Space shuttle Discovery soars on 3rd launch try
Updated: 2006-07-05 08:39
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida - The U.S. space shuttle Discovery blasted off
from its seaside Florida launch pad on Tuesday on a do-or-die mission for NASA's
beleaguered shuttle program and the half-built International Space Station.
The shuttle and its seven-member crew lifted off at 2:38 p.m. EDT (1838 GMT),
following two postponements over the weekend because of poor weather at the
Kennedy Space Center.
The space shuttle Discovery lifts off from the
Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, July 4, 2006.
"America is ready to return the space shuttle to flight," launch director
Mike Leinbach said shortly before the 115th shuttle mission and the second
flight since the 2003 Columbia disaster blasted off.
Officials said there were no initial signs of serious problems with the
shuttle's foam insulation, which has plagued NASA in recent years and caused the
deadly breakup of the shuttle Columbia in 2003. Further examination was
scheduled for later Tuesday.
NASA needs a successful mission to resume construction of the planned $100
billion space station, a project sponsored by 16 nations. Assembly of the
outpost has been on hold since the 2003 Columbia disaster.
NASA had hoped to resume station construction last year following the first
post-Columbia mission but the shuttle's fuel tank, like the one on Columbia,
shed large pieces of insulating foam during launch. Managers grounded the fleet
again for repairs.
Columbia was destroyed when a 1.67-pound (756-gram) chunk of foam broke off
the fuel tank and smashed into the ship's left wing. The damage was undetected
until after Columbia broke apart 16 days later as it flew through the
atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts aboard.
Another accident or serious problem on the current shuttle mission could
ground the fleet permanently.
NASA will get a preliminary look at how Discovery's tank
fared during launch later Tuesday when imaging experts pore over hundreds of
photographs and videotapes taken during the shuttle's climb into orbit.