Space Shuttle Crew to Blast Off Thursday

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

NASA has set Thursday as the launching date for the space shuttle Columbia and a crew of seven, including the first Israeli astronaut, on a 16-day science mission.

Heavy security is planned for the launching, with fighter jets and gunships near the launching pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mission of Columbia's crew, which includes Israeli air force Col. Ilan Ramon, has been delayed for more than a year by technical and scheduling problems.

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