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Why the big security around the latest NASA space launch

01:00 Fri 12th Apr 2002 |

asks Dreich:
A.
All security around NASA launches has tightened since the September 11 terrorist attacks. As part of its new safety policy, the US space agency made no announcement about the launch.

The location of the seven astronauts was kept secret until they arrived at the launch pad. There is normally a live broadcast of them having their breakfast and getting into their suits, but this time a video was broadcast by NASA instead.

NASA also kept the new launch time secret until the day before lift off - the space shuttle Atlantis didn't lift off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral until Monday April 8 - after four days of delays.

Q. What caused the delays
A.
There was a leak in the fuel lines which sent clouds of hydrogen ballooning into the air. There was also a last-minute technical hitch just 11 seconds before the crucial five-minute launch window, which technicians managed to fix.

Q. What other security measures were taken
A.
There were fighter jets and attack helicopters patrolling a no-fly zone around the launch site. There was a brief security scare when a plane flew close to the launch pad, but an army spokesman at the Kennedy Space Center said the pilot had been escorted out of the launch area. There was also a no-sail zone surrounding Cape Canaveral, and a ship was chased out of that.

Q. What is the mission of the space flight
A.
The shuttle flew to the ISS space station so the crew could fit a 12-tonne girder called Truss S0, which will form the first section of the backbone of the station.

They also took a cart to run along rails on the backbone and allow the station's robotic arm to move across the platform.

Several scientific experiments went along, too, including one to grow wheat and mustard family plants in space. This is part of a long-term programme to develop life support technologies for long space missions.�

Q. How long do they plan to spend in space
A.
The crew of seven is spending 12 days in space, working with the three members of the ISS crew.

Q. Where can I get an update
A.
Visit the NASA website.

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By Sheena Miller

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