The Shuttle Discovery blasted off into a cloudless sky today at 1:19 p.m. Central time from the Kennedy Space Center to kick off a planned nine-day scientific research mission and to return John Glenn to space, 36 years, 8 months and nine days after he became the first American to orbit the Earth.
Launch was delayed briefly while flight controllers evaluated an alarm during cabin pressure checks and several more minutes while range safety officers dealt with a stray aircraft in the launch area.
Commander Curt Brown, Pilot Steve Lindsey, and Mission Specialists Steve Robinson, Scott Parazynski and Pedro Duque, along with Payload Specialists Chiaki Mukai and Glenn arrived on orbit less than nine minutes after launch, ready to begin activating Shuttle systems and experiments in the Spacehab module located in Discovery's cargo bay.
The Shuttle's payload bay doors were expected to be opened about an hour and a half after launch, prior to the astronauts receiving a "go" to begin orbital operations.
The timeline calls for the astronauts to spend most of the afternoon and evening completing the setup and activation of dozens of experiments they will conduct throughout the mission to study the effects of microgravity on the human body and materials.
Discovery's astronauts are scheduled to begin an eight-hour sleep period about 11:45 p.m. Central time tonight and are due to be awakened tomorrow about 7:45 a.m. to begin their first full day of activity in orbit.
About 45 minutes after launch, Discovery's orbital maneuvering engines fired to round out the orbit at about 350 miles. The spacecraft is orbiting Earth every 90 minutes. All of Discovery's systems are performing normally.
The next STS-95 status report will be issued at approximately 9 p.m. with the astronauts involved in presleep preparations.
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