February 5, 2008 in Nation/World

Astronauts prepare for Thursday launch

The Spokesman-Review
 

Seven astronauts returned to NASA’s launch site Monday to take a new shot at flying space shuttle Atlantis to the international space station.

Liftoff is set for Thursday afternoon, with NASA wrapping up a last repair Sunday night involving a radiator hose. The mission was waylaid in December by erratic fuel gauges.

Atlantis will carry the European Space Agency’s science lab, Columbus, to the orbiting outpost.

As the countdown clocks began ticking late Monday afternoon, forecasters put the odds of acceptable conditions at just 40 percent because of a cold front and rain expected on launch day. Friday’s outlook was much better: 80 percent.

San Francisco

Skiers rescued from snow caves

Two skiers who disappeared near Lake Tahoe during a winter storm were rescued Monday morning after they burrowed into snow caves and huddled together for warmth, authorities said.

The two men, described as expert skiers, were spotted by the crew of a Placer County Sheriff’s Department helicopter about seven miles from the Alpine Meadows ski resort, just west of Lake Tahoe.

Patrick Frost, 35, and Christopher Gerwig, 32, both of San Francisco, were picked up near Hell Hole Reservoir.

They were taken to Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital, where spokeswoman Janice Davis said they had suffered “really minor, minor” frostbite.

“They just made snow caves and cuddled for warmth,” sheriff’s Lt. Jeff Ausnow said. “They said they kind of got their knowledge of building snow caves from the Discovery channel.”

Houston

Death row inmate commits suicide

A convicted murderer awaiting execution killed himself in his cell at a psychiatric center just three days after another condemned man on Texas’ death row did the same, prison officials said Monday.

William Robinson, 49, used a sheet to hang himself from a vent, Texas Department Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said.

Only eight other condemned killers have committed suicide since death row reopened in 1974, including Jesus Flores, who killed himself Jan. 29.


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