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The Launch of Discovery

Just before sunrise at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., NASA fuels Space Shuttle Discovery in preparation for its Independence Day launch. (Dave Martin / AP)
Clouds hover over Kennedy Space Center as NASA prepares for the Independence Day launch. Concerns over bad weather postponed two other attempts. To the right, NASA’s vehicle assembly building, Pad 39A and 39B -- the launch pad for Discovery -- can be seen across the St. John River from Titusville, Fla. (Pete Cosrgrove / AP)
NASA scientists discover a small crack in the insulating foam of the shuttle’s external fuel tank one day before the scheduled launch. Associate administrator of space operations at NASA Bill Gerstenmaier at a news conference yesterday holds the piece that broke away and says NASA will attempt to launch Discovery despite concerns raised by the crack. (Win McNamee / Getty)
The crew heads to the astrovan for transportion to the launch pad. Mission Specialists Stephanie Wilson, Lisa Nowak, Thomas Reiter, a German from the European Space Agency, Pilot Mark Kelly, Mission Specialist Piers Sellers, of the United Kingdom, and Mike Fossum make up the crew of shuttle mission STS-121. (Mark Wilson / Getty)
The Discovery liftoff marked the first ever Fourth of July launch for NASA. (Marta Lavandier / AP)
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