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The shuttle launched just seconds before midnight and could be seen from across the East Coast as it lit up the sky.
Discovery is hauling seven astronauts and a load of space station supplies -- including a treadmill named after Comedy Central political comedian Stephen Colbert. Its previous two tries to launch last Tuesday and Wednesday were derailed by thunderstorms and fuel valve trouble, respectively.
The shuttle should reach the international space station Sunday night.
Read more: MSNBC