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Seven astronauts await green light from NASA

Seven astronauts await green light from NASA

For the first time in a year, NASA was set to launch a space shuttle yesterday on a mission that will test whether the space agency has reduced the risks of flying in the 25-year-old vehicles.Discovery was set to blast off from Kennedy Space Center at 3:49 p.m. (local time).
During fueling of the shuttle's external tank, NASA engineers planned to find out if new fuel tank sensors were operating properly. Four sensors designed to prevent the main engines from running too long or not long enough, during the climb to space were replaced after one of them gave an electrical reading that was slightly off. The swap-out pushed back Discovery's launch from May.
The launch also will test NASA Administrator Michael Griffin's decision to go ahead with the mission despite the concerns of NASA's safety officer and chief engineer who fear foam flying off the fuel tank might harm the shuttle.
Bryan O'Connor, the space agency's chief safety officer, and chief engineer Christopher Scolese recommended at a flight readiness review meeting two weeks ago that the shuttle not fly until further design changes are made to 34 areas on the fuel tank known as ice-frost ramps. These wedge-shaped brackets run up and down the tank holding in place pressurization lines. Foam insulation is used to prevent ice from building up on the tank when it is filled with supercold fuel. Small pieces of foam have snapped off during previous launches.
O'Connor and Scolese agreed with Griffin's rationale that the risk was only to the shuttle and not the crew since the astronauts could take refuge in the international space station until a rescue vehicle is sent up, so they didn't appeal Griffin's decision.


Updated : 2021-10-26 07:22 GMT+08:00