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Miles O'Brien's shuttle launch Blog

CNN anchor and space correspondent Miles O'Brien followed the launch of the space shuttle Discovery.

Space travel: 'A dicey proposition'

O'Brien
CNN's Miles O'Brien at the Kennedy Space Center.

SPECIAL REPORT

YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Posted: 12:50 p.m. ET

For NASA's beleaguered shuttle workers, it was the happy conclusion to a long sad, draining struggle. But unlike previous missions, no one is breathing a sigh of relief now that Discovery is in space ... Columbia proved ever so poignantly that flying to space is a very dicey proposition -- in every phase of flight.

Hopes and fears

Posted: 11:58 a.m. ET

The hope is they will NOT see something like a big piece of debris falling off the external tank and knocking a hole in the shuttle heat shield as happened with Columbia's last launch in January 2003. NASA engineers redesigned the tank to reduce the chances that a big piece of debris would fall off the tank. Just the same, the crew will use an extended shuttle robot arm to carefully inspect Discovery's wings, nose cone and belly.

NASA to analyze images

Posted: 11:52 a.m. ET

So far so good ... but what seemed to be a "picture perfect" launch will be followed by a lot of poring over pictures. In the coming hours and days, NASA engineers will analyze a dizzying stream of images of the launch employing a new sophisticated network of tracking cameras positioned all around the launch site -- in the air -- and on the shuttle and its external tank.

Discovery rockets into space

Posted: 11:44 a.m. ET

It's been a long time coming, but in the end, everything came together without a hitch. The weather was perfect, the countdown flawless and the faulty fuel gauge that kept the launch on hold and NASA engineers scratching their heads for nearly two weeks, worked without a hiccup.

On cue and on time, the Shuttle Discovery rocketed into space ... marking NASA's return to flight nearly two and a half years after the loss of Columbia and her crew of seven. For Shuttle Commander Eileen Collins and her crew, the day unfolded in a carefully scripted ritual. The crew walked out amid lots of cheers -- and frankly deep rooted fears -- could it happen again?

Clear for launch

Posted: 10:29 a.m. ET

It is time for terminal count in 2 minutes. We're all clear for launch ... all systems are go ...

Scientific goals of the shuttle

Posted: 9:54 a.m. ET

John Glenn just joined us on the air. He is worried that NASA is pulling the plug on the shuttle and the space station too quickly -- thwarting the scientific goals of the station. Problem is, the science on the station has never been that exciting. NASA wants to focus on how staying in space affects human beings -- that seems like the most important scientific goal they can pursue.

Weather in shuttle's favor

Posted: 9:53 a.m. ET

The countdown is running so smoothly, I've been wondering if my communication link is bad. The Launch Control Team doesn't have much to talk about. Weather is not worth getting into -- now officially 90 percent go -- but I really think there is no way the weather will keep Discovery on the pad today.

Good 'wuck with the waunch'

Posted: 6:53 a.m. ET

Astronaut Cady Coleman just dropped by our live position. She was wearing a plastic bead bracelet made by her 5-year-old son for Discovery crewmember Wendy Lawrence for "wuck with the waunch," as he put it. Cady was unable to get the bracelet to Wendy -- so she is wearing it today for luck. Astronauts are pretty superstitious. They wear lucky socks, shirts and caps -- and among other things, the commander of a mission must lose a three-card monte-like card game before being allowed to leave the suit up room and head to the launch pad.

Sensors: 'Unexplained anomaly'

Posted: 6:28 a.m. ET

Just spoke with NASA Administrator Mike Griffin. He says he is a little disappointed that, so far, the balky fuel sensors have NOT failed. Engineers were primed to do some troubleshooting during the countdown, but since the sensors have mysteriously healed themselves, they will not have an opportunity to further understand the issue. As such, it remains and "unexplained anomaly". But still, since they are working, they are not going to prompt a scrub. More engine cutoff sensor checks lie ahead. Perhaps the problem will crop up. But if it is a new problem ... well, that is another story ...

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