Discovery en route to space station after 'greatest show on Earth' launch

Lugging an enormous new lab, shuttle Discovery was in fast pursuit of the international space station on Sunday following a spectacular launch that one astronaut called "the greatest show on Earth." Discovery and its crew of seven thundered into orbit late Saturday afternoon, carrying up Japan's US$1 billion lab as well as a spare pump for the space station's malfunctioning toilet. The shuttle will reach its destination Monday. "Obviously a huge day," NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said, for all of the space station partners "and really for all the people who hope to see space station come to fruition and do what it was designed to do." The school-bus-size lab, named Kibo, Japanese for hope, will be the biggest room by far at the space station and bring the orbiting outpost to three-quarters of completion. It is 11.3 meters long and more than 14,500 kilograms, and fills Discovery's entire payload bay. The first part of the lab flew up in March, and the third and final section will be launched next year.