Space Shuttle Heads For Mir Rendezvous

Space shuttle Atlantis sped toward Russia’s orbiting Mir space station Thursday to deliver urgently needed repair equipment and a fresh American astronaut to replace the weary one on board.

The shuttle turned night into day as it blasted off before sunrise with a crew of seven, riding a spectacular column of flame into space.

Atlantis is expected to reach Mir late today for the sixth docking with the space station.

The aging 11-year-old outpost has suffered numerous breakdowns and a fire since Atlantis dropped off astronaut Jerry Linenger in January. Although the situation has improved in the past few weeks, it still is serious because Mir’s life-support systems lack functioning spare equipment.

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