Shuttle Prepares To Launch, Russians Work On Their Own

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Space Shuttle Discovery reached its launch pad Thursday morning, and is getting ready for the first flight in the orbiter program since the loss of Columbia in February 2003. The rollout is one of the last major steps before Discovery's launch, targeted for a May 15 to June 3 window. Shuttle Commander Eileen Collins will lead the seven-person crew. Meanwhile, Russia says it's ready to start building a new space shuttle of its own that would land on ordinary runways and be far cheaper to operate than the U.S shuttle. The Kliper spacecraft, which was unveiled recently at the 2005 World Exposition in Japan, would provide a supply link to the ISS, replacing the Russian Soyuz and the U.S. shuttle. The Kliper could carry up to six people in comfort, and start manned flights to the moon as soon as 2015, the Russians said. For those who want to try shuttle flight for themselves, the Kennedy Space Center in Florida is building a $35-million-plus simulated ride called the Shuttle Launch Experience, which may be completed by the end of 2006.