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Early-morning shuttle launch brings a viewing opportunity for U.S. east coasters

NASA, STS-128, space shuttle DiscoveryWith each nighttime space shuttle launch, residents of the U.S.'s eastern seaboard have a chance, weather permitting, to see the orbiter climbing into the sky. The launch of space shuttle Discovery, scheduled for 1:36 A.M. (Eastern Daylight Time) Tuesday, is no exception and may provide the last such opportunity before the space shuttle program is terminated.

Over at SPACE.com, Joe Rao of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City has viewing tips for various regions of the coast in the seconds and minutes after liftoff. SPACE.com also has a map of the areas from which the shuttle should be visible during ascent, assuming clear skies and an unobstructed vantage point.

The launch itself, as always, also depends on the weather and on a clean bill of health for the shuttle. Hopeful sky-watchers can keep tabs on the proceedings with live coverage at NASA TV.

As Rao notes, the upcoming launch is the only one slated for total darkness among the handful remaining on the schedule before the planned phaseout of the shuttle program in 2010 (or 2011, as the White House's expert spaceflight-review panel has deemed most likely).

Photo of Discovery on the launch pad: NASA

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