(Editor’s Note: Ken Kremer and Alan Walters are at the Kennedy Space Center for Universe Today covering the flight of Discovery)
Space Shuttle Discovery blasted to orbit this morning (April 5) precisely on time at 6:21 AM EDT in the predawn skies at the Kennedy Space Center. Hints of sunlight cracking through the horizon were discernible in the last minutes before liftoff.
The rumbling thunder from the spectacular liftoff was felt for miles around. Folks in the surrounding counties of Florida reported experiencing shockwaves.
Personally, I can say it was the loudest and most magnificent Shuttle liftoff I have witnessed from the Press Site at KSC which is located about 3 miles away from the launch pad. Many members of the media and NASA officials I spoke with said it was one of the best ever.
The blazing fire from 7 million pounds of thrust created by the twin shuttle solid rocket boosters (SRB’s) and three main engines turned night into day for the days first dawn. Eventually our sun rose about 45 minutes later just as expected, for this days second incredible dawn and thus exposing clear blue skies. I clearly saw the SRB’s being jettisoned after burnout about 2 minutes into the flight.
Fifteen minutes before blast off, everyone was treated to fabulously bright overhead view of the ISS that coincidentally passed directly in front of the moon in a north easterly pass that lasted over 3 minutes
Bill Gerstenmaier, NASAs Associate Administrator for Space Operations, hailed the launch of Discovery on the STS 131 mission as a “Great success and a great start to a great mission” and was a tribute to the team at Kennedy that got the vehicle ready to fly. This is the second of the final five planned flights until the space shuttle program is retired at the end of 2010. Only 3 more launches remain on the manifest.
The crew of seven astronauts aboard are in for the ride of a lifetime on the 13 day flight to the International Space Station which will include three spacewalks. Discoveries cargo bay is packed with the Leonardo resupply module that is loaded with numerous science experiments and instrument racks, spare parts, food and sleeping quarters.
Discovery is set to dock to the orbiting outpost at 3:44 a.m. on Wednesday, April 7 after a two day pursuit.
Earlier STS 131 articles by Ken Kremer: