Atlantis lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center on mission STS-122 at 1:45 p.m. CST. Aboard the shuttle are Commander Steve Frick, Pilot Alan Poindexter and Mission Specialists Leland Melvin, Rex Walheim, Stanley Love, Hans Schlegel and Leopold Eyharts. Schlegel and Eyharts are European astronauts.
Atlantis is in excellent condition. The shuttle is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station on Saturday. On Friday, the crew will use the shuttle's robotic arm to inspect Atlantis' heat shield on the wing leading edges and nose. They also will check the spacesuits that will be used for three spacewalks during the mission.
After Atlantis arrives at the station, Eyharts will become a member of the Expedition 16 crew, joining Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Yuri Malenchenko. Flight Engineer Dan Tani, who has been aboard the station since October 2007, will return to Earth on Atlantis.
The launch of Atlantis is the 121st space shuttle launch and the 29th flight of Atlantis. The Columbus module is Europe's primary contribution to the space station. Columbus will host experiments in life, physical and earth sciences.
The shuttle crew will begin a sleep period at 7:45 p.m. CST and awaken at 3:45 a.m. CST Friday to begin their first full day in space.<