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Learning English - Words in the News
27 July, 2005 - Published 10:59 GMT
Hopes and fears for shuttle Discovery
Launch time for Discovery

The space shuttle Discovery is orbiting the Earth after blasting off successfully from Cape Canaveral. However there are growing worries about something which was seen falling from the spacecraft soon after the launch. This report from Jeremy Cooke:

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Immediately after Discovery's lift-off NASA officials were in jubilant mood, talking of the power and majesty of the launch and of the mutual congratulations and back-slapping at ground control. But even as the shuttle's commander, Eileen Collins, was reporting from space that this was the smoothest of her four flights into orbit, engineers at Mission Control were trying to assess the significance of an onboard video which apparently shows debris falling from Discovery soon after it cleared the tower.

Fresh in everyone's mind here of course is the Columbia disaster of 2003 when heat-resistant tiles became damaged during the launch. The result was a catastrophic failure on re-entry to Earth's atmosphere two weeks later, with the loss of all seven astronauts on board.

It seems clear that NASA genuinely doesn't know the seriousness of any problem it may face on this current mission. It may take days to assess any damage. But the hope here at Cape Canaveral continues to be that this mission will salvage the agency's battered reputation and help open the way for a continuation of the space programme and eventually a manned flight to Mars.

Jeremy Cooke, BBC

Listen to the words

the expression for when a space craft takes off

in jubilant mood
extrememly happy

mutual congratulations
when everyone says 'well done' to everyone else

a physical way of saying 'well done', either literal or metaphorical

to assess the significance of
to work out how important something is

an onboard video
a film shot from on the shuttle, not from the ground

pieces of something destroyed by an accident or explosion

Fresh in everyone's mind
Something that is remembered clearly

a catastrophic failure
a huge and instant breakage which causes the destruction of, in this context, the shuttle Columbia in 2003

salvage the agency's battered reputation
help NASA recover its status (which was damaged following the destruction of the shuttle Columbia)

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