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U.S. space shuttle lifts off on mission to int'l space station

2010-04-06 08:41 BJT

WASHINGTON, April 5 (Xinhua) -- U.S. space shuttle Discovery with seven astronauts on board lifts off on Monday morning from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on a 13-day construction mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

The space shuttle Discovery STS-131 lifts off from launch pad 39 A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida April 5, 2010. Space shuttle Discovery with seven astronauts aboard blasted off on Monday on one of NASA's final servicing missions to the International Space Station. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
The space shuttle Discovery STS-131 lifts off from launch pad 39 A at 
the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida April 5, 2010. 
Space shuttle Discovery with seven astronauts aboard blasted off on 
Monday on one of NASA's final servicing missions to the International 
Space Station. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

According to NASA TV, the shuttle blasted off at 6:21 a.m. EDT (1021 GMT) on a tower of flame that turned the dark Florida sky as bright as day.

"It's time for you to rise to orbit. Good luck and Godspeed," launch director Pete Nickolenko told the astronauts before liftoff.

"Let's do it!" replied shuttle commander Alan Poindexter.

"It's a great day. We've seen unbelievable great launch," NASA's Associate Administrator for Space Operation Bill Gerstenmaier told a press conference after the launch.

The liftoff set a record for the most women in space at the same time. Three women are aboard Discovery, and another already is at the space station, making for an unprecedented foursome. It also is the first shuttle mission with three female crew members.

American Tracy Caldwell Dyson arrived at the orbiting space station on Sunday aboard a Soyuz spacecraft with two Russian cosmonauts.

Joining Dyson from Discovery were mission specialists Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger, a former high school science teacher; Stephanie Wilson, a veteran of two shuttle missions; and Naoko Yamazaki, an astronaut with the Japanese space agency since 1996.

Discovery's flight will deliver eight tons of supplies and equipment to the ISS, including spare bunks for the occupants of the space station, a large tank of ammonia coolant and seven racks filled with science experiments. Discovery is also carrying an exercise machine designed to study the effects of micro-gravity on the body's musculoskeletal system.