July 12, 2005

It only took about ten minutes to pick up our media credentials from a converted hot dog stand at a ball field about 15 miles from the launch site, but we were all covered in sweat by the time we got back in our rented SUV.

I lived in South Florida for five years, but never got used to the hot and sticky summers. Cape Canaveral isn't Miami, but it's still a steam bath here, with thick humidity and temperatures near 90.

There's also a 30-40 percent chance of thunderstorms every day this week, which could delay the launch of the space shuttle Discovery. I hope it doesn't rain Wednesday afternoon.

I'm really excited to see the start of the 114th mission up close, when those solid rocket boosters envelop the space coast in a thick blanket of smoke.

This latest journey by the world's first reusable spacecraft is dubbed "Return to Flight" by NASA, because it's just that; the first launch since February 1st, 2003, when the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated on its descent to earth, killing all seven astronauts on board.

I covered that story, traveling to Johnson Space Center in Houston soon after Columbia broke apart. The accident devastated NASA. It's a tight community. The employees put their heart and soul into the program, and the astronauts are treated like family.

The space agency has made lots of improvements to the shuttles in the past couple years, acting on 44 recommendations, saying the inspections and modifications required 3.3 million man hours of work. NASA says Discovery will be the safest vehicle they've ever launched, but there are no guarantees.

The world will be watching.

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Discovery: Return to Flight
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