In a majestic US Independence Day liftoff, Discovery and its crew of seven blasted into orbit Tuesday on the first space shuttle launch in a year, flying over objections from those within NASA who argued for more fuel-tank repairs.
NASA's first-ever Fourth of July launch came after two weather delays and last-minute foam trouble that conjured up worries that have dogged NASA since Columbia was brought down by a chunk of fuel tank insulation foam 3 1/2 years ago.
The foam problem resurfaced during last July's flight of Discovery and again Monday, keeping the space agency debating safety all the way up to the eve of liftoff.
As Discovery thundered away from its seaside pad at 2:38 p.m. 1838 (GMT) and into space Tuesday, video showed was no initial sign of significant foam loss. Engineers will spend the next few days poring over the video before the shuttle returns to Earth.