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Atlantis astronaut Linda Godwin, using a fragile robot arm, locked onto a 17-1/2-ton astronomy satellite in the shuttle's cargo bay Sunday in the first step toward launching the Hubble-class space observatory. Working from Atlantis's aft flight deck, Astronaut Godwin carefully maneuvered the end of the robot arm over a fixture on the side of the massive $617 million Gamma Ray Observatory, or GRO, drove it home and fired a snare to lock the two together at 7:06 a.m. EDT.

Godwin planned to release the satellite into space around 1:53 p.m. Sunday to accomplish the primary goal of the 39th shuttle mission, clearing the way for crewmates Jay Apt and Jerry Ross to carry out the first post-Challenger spacewalk Monday.

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But the six-hour procedure to launch the Gamma Ray Observatory was the clear highlight of the day.

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