NASA’s oldest surviving shuttle in the fleet of three was launched Thursday from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Weather conditions were favorable for the liftoff.
During the 11-day mission, the crew of five men and one woman will deliver cargo to the orbiting outpost, including a storage module and a humanoid robot. Two spacewalks and science experiments are planned.
Prior to the flight, the crew posed for a group picture and waved to crowds of onlookers gathered at the space center.
First launched in 1984, Discovery has logged nearly 230 million kilometers, more than any other reusable spacecraft. This is the 39th flight for Discovery.
Discovery’s mission was originally scheduled for late last year, but was postponed because of a hydrogen leak and cracks in the external fuel tank.
Only two shuttle flights remain after Discovery’s mission. Endeavour and Atlantis will be retired later this year.
NASA lost two others shuttles in disasters over the past 25 years.
In January 1986, the shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff, killing all seven astronauts on board, including Christa McAuliffe. She was the first teacher being sent into space as part of a NASA program.
In February 2003, seven astronauts were killed when the shuttle Columbia disintegrated while re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.