Lab launch countdown begins
NASA began the countdown late Sunday for the long-awaited launch of Destiny, its premier space station laboratory.
Space shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to lift off at sunset Wednesday with the $1.4 billion lab module, the most expensive piece of the international space station.
Destiny is the first of at least three lab modules planned for the international space station, Alpha. It will add a fourth room to the orbiting complex and, with its computers and command capability, put NASA flight controllers in charge rather than Russians.
New stoplights save energy
In light of California's energy crisis, Los Angeles County will replace 5,000 red lights in traffic signals with new equipment that consumes far less electricity.
The signals' red incandescent bulbs will be taken out in favor of longer-lasting light-emitting diodes, or LEDs.
Although they cost much more LEDS can run $75 and up, while an ordinary bulb goes for just a dollar or two the diodes use less power. A standard 8-inch stoplight uses 69 watts, while the new lights use about seven watts.
The red bulbs in traffic signals are lit 59 percent of the time, compared with 38 percent for green lights.
Marines suspend jet missions
The Marine Corps on Sunday suspended all Harrier jet missions at Cherry Point Air Station pending an investigation into a crash that killed two aviators.
The suspension will last until the release of preliminary findings in the investigation of Saturday's crash, said 1st Lt. John Caldwell, spokesman at Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station.
Capt. Jason K. Meiners, of Avon Lake, Ohio, was killed in the crash. He was assigned to Marine Attack Squadron 203. The name of the other aviator is being withheld pending notification of his family.
The jump-jet crashed as it neared touchdown on a base runway, Caldwell said. Jump-jet technology allows the Harrier to take off and land vertically; it redirects its thrust to fly.
Airline merger talks reported
Delta Air Lines, the nation's third-largest carrier, and Continental Airlines reportedly have begun merger talks in which Continental would acquire the much larger Delta.
The discussions are "very informal" and "in the very early stage," an industry source told The Washington Post on condition of anonymity.
Neither Atlanta-based Delta nor Houston-based Continental, the fifth-largest carrier, would comment Sunday.
The talks are a response to airline industry consolidation.
United Airlines, the country's largest carrier, proposed an $11.6 billion merger last year in which it would buy Virginia-based USAirways. Last month, American Airlines agreed to acquire the financially ailing Trans World Airlines.
Both Delta and Continental have said they prefer to stay independent but would consider a merger or some other alliance if competitors' mergers are approved.