CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA called off Thursday's launch of space shuttle Atlantis after a pair of fuel gauges in its big external tank failed to work properly, a recurring problem ever since the Columbia disaster.

Shuttle managers said the next launch attempt would be no earlier than Saturday. Atlantis is loaded with a European space station lab, Columbus, that has been waiting for years to fly to the international space station.

After meeting well into the evening, shuttle managers decided to forgo a Friday launch attempt to give engineers more time to figure out what was wrong and, quite possibly, work around the problem.

"We want to sleep on it," said LeRoy Cain, chairman of the mission management team. "We want to encourage the engineers and the rest of the team to sleep on it and think about what we might not be thinking about yet."