UPDATE: Blue skies and clear sailing marked the successful launch of Space Shuttle Discovery and her seven-member crew from historic Launch Pad 39-A at Florida's Kennedy Space Center. A flawless countdown preceded liftoff, which marked the 35th flight of Discovery and the 123rd Space Shuttle mission. (The numbers don't always match in sequence because flight manifests often shuttle missions around.)
Original story follows.
The crew of Space Shuttle Discovery is strapped into their vehicle as the countdown toward a 5:02 p.m. EDT launch proceeds smoothly at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The STS-124 is the second of three flights that will ferry and install components to complete the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Kibo laboratory on the International Space Station.
They're also taking components to help with fixes of the Russian-provided toilet. The crew's primary mission is to Kibo’s large Japanese Pressurized Module, or JPM, and its remote manipulator system, or RMS.
The RMS consists of two roboticarms that support operations outside of Kibo. The lab's logistics module, or JLM,which was installed in a temporary location during STS-123 in March, will be attachedto the new lab.
Discovery's 14-day flight carries the largest payload ever delivered to the station and will include three spacewalks. The shuttle also will deliver Astronaut Gregory E. Chamitoff , a Mission Specialist, to a duty tour aboard the station.
He will take Astronaut Garrett E.
Reisman's place as ; Expedition 17 flight engineer.; Reisman will come home with the STS-124 crew in two weeks. Chamitoff will fly home aboard Endeavour on the STS-126 mission in November.
The rest of the STS-124 crew includes Michael E. Fossum,; mission specialist; Kenneth T. Ham, pilot; Mark E. Kelly, commander; Karen L. Nyberg, Ronald J. Garan and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) Akihiko Hoshide, all mission specialists.