News and commentary about the Great Frontiers

ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) --- This view of Earth's horizon as the sunsets over the Pacific Ocean was taken by an Expedition 7 crewmember onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Anvil tops of thunderclouds are also visible. Credit: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Image Credit: ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) – Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Successful Launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery



NASA’s Space Shuttle Discovery successfully launched this morning from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA. The return to flight comes 2 ½ years after the Space Shuttle disaster claimed the lives of seven astronauts returning to Earth after a successful mission.

The liftoff occurred at 10:39 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The return to flight has been an arduous process of improving safety and inspecting equipment in the aftermath of the Columbia disaster. Experts believe the accident was caused by debris that damaged the space shuttle during launch. For this current launch, a plethora of surveillance equipment watched for similar incidents. The measures detected debris falling from Discovery but it does not appear that any damage occurred to the space shuttle’s skin. Video and images of the launch will be closely reviewed for the next several days and the crew will continue their own inspection throughout their mission.

The Discovery STS-114 crew includes:

Their mission is to test new safety techniques developed over the past few years and to deliver supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). The crew will also undertake spacewalks to deploy new ISS modules.

The space shuttles were developed in the 1970s. NASA plans to retire the remaining fleet around 2010 while a next-generation Crew Exploration Vehicle is developed. NASA hopes to return humans to the moon by 2020 after President Bush outlined new space exploration goals last year focused on the Moon and Mars.

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