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DATE=2/11/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=SHUTTLE LAUNCH (L) NUMBER=2-259070 BYLINE=DAVID MCALARY DATELINE=WASHINGTON CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: The first U-S space shuttle mission of the year has finally gotten underway after months of delays because of technical problems and weather. V- O-A Science Correspondent David McAlary reports. TEXT: Minor equipment problems set back Friday's launch 14 minutes, but an international team of six - including crew members from Germany and Japan - finally took off in the shuttle Endeavour under clear Florida skies. /// COUNTDOWN ACT /// . . . four, three, two, one - booster ignition and liftoff of the space shuttle Endeavour on a 21st century mission placing Earth back on the map! /// END ACT /// The countdown announcer was referring to the goal of the Endeavour flight. The astronauts are on an 11-day mission to create the most detailed topographic maps of Earth's land areas ever assembled. Two shuttle radars will bounce signals off Earth to produce unrivaled three-dimensional digital images of 80 per cent of the world's land. Shuttle official Bill Gerstenmaier [pron. GER-sten-my- er] says the project is fitting for what he called the first human space flight of the 21st century. /// GERSTENMAIER ACT /// It is kind of neat that if all goes as planned, we're going to capture for history a 3-D radar map of the Earth. The data collected will serve as a snapshot of the Earth at the beginning of the 21st century for many people to come in the future, and that's kind of a neat thing. /// END ACT /// Later today, the astronauts are to deploy a 60-meter long mast with one of the two radars on its tip. The boom has never flown in space, and NASA admits to an element of risk having such a long extension hanging off the back of the shuttle. It does not expect a safety risk, but a risk to the mission if the mast wobbles and breaks. The commander and pilot have practiced special maneuvers to keep the boom from moving back and forth when the shuttle turns. /// REST OPT /// This the first of seven space shuttle missions this year, and the only one not dedicated to assembling the International Space Station. In space station development, NASA and the Russian space agency have announced that Russia will launch a long-delayed station module in July. The decision followed discussions between U-S and Russian space officials in Moscow Thursday and Friday. The component is the Service Module, which will provide altitude control for the station and living quarters for the first crews. It was originally scheduled for launch in April, 1998. But Russian financial difficulties and technical trouble with the Proton launch rocket caused repeated postponements and has set back station construction. The U-S space agency, NASA, grew so exasperated with the delays that its chief, Daniel Goldin, criticized Moscow publicly last week, saying he doubted its dedication to the space station project. Mr. Goldin said NASA was prepared to substitute its own module if the Russian unit was not launched by July. (SIGNED) NEB/DEM/JP 11-Feb-2000 14:59 PM EDT (11-Feb-2000 1959 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .