Cheers and shouts can be heard throughout the space center as Atlantis, carrying the STS-122 crew and Columbus Laboratory, roars off the launch pad into the mid-afternoon sky to begin the 24th mission to the International Space Station.
NASA astronaut Steve Frick commands a crew of six, including Pilot Alan Poindexter and Mission Specialists Leland Melvin, Rex Walheim, Stanley Love and the European Space Agency's Hans Schlegel and Leopold Eyharts. This is the first spaceflight for Poindexter, Love and Melvin.
During the 11-day mission, the crew's prime objective is to attach the European Space Agency's Columbus Laboratory to the International Space Station, adding to the station's size and capabilities.
Expedition 16 Flight Engineer Daniel Tani, who arrived at the station aboard Discovery in October, will return to Earth with the Atlantis crew as Eyharts takes his place on the station.