The space shuttle lifted off, albeit a month late, due to some hydrogen leaks in the fuel tanks, but it was on its way earlier today. I hope that friends Brandon and Goldie, on vacation in Florida, were able to position themselves to be able to see the launch today. Unfortunately, more foam insulation (8 or 9 pieces) came off the external fuel tanks and struck the shuttle on the leading edge of the wing. This is precisely what happened to the Columbia before its ill-fated re-entry in 2003. It is nearly impossible to keep this type of thing from happening, but they have managed to put many safeguards in place in order to protect the astronauts, so that they will be kept as safe as possible. They have many tools at their disposal in order to effect repairs on the shuttle. If all else fails and they are unable to repair the shuttle, the astronauts can stay on the space station for a few months until another could be launched to rescue them.
This will be a sixteen day mission with the typical seven member crew. During their two weeks there, the astronauts will continue to piece together the space station, working toward its completion date of 2011. When this crew reaches the space station, it will be the first time that as many as 13 people will be on board...and it will have a multi-national "Star Trek" appearance. Besides the seven Americans, there will be two Russians, two Canadians, one Japanese, and one Belgian. It is so good that we are able to work together with scientists and astronauts from many different countries to make the space station a reality. Gene Roddenberry would be proud!
Oh...and did I mention that it is the 40th anniversary of the Apollo launch that put man on the moon for the first time? I do not remember much on the television from 1969 (I was 5), but I do remember the Apollo event and the Jets beating the Colts in Super Bowl III. Blessings,