Space shuttle Discovery and its crew of seven rocketed into orbit Sunday evening, setting off on a space station construction mission cut short by launch delays that dragged on for more than a month.
The launch, though late, turned out to be flawless and the prettiest NASA managers had ever seen.
Discovery rose from its seaside pad just as the sun was setting, an especially spectacular sight for a space agency anxious to get the flight going. As the shuttle sped away like a brilliant star, the upper part of the launch plume glowed pink, peach and golden.
Launch controllers could see the shuttle for seven minutes, until it reached somewhere off the New York or New Jersey coast. "We were all rewarded with a beautiful, beautiful launch," said launch director Mike Leinbach.