Saturday, August 29, 2009
NASA's fourth space shuttle mission of the year thundered into earth orbit early this morning to begin a two week mission to resupply the international space station with supplies, equipment and a new treadmill.
A quiet, textbook countdown was met with beautiful weather as the Moon hung low over America's space coast on Friday evening. The flight crew awoke; the shuttle was fueled and the launch team was go to begin the final count.
In the darkness of America's spaceport, Discovery's three main engines roared to life followed by the ignition of her twin solid rocket boosters committing Discovery to a lift-off at 11:59:37 pm EDT, on Friday night.
"2, 1 booster ignition and lift-off of Discovery, celebrating it's 25th birthday by racking up science and supplies to the space station," KSC launch commentator Mike Curie as the shuttle stack soared past the launch tower mast.
As the boosters ignited, 225 miles above the Indian Ocean southwest of Tasmania, the space station soared with it's crew of six watching via a laptop computer.
As a 700-foot flame pushed Discovery upward toward space, night turned to day for a minute while a the shockwave created by the launch moved across America's spaceport and pounded the chests of us three miles from launch pad 39-A.
Two minutes into the launch - at 12:02:39 am on Saturday morning - the rocket boosters separated from the sides of the external tank as Discovery's three main engines carried the craft parralel along the United States east coast.
Discovery's crew includes commander Rick Sturckow, pilot Kevin Ford, and mission specialists Jose Hernandez, Patrick Forrester, John "Danny" Olivas, Christer Fuglesang (European Space Agency) and Nicole Stott.
Discovery is scheduled to dock with the station on Sunday night at 9:03 pm, as the orbital duo fly 222 miles over Poland.