After being grounded for two and a half years following the accidental destruction of Columbia in February 2002, the shuttle Discovery‘s STS-114 mission began flawlessly today from Cape Canaveral this morning.
In addition to resupplying the International Space Station, this shuttle flight is a test mission for a new suite of tools and techniques for inspecting and repairing the shuttle in the case of liftoff damage. This suite includes a 50-foot orbital inspection boom that enables the crew to look underneath the shuttle, and the Laser Camera System designed by Neptec Design here in Ottawa, which can detect irregularities as small as one millimeter. In addition, Discovery will be visually inspected from within the ISS.
Congratulations, NASA. Half the job is done. Now bring them back safely.