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NASA lights blue touchpaper on Discovery

And China eyes the moon

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Discovery waits for launch. Credit: NASA

Discovery waits for launch. Credit: NASA

The space shuttle Discovery is set to blast off from Florida on its journey to the International Space Station later today, with the launch slated for 11:38am, Eastern Time.

Weather forecasts don't look fantastic, with only a 40 per cent chance of acceptable conditions at the launch pad by the time the count down gets to zero, NASA said. On the up side, no technical problems have been reported.

The shuttle is set to carry the next section of the ISS, under the watchful eye of commander Pamela Melroy. She and her crew will spend two weeks on the space station, attaching the Italian-built Harmony module.

Meanwhile, China says its first lunar orbiter will launch any time from Wednesday this week. The orbiter, dubbed Chang'e One for the Chinese goddess who (according to mythology) flew to the Moon, will circle the Moon for a year, according to a Reuters report. ®

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