Discovery Blasts Off

The space shuttle Discovery roared into orbit from Cape Canaveral today, after two days of delays. The first launch in nearly a year, STS-121 carried 7 astronauts on a mission to visit the International Space Station, delivering supplies and testing out safety procedures. Even though a small crack was discovered in Discovery’s external tank, NASA officials decided it didn’t pose a risk to the shuttle, and they approved the launch. The shuttle will dock up with the station on Thursday.

The Space Shuttle Discovery is on its way to the International Space Station after lifting off at 2:37:55 p.m. EDT Tuesday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla. This was the first-ever space shuttle launch on Independence Day.

“We’re absolutely thrilled to be safely back in space again and are looking forward to evaluating shuttle system ascent performance as soon as possible,” said NASA Administrator Michael Griffin.

Discovery’s mission, STS-121, is the second in NASA’s Return to Flight sequence. For 12 days, Discovery’s crew members — Commander Steve Lindsey, Pilot Mark Kelly, and Mission Specialists Mike Fossum, Lisa Nowak, Stephanie Wilson and Piers Sellers — will continue testing new safety equipment and procedures that were introduced on the first Return to Flight mission, STS-114, last summer. They also will deliver equipment, supplies, experiments and spare parts to the station.

The STS-121 mission also will bring a third crew member, European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Reiter, to the orbiting laboratory. The station has had two-person crews since May 2003.

Discovery is scheduled to dock with the station Thursday.

For the latest information on the STS-121 mission and its crew, visit:

Original Source: NASA News Release