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Atlantis lifts off
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Wednesday, 7 February, 2001, 23:18 GMT
Destiny lab lifts off
Launch AP
Atlantis was cleared for launch after weeks of delay
Destiny, the main American laboratory component for the International Space Station (ISS), is finally on its way into space.

The Atlantis space shuttle, which is carrying the lab into orbit, lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on Wednesday at 1811 EST (2311 GMT).

Destiny's installation has been delayed since mid-January because of Nasa's concerns about the reliability of some of the cabling on the shuttle fleet. But tests showed the cables to be in good shape and Atlantis was cleared to launch.

Destiny is 8.5 metres (28 feet) long, 4.3 metres (14 feet) in diameter and weighs 16 tonnes. It will allow astronauts to conduct complicated experiments in a microgravity environment.

In such conditions, fluids no longer convect or flow because one part is lighter or heavier than the other. This allows some of the fundamental properties of materials to be probed in a way that is not easily reproducible on Earth.

ISS Nasa
How the ISS will look after the mission
Nasa expects work in Destiny to have spin-offs in the fields of medicine, engineering, biotechnology, physics, materials science, and Earth science. Although it will take several years to fully fit out the module, space agency scientists hope to have as many as 30 experiments underway there in a year.

As well as operating as a laboratory, Destiny will also act as a nerve centre for the ISS, performing guidance, control, power distribution, and life support functions.

"We have a big, challenging mission ahead of us and we're looking forward to getting started on it," said Ken Cockrell, who will command the Atlantis mission.

While at the station, the orbiter's crew will conduct three spacewalks.

Watching all the work will be Expedition One, the current residents of the ISS. American commander Bill Shepherd and Russian cosmonauts Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko have been at their posts since November last year.

It is their replacements, who are due to arrive in March, who will actually begin the science work inside Destiny.

Destiny Nasa
Destiny is more than just a laboratory
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10 Dec 00 | Sci/Tech
Endeavour undocks after ISS triumph
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