WASHINGTON – President Bush celebrated Tuesday's launch of the space shuttle Discovery (search), applauding the mission after watching the crew's takeoff on television and wishing them "a safe and successful mission."
"I thank the men and women of NASA who have dedicated themselves to putting our space program back on track," Bush said in a statement. "Our space program is a source of great national pride, and this flight is an essential step toward our goal of continuing to lead the world in space science, human space flight, and space exploration."
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Bush watched — and clapped — from his private dining room as Discovery and its seven astronauts blasted into orbit at 10:39 a.m. EDT and ended the program's shutdown that came in the wake of the Feb. 1, 2003, breakup of shuttle Columbia (search) during its return to Earth.
"We're all excited about today's launch," McClellan said.