'Discovery' lifts off for its 100th mission

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The space shuttle Discovery took off on Wednesday for an ambitious construction mission to the International Space Station, marking the 100th launch of the United States shuttle programme.

The space shuttle Discovery took off on Wednesday for an ambitious construction mission to the International Space Station, marking the 100th launch of the United States shuttle programme.

The seven astronauts have a difficult job ahead, adding two segments to the space station and doing four spacewalks on consecutive days.

The veteran astronaut Brian Duffy was at the controls as Discovery began its nine-minute climb to orbit. To his right was Pam Melroy, the third woman in nearly 20 years of shuttle history to take the co-pilot's seat.

In Discovery's cargo bay were two new segments of the fledgling $60bn (£40bn) space station. The first is a new docking port to be used on future shuttle missions. The second is the base section of an enormous array of solar-panelled wings that will eventually spread over the entire station.

It will be the job of Koichi Wakata, the Japanese astronaut, to position those pieces using the shuttle's 50ft robotic arm. Four of the astronauts -Leroy Chiao, Jeff Wisoff, Michael Lopez-Alegria and Bill McArthur - will make the new segments operational. (Reuters)

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