s Mir station with repair gear and a new astronaut-resident.

Atlantis is scheduled to blast off Thursday with a crew of seven, including Michael Foale, who will replace Dr. Jerry Linenger aboard Mir.

Since Atlantis ferried Linenger to Mir in January, the aging station has experienced an unusual number of problems: a fire that almost forced an evacuation, leaks in the cooling system that caused heat and humidity to shoot up, and failures of oxygen generators and carbon dioxide-removal systems.

Many of those problems have been resolved, and NASA managers decided earlier this month, after considerable discussion with their Russian counterparts, that Mir was safe enough for a 4-1/2-month visit by Foale.

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