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Space Shuttle Discovery Launches After Delays

After two delays and a year of troubleshooting, NASA successfully launched the space shuttle Discovery Tuesday sending seven astronauts to the International Space Station.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Amid some nervousness and delay, the space shuttle program returned to orbit this Independence Day. Discovery's liftoff this afternoon was the first shuttle launch in a year.

    For a closer look at today's launch and the decision-making process leading up to it, I'm joined by John Logsdon. He's the director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University. He also served on the accident investigation board which examined the Columbia tragedy in 2003.

    Welcome.

  • JOHN LOGSDON, Director, George Washington University‚Äôs Space Policy Institute:

    Good evening.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So, was the right decision made today to go ahead with this launch?

  • JOHN LOGSDON:

    I think so. I think it was a tough decision to make, because the safety officer and the chief engineer of NASA would have liked more time to do some more fixes on the external tank.

    Thirteen other senior people said it was time to fly. And NASA Administrator Mike Griffin agreed with that majority, and said, let's go.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    You're alluding to the fact it was about 10 days ago when these two senior NASA officials said, "I don't know if we're ready yet." And Mike Griffin basically overruled them.

  • JOHN LOGSDON:

    He overruled them. But, if he had not, if he had gone with them, he would have overruled 13 other people. So, ultimately, it was Mike's decision that — that the benefits of going now outweighed the risks.

    The shuttle is a risky vehicle. There are always going to be risks.