Discovery Blasts Off Safely

By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 23, 2007 1:51 PM CDT
Crowds watch from the A. Max Brewer Causeway in Titusville, Fla. as space shuttle Discovery launches from Kennedy Space Center across the Indian River, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2007. (AP Photo/Joe Kaleita)   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Despite dubious weather, ice buildup, and wing cracks, Discovery successfully launched from Cape Canaveral this morning. The spacecraft carries a crew of seven—including Pamela Melroy, only the second female shuttle commander—to a daunting construction job on the International Space Station, the AP reports. The "to do" list includes at least five spacewalks to install an addition and a set of 240-foot solar wings.

A chunk of ice was spotted on Discovery's external fuel tank prior to launch; it was deemed too small to pose a hazard and was seen melting just before launch. The space station addition, a bus-sized residential compartment dubbed Harmony, is a precursor to laboratory units that will link up with European and Japanese counterparts in coming months.