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NASA BEGINS COUNTDOWN FOR THURSDAY LIFTOFF

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NASA's countdown clock ticked toward the liftoff of space shuttle Columbia on Thursday with a prism-studded satellite designed to reflect laser beams fired from Earth.

The countdown began at 2 p.m. MDT Monday and was going well Tuesday, shuttle test director Al Sofge said. The chances of acceptable weather for the 9:16 a.m. launch were put at 70 percent, slightly worse than earlier forecasts because of a threat of high winds."We have a lot of science that we're going to try to accomplish, and hopefully we'll bring a lot of data back and keep the scientists happy for a couple of years," said James Wetherbee, commander of the six-member crew. "We may end up with more questions than answers, but that's the nature of the game."