The Space Shuttle Discovery is scheduled to launch from the Kennedy Space Center today at 3:51 p.m. EDT. They will have to launch within a five-minute window to be able to rendezvous with the International Space Station. As you are probably aware, this will be the first Shuttle flight since the Space Shuttle Columbia broke up over Texas during re-entry on Feb. 1, 2003.
This first flight is designed to test out the equipment, process and protocol improvements NASA has made over the past two and a half years to ensure safer space flight. These improvements were necessary and well worth the time, effort and money spent, but we will do well to keep Captain Alan Bean's comments in mind:
“There will never be safe space flight. There will be more accidents and more deaths. But we can’t let that stop us anymore than the fact that we know people will have car accidents today can stop us from getting in our cars and driving. We must explore.”
For those of you who don't have NASA TV but still want to watch the launch in real time (as well as the pre-launch and post-launch festivities), you can watch online.
God speed, Discovery!
UPDATE (7/13/05, 1:35 p.m. EDT): I just heard on NASA TV that the launch has been scrubbed/postponed due to some sort of fuel issue ("one of four low-level fuel cutoff sensors is not functioning properly"). The launch will be delayed until tomorrow at the earliest. Bummer.