Shuttle Crew Arrives at Kennedy Space Center to Rehearse Mission

The crew of space shuttle Atlantis arrived at the Kennedy Space Center Monday for four days of rehearsals for their end-of-the-month launch on a mission to resume construction of the international space station.

The six crew members flew in three training jets from Houston through clear skies. The first opportunity to launch the shuttle is Aug. 27 in the afternoon, a time of the day when thunderstorms are common in Florida.

"It's a beautiful day. I was kind of hoping we ought to save some of these days for the end of the month because I think we're going to need them," said Brent Jett, commander of Atlantis.

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The dress rehearsals include a practice launch countdown, an exercise to practice escaping from the launch pad and instruction on using emergency equipment.

Top NASA managers planned to meet at the space center next week to decide whether to give the launch final approval.

During the 11-day mission, astronauts will resume building the space station for the first time in 3 1/2 years. Construction was stopped after the Columbia disaster in 2003 killed seven astronauts and grounded the shuttle fleet for more than two years.

Since then, NASA has conducted two test flights to determine if engineers had fixed the problem of foam flying off the shuttle's external tank, which doomed Columbia. The most recent flight was last month's successful mission aboard Discovery. During that flight, the shuttle delivered a third crew member to the space station.