Two-and-a-half years after tragedy struck the nation’s space shuttle program, an Iowan piloted Discovery into orbit this morning. Burlington native Jim Kelly and the six other Discovery astronauts are now high above us after a flawless launch at 9:39 Central time, the same time Columbia was launched for the final time in 2003. Since that disaster, numerous improvements have been made to Discovery in a billion-dollar overhaul, as well as the two remaining shuttles Endeavour and Atlantis. The crew is scheduled to spend 12 days aloft, visiting the International Space Station and performing three EVAs or spacewalks. It’s the second spaceflight for the 41-year-old Kelly, who also flew aboard Discovery in 2001.
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