After bad weather prompted worries of a further delay, US space shuttle Atlantis successfully blasted into space today, the AP reports. NASA had feared the same cold front that ravaged the South with tornadoes would push the launch to tomorrow, or later. Aboard, with seven astronauts, is the European Space Agency’s Columbus lab, bound for the international space station.
The $2-billion Columbus lab has seen 23 years of delays, from budget issues to technology hiccups to shuttle disasters. French Air Force Gen. Leopold Eyharts will help get the module up and running, and he'll relieve NASA's Daniel Tani, who is scheduled to return to Earth aboard Atlantis, likely Feb. 19. Tani's mother died during his four months on the space station.