Shuttle Discovery soared off its seaside launch pad at 11:59 p.m. EDT Friday, ending a
trio of launch delays with a brilliant burst of flames and a thundering roar
that shattered the dead-of-night calm and temporarily turned the dark Florida
sky as bright as day.
the moon setting in the west, Discovery blazed a trail east over the ocean,
heading toward an orbital perch 220 miles above the planet. Docking at the
space station is expected Sunday night.
weather and a suspect fuel valve delayed Discovery’s start on NASA’s 128th
shuttle mission, a 13-day voyage to help get the station ready for full-time
science operations. Friday was another cagey day with the weather, but the sky
cleared long enough for NASA to get Discovery off the launch pad.
time Mother Nature is cooperating ... We wish you and your team good luck and
Godspeed,” launch director Pete Nickolenko radioed to Discovery commander Rick
Sturckow shortly before liftoff.
Sturckow, 48, aboard Discovery was pilot Kevin Ford, 49, flight engineer Jose
Hernandez, 47, European Space Agency astronaut Christer Fuglesang, 52, Pat
Forrester, 52, Danny Olivas, 44, and Nicole Stott, 46.