STS-124 Heading To ISS
ANN REALTIME REPORTING 05.31.08 1505 EDT: She's
off! Moments ago, NASA's most erstwhile orbiter, the space shuttle
Discovery, lifted off from Cape Canaveral on its latest mission to
the International Space Station.
So far, all indications from NASA are the launch progressed
smoothly. Video from a camera mounted on the shuttle's external
tank appeared to show a small chunk of foam or ice break off from
the tank at approximately T-plus 3:30, striking the underside of
the orbiter at a comparatively low velocity. At the moment, it's
not expected to have caused significant damage.
Discovery and its seven-member crew will dock with the ISS on
Monday. The STS-124 mission will deliver the second of three
sections of the Kibo science laboratory.
With all the (well-deserved) to-do this week at NASA over its
successful Mars Phoenix mission, it's easy to forget NASA has
another high-flying mission set to lift off Saturday afternoon.
At NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians put the
finishing touches Friday on space shuttle Discovery, one day before
its scheduled liftoff on mission STS-124. Launch is set for
Saturday 1702 EDT.
"After months of hard work and preparation, Discovery and its
crew are ready to fly," said NASA Test Director Jeff Spaulding
during a Friday morning briefing on Discovery's countdown status.
"All of our systems are in great shape, we're tracking no issues,
and we're right on schedule for tomorrow's launch."
The weather is looking promising for launch day, according to
Shuttle Weather Officer Kathy Winters. Isolated coastal showers may
be in the area during the morning hours, but a sea breeze will
develop in the afternoon, clearing the coast and causing any
showers to move inland. There is an 80 percent chance of favorable
weather at launch time.
This mission will carry the largest payload so far to the
station and includes three spacewalks. It is the second of three
missions that will launch components to complete the Japan
Aerospace Exploration Agency's Kibo laboratory.
The crew will install Kibo's large Japanese Pressurized Module
and Kibo's robotic arm system. Discovery also will deliver new
station crew member Greg Chamitoff and bring back Flight Engineer
Garrett Reisman, who will end a three-month stay aboard the