Discovery into orbit

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The space shuttle Discovery blasted off from Pad 39A this morning for a 14-day mission to the International Space Station.

It will deliver Node 2 (dubbed ‘Harmony’), a hub that will be used to connect additional scientific modules in the future. Node 2 also contains additional life support equipment that will allow more than three people to live aboard the station. Harmony will go onto the hatch where the shuttle docking port is currently located, so the module will be placed onto a temporary port until the shuttle leaves. At that point, ISS astronauts will move the docking port, move Node 2 it into place using the station’s robotic arm, and attach the docking port to the end of the new module.

Also of particular import on this mission, STS-120, is the relocation of the P6 truss and its solar array to its permanent location on the port truss assembly outside of P5. It’s been in a temporary location atop the station since it was delivered in 2000.

I’ve long been a critic of both the Space Shuttle program and the International Space Station, but watching the construction progress is certainly exciting.