NASA will be launching the orbiter Atlantis into space today when the Shuttle Transport System takes off at 3:31 PM Wisconsin time (4:31 PM Florida time).
The main objective for this mission is to get the European lab Columbus installed. Columbus is the European Space Agency’s major contribution to the International Space Station. It will launch with five experiment racks installed, and room for five more. It is designed to last 10 years in the harsh space environment. When it’s experiments are running, this small bus sized component will consume about 20 kilowatts, or roughly enough energy to power four typical homes.
If there is time, the astronauts will take the chance to look at a solar panel that isn’t turning properly. Extra parts will be sent up with Atlantis fur future repair attempts on the balky solar panel.
You can get up-to-the-minute updates on the status of the launch from Space.com, including a live video feed from NASA.