Next Shuttle Mission On Schedule Despite Astronaut's Arrest

The arrest of an astronaut on an attempted murder charge hasn't distracted the crew of the upcoming space shuttle mission, even though she had been scheduled to be part of the flight's ground team, the shuttle's commander said Thursday.

"I'm quite confident there will be no impact to our mission," commander Rick Sturckow said at a news conference in Houston. "We've just been focused on our training, which is pretty intensive at this point."

Lisa Nowak had been scheduled to be a Mission Control communicator who talks with the six crew members of space shuttle Atlantis during their journey to the international space station.

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NASA relieved her of all mission duties after she was arrested last week in Orlando on charges that she tried to harm a woman she viewed as a rival for the affections of astronaut Bill Oefelein.

She is charged with attempted murder, attempted kidnapping and three other crimes.

The Atlantis crew has been training with another communicator, said crew members. They are scheduled to launch March 15 on a mission to continue construction on the international space station.

While the astronauts chatted with reporters in Houston, Atlantis finished its sluggish move to the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The shuttle started the 3.4-mile journey from the Vehicle Assembly Building aboard the massive crawler-transporter vehicle at 8:19 a.m. It arrived at the launch pad almost seven hours later.

Atlantis' flight will be the first space shuttle mission of the year. The crew will deliver a new segment and a pair of solar arrays that will be used to power the space station. They also will retract an old pair of solar arrays and perform at least three spacewalks.

NASA is hoping to launch as many as five shuttle missions this year, its most ambitious schedule since 2002.