NASA's fifth and final flight of the year began at 2:28 p.m. EST when Atlantis' twin booster rockets ignited, sending the 24-year-old ship through partly cloudy skies tobegin its 31st journey into orbit. Docking at the space station was scheduled for Wednesday.
The shuttle carries nearly 30,000 pounds (13,610 kg) of equipment, most of which is too big to be launchedby the Russian, European and Japanese cargo ships expected to keep the station supplied after the shuttles are retired.
Following the mission by Atlantis, which is scheduled to last 11 days, NASAplans five more flights to complete the station.
The shuttle is being replaced by a capsule-style spacecraft called Orion that can travel to the moon and other places in the solar system in addition tothe space station, which orbits about 225 miles above Earth.
The station, a $100 billion project of 16 nations, has been under construction for more than a decade.
Atlantis' six-man crew includescommander Charles Hobaugh, pilot Barry Wilmore, flight engineer Randy Bresnik, lead spacewalker Michael Foreman and astronauts Leland Melvin and Robert Satcher.
Wilmore, Bresnik and Satcher are makingtheir first spaceflights. Joining the crew for the return flight home will be space station flight engineer Nicole Stott, the last station astronaut slated to fly on the shuttle.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=so8axV56ujY
(CNN) -- Four people, including a 12-year-old, died when an Amtrak train hit their car in Hardeeville, South Carolina, an official said Tuesday.
The accident occurred Mondaynight near the South Carolina-Georgia state line, not far from the intersection of South Carolina 46 and U.S. 17.
"It appears that the vehicle tried to go around the gate arms ... to beat the train...