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Countdown begins for STS-116 launch
Posted: Tue, Dec 5, 2006, 8:03 AM ET (1303 GMT)
STS-116: logo (NASA) NASA started the countdown Monday night for the launch of the space shuttle Discovery on a mission to the International Space Station. Countdown clocks started at 11 pm EST Monday (0400 GMT Tuesday) for a launch scheduled for 9:36 pm EST Thursday (0236 GMT Friday) from the Kennedy Space Center. Shuttle managers said Monday they are only dealing with minor issues, and an 80-percent chance of favorable weather is forecast for Thursday night. The launch is the first night launch of a shuttle in over four year; launches since the Columbia accident had been during the day to permit better photography of the launch to look for any signs of foam shedding from the shuttle's external tank. The main purpose of the mission is to install a new truss segment on the station and begin the process of reconfiguring the station's solar panels to accommodate future launches of additional segments. The seven-person crew includes one astronaut, Sunita Williams, who will remain behind on the ISS for an extended stay; a German astronaut currently on the station, Thomas Reiter, will return to Earth with the shuttle crew.
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