Space shuttle Discovery has launched on a mission to deliver new science equipment and other supplies to the International Space Station
Space shuttle Discovery blasted off around midnight Friday carrying nearly 8,000 kilograms of equipment for the International Space Station.
Moments before launch, shuttle launch director Pete Nickolenko radioed Discovery commander Rick Sturckow to say that the shuttle was cleared to go, saying, "We wish you and your team good luck and god speed."
Sturckow responded, "Thanks, Pete. On behalf of the crew of the Discovery, thanks to everyone who helped prepare for this mission. Let's go step up the science on the International Space Station."
Two earlier attempts to launch Discovery were scrubbed this week, because of lightning storms and a technical problem with the shuttle's fuel valve.
The Discovery crew will spend 13 days in orbit, and astronauts will conduct three space walks after the orbiter'srendezvous with the space station on Sunday. The team will deliver a sleeping quarter and a new treadmill named after American comedian Stephen Colbert. The shuttle's payload also includes new science equipment, including a freezer and experiment racks.
The deputy administrator for the space station, Mark Uhran, said earlier this week that recent shuttle missions have helped build the science capabilities of the space station. He said, "So the big difference between the program that we have ahead, and the program that we have had in the past is that now for the first time we are gonna have continuously operating laboratories."
One current experiment involves eight mice that are traveling to the station aboard Discovery. The rodents will spend several months in space, in an effort to help scientists understand bone loss among astronauts in microgravity as well as bone disease on Earth.
Lead space station scientist Julie Robinson says the Italian-run test is one of several projects aimed at making medical advances. She said this week, "And this will be by far the longest period of time that mice have been maintained in the space station environment in an experimental setting. It is a pretty exciting scientific advance."
After Discovery, NASA plans six more shuttle flights before retiring the fleet next year. After that, Russian and private space programs will be used to ferry supplies to the space station until 2015, when its funding is expected to end.
blast off: launch with great force 发射升空（The three astronauts are scheduled to be blasted off on Wednesday. 三个航天员定于星期三出航。）
scrub: to delete or cancel (an idea or plan) 取消，中止（scrub an order 取消命令）
valve: any of various mechanical devices that control the flow of liquids, gases, or loose material through pipes or channels by blocking and uncovering openings 阀，活门
rodent: any of various mammals of the order Rodentia, such as a mouse, rat, squirrel, or beaver, characterized by large incisors adapted for gnawing or nibbling 啮齿目动物
US remembers 40-year anniversary of moon landing
US space agency plans solar probe
Excitement and tragedy on road to the moon
NASA sends shuttle to space, debris fears arise
(Source: VOA 英语点津编辑）