At Last, a Day of Discovery

* The shuttle Discovery, with seven astronauts aboard, roared into space yesterday morning. It was the first launch in 21/2 years, since shuttle Columbia was destroyed as it tried to return to Earth on Feb. 1, 2003.

The shuttle had a perfect launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 10:39 a.m. Thousands of people, including first lady Laura Bush and some of the families of the Columbia astronauts, gathered to watch the shuttle streak into the sky. Millions more watched on TV. The shuttle was scheduled to be launched July 13, but a problem with a sensor on the fuel tank postponed the flight. (The sensor was saying the tank was empty when it had plenty of fuel.) Scientists couldn't discover what caused the sensor failure, but there were no reported problems yesterday.

The seven Discovery astronauts smiled and waved as they boarded yesterday morning for the 114th launch of a shuttle. Mission specialist Charles Camarda held up several signs for his family, including one that read, "Be Good for Mom."

Discovery's mission involves going to the international space station and is expected to last 13 days. In addition to taking supplies to the crew of the space station, Discovery's astronauts will do three space walks, during which they will test out repair kits created for this mission.

Just before the liftoff, launch director Mike Leinbach told the astronauts "Good luck, Godspeed -- and have a little fun up there."

Mission specialist Charles Camarda passes on a message to his family before boarding Discovery.The space shuttle Discovery lifts off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.