Discovery Launch Marks Return to Space

After an almost two week delay and questions about its flight readiness, space shuttle Discovery soared into space earlier today, the first shuttle flight in more than two years and a mission that's described as one of the most important ever for NASA.

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Hundreds of NASA employees here at JSC celebrated, some with tears in their eyes, as they saw Discovery blast off into the blue skies above Florida, watching on huge television screens set-up here at the space agency's headquarters. Shuttle Resource Analyst Jason Abby wasn't sure if he'd ever see another launch.

Tim Bond is an engineer who works on systems for the International Space Station and watched Discovery fly into space from the perspective of someone who knows how each part of the shuttle is supposed to work.

This is Discovery's 31st mission and second return to flight assignment, the first in 1988 after the Challenger tragedy. Astronaut Dan Tani, who last flew aboard Endeavor in 2001, says there's nothing quite like watching a huge, intricate machine blast into space.

The 12-day mission includes the testing of new safety measures built-into the shuttle, things like sensors in the wings and a boom that can take pictures of the outside of Discovery. The 7-person crew will also deliver supplies to the International Space Station before the shuttle heads home August 7th.

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