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The space agency hopes to fly at least 12 construction missions in addition to this one to the space station, and also plans to send a crew to repair the Hubble Space Telescope before the shuttle fleet is retired in 2010.

Atlantis’ crew is led by commander Rick Sturckow. The other members are pilot Lee Archambault and mission specialists Patrick Forrester, Steven Swanson, Danny Olivas, James Reilly and Clayton Anderson. It is the first all-male crew at launch since 2002.

Mr. Anderson will replace astronaut Sunita Williams as the U.S. representative aboard the International Space Station, and Mrs. Williams will return to Earth aboard Atlantis. She has spent the past six months in orbit.