The Space Shuttle Discovery successfully launched this morning, marking the first launch since the Columbia disaster nearly 2 1/2 years ago which claimed the lives of its entire crew and set in motion mass overhauls of the shuttle's heat shields which failed upon re-entry due to damage sustained during takeoff. Since that time, nearly 50 major safety improvements had been made.
Liftoff was at 10:39 EST in Cape Canaveral, Florida. This return to orbit for Discovery had been delayed weeks due to problems and bad weather, compounded by the uneasiness of returning the shuttle to flight after such a long hiatus. The ascent was monitored by two chase planes and 100 cameras for signs of any damage which could jeopardize the ship's re-entry into the atmosphere at the end of its mission. The launch was witnessed by the families of both the Discovery and Columbia crews.
Discovery's mission is to deliver to the half-finished International Space Station nearly three years of supplies put on back order since the last shuttle visit in late 2002. The entire quest is expected to last 12 days.
View: NASA TV
News source: Yahoo! News