NASA on Monday authorized the shuttle Atlantis for a weekend launching to Russia's Mir space station.
Atlantis is to blast off from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sunday at 4:27 a.m. EST.Shuttle commander Mike Baker and his crew plan to retrieve American John Blaha, the 54-year-old veteran astronaut who lifted off for Mir on Sept. 16. The shuttle crew will deliver Jerry Linenger, a 41-year-old Navy medical researcher, for a four-month stay on the space station.
The flight is the fifth in a series of nine joint missions planned by the United States and Russia to prepare them for the assembly and operation of a new international space station. Construction is to begin late this year.