Discovery shuttle carrying seven astronauts enters orbit

June 1st, 2008 - 9:29 am ICT by admin  

Washington, June 1 (DPA) Discovery shuttle blasted off Saturday and reached orbit en route to the International Space Station to deliver the second large piece of a Japanese research laboratory and fix a malfunctioning lavatory. Doubling speeds to Mach III in mere seconds, after eight and a half minutes the shuttle reached outerspace to continue the trip for seven astronauts on board, all according to plan, said astronaut Doug Wheelock.

Commenting on broadcast television, Wheelock said the astronauts would be experiencing three-times gravity during the launch before becoming weightless, as they will be for the duration of the two-week mission.

Five of the astronauts on board Discovery were going into space for the first time.

As the spacecraft left Earth’s atmosphere it was traveling 28,000 km per hour towards its destination. The shuttle launched shortly after 2100 GMT from Cape Canaveral, Florida under sunny skies.

Although a small piece of foam was seen detaching from the booster rocket just before the shuttle reached outer space, the launch was described as picture perfect - a rare circumstance for US launches often delayed by weather or technical glitches.

The shuttle crew’s main task is to deliver another module for “Kibo” the Japanese space laboratory.

The crew already at the space station is urgently awaiting spare parts for a defective space toilet. Docking of the Discovery is planned for Monday.

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