"We know the folks on planet Earth are just feeling great right now," said Discovery's commander Eileen Collins from orbit.
During their 12-day mission to the International Space Station, Collins and her six fellow astronauts will test new techniques and equipment designed to make Shuttles safer. They'll also deliver supplies and make repairs to the Space Station after Discovery docks on Thursday.
"I want you to think about what it takes to get millions of different parts from thousands of vendors across the country to work together to produce what you saw here today and to realize how chancy it is, how difficult it is, at what a primitive state of technology it still is," said NASA Administrator Michael Griffin. "This team managed to do it, and I think a large debt of appreciation is due to them. They have worked as hard as any team in NASA history."
Discovery's first launch attempt July 13 was postponed because of problems related to a liquid hydrogen low-level fuel sensor inside the external fuel tank. Hundreds of engineers across the country worked to analyze and understand the issue. The sensor system was repeatedly tested during today's launch countdown, and it performed without a problem.
The STS-114 Return to Flight mission is the first step in realizing America's Vision for Space Exploration, which calls for a stepping-stone strategy of human and robotic missions to achieve new exploration goals. The Shuttle will be used to complete assembly of the International Space Station. The Station remains a vital research platform for human endurance in space, a test bed for technologies and techniques that will enable the longer journeys to the moon, Mars and beyond.
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