Wednesday, February 23, 2011
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA has given a unanimous "go" for Thursday's planned launch of space shuttle Discovery.
It will be the final flight for Discovery, the world's most traveled rocketship.
Shuttle managers met Wednesday and agreed to proceed with the flight after a four-month delay caused by fuel tank cracks. Liftoff is scheduled for 4:50 p.m. ET Thursday. There's an 80 percent chance of good weather.
Six astronauts will ride Discovery up to the International Space Station. They will deliver and install a closet full of space station supplies, and drop off a humanoid robot. Robonaut will become the first humanoid in space.
Discovery has already logged nearly 143 million miles, more than any other reusable spacecraft.
Posted by Steve Douglass at 9:25 AM
UPDATE CNN: An opposition figure told CNN the pilot had been ordered to bomb oil fields southwest of Benghazi but refused and instead ejected from the plane.
The Libyan newspaper Quryna reported that two people were on board, and that both -- the pilot and co-pilot -- parachuted out, allowing the plane to crash into an uninhabited area west of Ajdabiya, 160 kilometers (100 miles) southwest of Benghazi. The newspaper cited military sources.
By Douglas Stanglin, USA TODAY
Two Libyan air force pilots bailed out of their fighter jet and let it crash today rather than obey orders to attack opposition-held Benghazi, Libya's second largest city, the website for the Libyan newspaper Quryna reports.
The website quotes an unidentified colonel in the air force control room near Benghazi as reporting that Capt. Attia Abdel Salem al Abdali and his second in command Ali Omar Gaddafi parachuted from their Russian-made Sukhoi-22 plane, which had taken off from an air base in Tripoli.
Quryna, which is based in Benghazi, is Libya's most reliable news outlet, Reuters reports. Although owned by a media group linked to Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam, it has begun to report openly on events now that Tripoli has lot control of Benghazi, the new agency says.
The plane crashed near Ajdabiya, 100 miles southwest of Benghazi, the newspaper says.
One of the pilots was from Gadhafi's tribe, the Gadhadhfa, says Farag al-Maghrabi, a local resident who saw the pilots and the wreckage of the jet, the AP reports.
(CNN) -- Governments around the world are making a run to get their citizens out of volatile Libya. Here is a country-by-country breakdown:
Two ferry boats carrying more than 3,000 Turks left the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi early Wednesday morning, the foreign ministry in Turkey said. Two more ferry boats -- each capable of carrying 1,200 people -- are headed to the North African nation. The boats will carry food and medical supplies for Libyans as demanded by the Turkish prime minister, the foreign ministry said. The ministry added that in addition to the daily scheduled flights by Turkish Airlines to Tripoli, seven more planes are on standby in case it is permitted to fly to Benghazi airport or make additional flights to Tripoli. Since Saturday, Turkey has evacuated 2,100 citizens from Libya, the ministry said.
The British Foreign Office said a charter flight is leaving Gatwick Airport early Wednesday afternoon for Tripoli, and will be carrying supplies of food and water for British nationals at the airport in the Libyan capital. A second flight will leave the U.K. as soon as possible, the Foreign Office said. A consular team from the British Embassy is already on the ground at Tripoli's airport and is in place to assist British nationals. That team will be reinforced by two specialist consular teams, one of which has already arrived in Libya. The other is on the charter flight from Gatwick, the Foreign Office said.
The British Embassy is in contact with about 300 British nationals in and around Tripoli and was giving them instructions on how to catch the charter flights, the office explained.
Britain said its citizens who don't have "a pressing need to remain in the country should leave by commercial means if it is safe to do so." The government was advising Britons who want to leave Libya but can't buy tickets online "to travel to the airport carrying sufficient cash to buy tickets."
British Airways and BMI canceled its flights to and from Tripoli for Wednesday, and was reviewing flights scheduled to depart later in the week.
The foreign ministry in France said that it had sent three planes to Libya to help repatriate French citizens and that its embassy in Tripoli was helping to get citizens to the airport.
Saudi Arabia said it is sending a special passenger plane to Tripoli Wednesday morning.
Syria said it will send two flights Wednesday morning and had sent two others Tuesday to run between Damascus and Tripoli. The Syrian Arab News Agency said the country is ready to launch an "unlimited number of flights if necessary." It added that Syria may also send a ship to the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi to help evacuate Syrians.
The government in the Netherlands said a military plane and a Dutch frigate would help evacuate its nationals in Libya.
THE UNITED STATES
The United States State Department was not able to land charter planes in Tripoli to fly out U.S. citizens because Libyan authorities did not give permission for those aircraft to land, a senior administration official said Tuesday. So, the State Department was chartering a ferry to take travelers from central Tripoli's As-shahab port to Valletta, Malta, on Wednesday.
The American embassy in Libya confirmed that the ferry was anchored near the harbor of the As-shahab Port in central Tripoli. The processing of U.S. citizens had begun and seats were still available. Travelers should have all proper travel documents and may bring one suitcase and one carry-on item, the embassy said. Pets are allowed, but must meet stringent EU requirements once they reach Malta. The passengers will be required to reimburse the U.S. government later. U.S. military forces have not been requested to assist in the evacuation of American citizens from Libya, Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said.
Oil companies, such as Total, BP, OMV and BP, said they would or planned to evacuate people some staff and families.
The U.N. refugee agency is urging neighboring countries not to turn away asylum-seekers and refugees should they flee the upheaval. A spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said reports she has received have been worrying. "A journalist has passed information to us from Somalis in Tripoli who say they are being hunted on suspicion of being mercenaries. He says they feel trapped and are frightened to go out, even though there is little or no food at home," Melissa Fleming said.
Meanwhile, about12,000 people have crossed into Egypt from Libya, officials say, in an effort to flee the violence engulfing the North Africa nation. "There is no security over there," said Esat Abubakr, an Egyptian living in Benghazi said Tuesday after he arrived in Sollum, Egypt. He described widespread violence and a climate of fear with no security. He said people drove to the border and then walked across. "Every Egyptian I know is trying to come back to Egypt," he said.