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"Columbia' launch set for today

A windy cold front moved on, so NASA pressed ahead with plans to launch the space shuttle Columbia at 8:53 a.m. today.

Workers were to begin filling the external fuel tank with 500,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen shortly after midnight, and the five-member crew was scheduled for a wake-up call at 4 a.m.

Air Force forecasters said there were four chances in five that the weather would be favorable for a launch today, but seas offshore were expected to be rough. High seas don't affect the launch, but they do make recovery of the reuseable booster rockets difficult.

Columbia was supposed to lift off Thursday, but NASA took the unusual move of calling off a launch the day before liftoff because of dismal weather forecasts.

It proved to be the right decision. Gusts of up to 46 mph pounded Kennedy Space Center at the timeColumbia was supposed to be lifting off Thursday.

Today's launch "window" closes at 11:23 a.m.

Columbia's crew plans 14 days of experiments in microgravity.

In addition, they will test a new grappling device designed to capture orbiting satellites with magnetism, thereby eliminating the need for clumsy and heavy grappling fixtures on satellites.

_ Information from AP was used in this report.