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Demopolite watches family member ride to space

DEMOPOLIS &8212; The launch of a NASA space shuttle has always been considered an emotional and exciting moment, since the first rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in 1950. But for one Demopolis resident, the launch of the Atlantis shuttle yesterday was even more special.

Addie Lou Pate, a resident at Southern Oaks assisted living facility, watched and waited as the shuttle carrying her grandson-in-law, Alan Poindexter, went off without a hitch from the Kennedy Space Center. With one hand clenched tightly with a fellow resident&8217;s, her other hand clasping an American flag and her eyes planted solidly on the television tuned to CNN, Pate and the rest of the residents breathed a sigh of relief to see the Atlantis mission come to fruition.

The launch put to end a two-month delay that included fuel gauge problems that thwarted back-to-back launch attempts in December and storms threatened to stop the launch this week.

All the residents had American flags, and the living area was full of people watching as Pate&8217;s grandson-in-law with his six fellow crewmen made it through lift-off.

Just minutes before the launch at 1:45 p.m., Taylor received a call from Pates&8217; daughter, Carol Pheiffer, saying the launch was a go. She and Pate&8217;s granddaughter, Lisa Poindexter, have been at Kennedy Space Center each time the launch was scheduled to happen.

Atlantis&8217;s mission includes a trip to the International Space Station, where it will deliver its precious cargo, the Columbus lab, which is the European Space Agency&8217;s primary contribution to the space station.

Columbus will join the U.S. lab, Destiny, which was launched aboard Atlantis exactly seven years ago. Besides delivering Columbus, Atlantis will drop off a new space station resident, French Air Force Gen. Leopold Eyharts, who will swap places with NASA astronaut Daniel Tani and get Columbus working. Tani will return to Earth aboard the shuttle, ending a mission of nearly four months.

Poindexter&8217;s role in the flight, which is his first mission into space, is to pilot the shuttle. He and Pate&8217;s granddaughter, Lisa, live in League City, Texas, outside Houston. They have two children.