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Return To Flight

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While everyone here on Earth is enjoying the start of a long 4th of July holiday, seven people in Florida are sitting strapped to the top of two rockets, which are themselves latched directly to the worlds largest gas can. The Space Shuttle Discovery is ready to launch at 3:49PM EDT today, the second mission under the Return To Flight program enacted after the Shuttle Columbia was destroyed upon reentry of the Earths atmosphere.

Mission Specialists Lisa Nowak, Stephanie Wilson, and Mike Fossum will be making their first flight into space on STS-121, while Commander Steve Lindsey, Pilot Mark Kelly, and Mission Specialists Piers Sellers and Thomas Reiter will all be making return trips. Reiter has never flown on the Space Shuttle before; as a representative of the European Space Agency, he flew to the Russian Space Station Mir once before, and will be staying on board the International Space Station (ISS).

Not one of these people hesitated to go when the call came. They are brave and incredibly talented people in many different fields of expertise, and I envy them all.

STS-121 will dock with the ISS to deliver supplies, one new crew member, conduct repairs to the space station, and test new repair procedures for the Shuttle itself. The Space Shuttle will also be using its thrusters to raise the space station into a higher orbit, because even at distance of 400km (248 miles), the space stations drag on the atmosphere causes it to gradually lose altitude. The Russian resupply modules have been helping to offset the situation, and the stations crew have not been in any danger as of yet. However, the station was not designed with the capability to maintain its orbit alone.

ISS has not been completed, and it is uncertain as to whether it may ever be. The Shuttle is the only craft in existence capable of lifting the stations modules into space.

You can watch the launch live on NASA's cable channel, or on the Internet:

Good luck Discovery, and Godspeed.

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Jul 2, 2006, 3:49:00 AM
I was under the impression the launch was scrubbed, and rescheduled to 3:26 EDT on Sunday.

Just a minor detail, and probably a moot one as the entry may have been written before the call was made.

Otherwise an informative entry, and I was unaware that NasaTV actually broadcasted live. Every time I've viewed it it was just about an hour of looped footage of the situation rooms/missions.

Must have been off times.

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The text of this article is Copyright © 2006,2007 Paul William Tenny. All rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Attribution by: full name and original URL. Comments are copyrighted by their authors and are not subject to the Creative Commons license of the article itself.