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Discovery in Orbit, NASA Checks for Damage

For the first time in two and a half years, NASA sends one of its space shuttles into orbit. The launch of Discovery was the first since the Columbia accident, which killed seven astronauts. As Discovery prepares to dock with the International Space Station, NASA managers are analyzing data to ensure the shuttle's heat-resistant surfaces were not damaged by during launch.

NASA managers had some concerns about Tuesday's launch -- from the weather to a balky fuel sensor -- but they say the mission appears to be off to a great start. Discovery is traveling at 17,500 miles an hour, in orbit around the earth.

The shuttle's mission calls for it to dock with the space station and provide it with supplies ranging from scientific equipment to fresh water. But the coming days will also see astronauts using a 100-ft.-long robotic arm to inspect heat-resistant surfaces for possible damage from falling debris.

Discovery is slated to return to Earth on Aug. 7 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where it began its trip Tuesday.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

David Kestenbaum is a correspondent for NPR, covering science, energy issues and, most recently, the global economy for NPR's multimedia project Planet Money. David has been a science correspondent for NPR since 1999. He came to journalism the usual way — by getting a Ph.D. in physics first.