DATE=9/8/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=SHUTTLE LAUNCH (L) NUMBER=2-266269 BYLINE=DAVID MCALARY DATELINE=WASHINGTON CONTENT= INTERNET=YES VOICED AT: INTRO: The U-S space shuttle Atlantis has roared into the heavens from Cape Canaveral, Florida carrying five U-S astronauts and two Russian cosmonauts to a rendezvous with the new International Space Station. As V-O-A Science Correspondent David McAlary tells us, the mission aims to prepare the station for its first full time crew later this year. TEXT: This 11-day mission brings the space station program - a 16-country effort - into its next phase. For the first time, Atlantis will dock with an international station that is inhabitable and self- sufficient. When the link-up takes place Sunday [2:12 a.m. EDT], the seven crewmen will become the first to float into the station's new Russian-made control module, Zvezda. They will begin five days of work to get it ready for the permanent crews, the first of which is to arrive in November. Shuttle managers have scheduled more tasks for the Atlantis crew than they can possibly get done in five days aboard the station, but they have a list of minimum jobs that must be done. Shuttle official Bill Gerstenmeier [GER-sten-my-er] says the U-S space agency may add an extra day to the mission to fit more tasks in if supplies hold out. /// GERSTENMEIER ACT /// The mission is full of activities. There is a lot of activity in preparing the space station for permanent manning. We'll see if we can get 12 days out of this. We'll probably know in about three or four days whether we can actually achieve that or not when we actually see heater cycles and power usage and see how that goes. We're going to try to give the crew as much time to get accomplished what they need to get accomplished on the station. /// END ACT /// The Atlantis crew will make electrical and data connections in Zvezda and unload one-and-a-half tons of equipment flown up on a Russian supply rocket last month. They will also install a toilet and exercise equipment in Zvezda and conduct a spacewalk to link it electronically with the Russian Zarya module. /// REST OPT /// Not only is the workload during this mission busy, but so is the planned schedule of U-S shuttle launches to the space station. There are eight on the calendar over the next 12 months including this one. The station assembly schedule had been even busier, with nine shuttle flights and six Russian missions planned for the coming year - a total of 15. But NASA and its Russian, European, Canadien and Japanese partners decided last month to stretch the schedule out, meaning the station is now to be completed in 2006, not 2005. The new schedule reflects fading confidence in the ability to complete station construction on a schedule that would have required a launch every month. NASA Flight Director Phil Engelauf had worried just last month that such an intense schedule posed special problems. /// ENGELAUF ACT /// There are added complexities in the sense that we have two programs between the shuttle and the station now, international partners, and there are more variables. Things are harder to control. I think it would probably be naive for everybody to think that we could get through 15 flights in a row without some unforeseen problem cropping up. /// END ACT /// The next U-S shuttle flight is set for October fifth to bring up more hardware to continue station assembly. (SIGNED) NEB/DEM/PLM 08-Sep-2000 11:59 AM EDT (08-Sep-2000 1559 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .