Discovery blasted into orbit today with a woman in the pilot’s seat for the first time in NASA history, bound for an unprecedented rendezvous with the Russian space station.
The 4.5 million-pound space shuttle lit up the sky for miles around as it rose from its pad at 12:22 a.m. (9:22 p.m. PST) on twin pillars of flame.
Liftoff came right at the start of a five-minute launch window, NASA’s shortest in 10 years. Discovery had to be off the ground within five minutes to achieve the most fuel-efficient route to the orbiting Mir station.
The flight had been delayed one day so NASA could replace a failed navigation unit.