Astronauts prepare for Atlantis launch

The Space Shuttle Atlantis astronauts are preparing for the Thursday launch by practicing exercise maneuvers for a mission that will spark a series of spacewalks. The crew will also look into fixing a problem with a rotating solar joint on the space station.

The shuttle will be carrying the Columbus module up to the International Space Station. Columbus is European Space Agency’s main contribution to the ISS.

The spacewalks and robotic arm maneuvers will be necessary to put the 27,000-pound unit in position near the Harmony module, which was delivered by the astronauts of the space shuttle Discovery.

NASA has been working on some last-minute training for the crew. If the repair goes ahead, it would extend the space shuttle’s mission to last about two weeks and a total of four spacewalks are planned for the shuttle mission.

The weather looks like it will not be a problem for the launch. Forecasters at Cape Canaveral said there is only a 10 percent chance of bad weather that would scrub the launch attempt.

Shuttle lift-off is scheduled for Thursday at 4:31 PM.