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U.S. back in space with Discovery launch

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., July 26 (UPI) -- The United States roared back into space Tuesday as shuttle Discovery lifted off from Cape Canaveral in the first launch since the 2003 Columbia tragedy.

The spacecraft's launch was described as nearly perfect, occurring exactly as scheduled at 10:39 a.m. EDT.

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The shuttle and its crew will engage in a 12-day mission to the International Space Station to deliver needed supplies and spend time testing new shuttle safety equipment

But some of the more than 100 cameras on the ground, in aircraft and on satellites that monitored the launch recorded what appeared debris falling off Discovery.

The NASA video showed the unidentified debris falling and not appearing to hit Discovery, CNN reported. NASA experts said they will analyze the video frame by frame and hope, by Sunday, to have determined whether Discovery can safely return to Earth.

In February 2003, Columbia was destroyed during re-entry. Investigators blamed debris hitting the spacecraft during liftoff for damage that led to the disaster.

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