Night launch for shuttle 'Discovery'

Darkness briefly became day over Cape Canaveral on Saturday evening as the space shuttle Discovery made a rare night-time launch bound for the International Space Station where the crew, including the British-born Nicholas Patrick, will undertake a 12-day mission dedicated to re-wiring the facility.

A shower of sparks and flames from the shuttle's launch rockets provided a dramatic fireworks display at 8.47pm after the countdown ended on a launch that had been delayed earlier in the day because of low clouds. The shuttle left an arc of light across the horizon as it blasted off. It was the first night launch by Nasa in four years. "It just all came together perfectly," the launch director, Mike Leinbach, said. "Everything was just clicking today. Some days you feel good and you know it's going to come together."

After a day of orbiting Earth yesterday to allow astronauts to inspect their shuttle for any damage, docking with the space station should be completed this morning. Work will begin on rewiring the station and connecting a new power supply.

The American astronaut Sunita Williams will remain in the space station as part of its three-member crew, replacing Germany's Thomas Reiter of the European Space Agency.

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