Beautiful Pix As Shuttle Takes Off

Apparent piece of debris (left of center) comes off the external fuel tank two minutes into the flight of Space Shuttle Discovery STS 114, over Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, video still 2005/7/26
This column was written by CBS News Early Show Co-Anchor Harry Smith.
Chances are you're in the car heading home right now and maybe you didn't see the pictures of the space shuttle taking off this morning. Here's a tip: Get in front of a TV tonight or get on the Web and take a look. The light, the clouds, the billowing smoke -- and a new twist.

NASA has mounted a camera on one of the external fuel rockets, so as the shuttle heads into space you get a brand new view.

It sounds a little space nerdy but, I'm telling you the truth, the pictures today were the best ever -- and especially powerful, considering the shuttle history. NASA has made a special point to start reminding folks that each launch really is a test flight. There is nothing routine about space travel and even with a billion dollar fix-up there's no real guarantee that this morning's lift off would be risk free. The space managers keep telling us the shuttle is as risk free as they can make it, which means this is still a very dangerous business.

I remember when Challenger went down in 1986. The endless investigation. The hearings. The frozen O-ring. What can go wrong can be oh, so simple. I was at the Kennedy Space Center then when the next shuttle finally took off. The ground rumbles, your body shudders and the shuttle grudgingly heads heavenward.

We wish the astronauts safe travels.

Harry's daily commentary can be heard on manyCBS Radio News affiliates across the country.

By Harry Smith