Sun, Sep 19, 2004
But Hurricanes May Delay Shuttles' Return To Flight
Virtually no place in Florida has escaped nature's wrath this
summer -- and that includes Cape Canaveral. Because of poundings
from Hurricanes Charley and Frances, NASA is now about a week
behind on its schedule for returning the space shuttles to service
-- hopefully in March or April.
"Can they make that up?" asked Thomas Stafford, the Apollo
astronaut who's now co-chairman of the group overseeing the return
to flight. "It's too early to say. It was a tight schedule to start
with, and the facility survey is still going on," he said in an
interview with the Associated Press.
As we reported earlier this month, NASA took quite
a bit of damage during Hurricane Frances. Much of
it was sustained by the Vehicle Assembly Building (above, before
Hurricane Frances), which lost thousands of square feet in
Last week, work on the newly-redesigned external fuel tank,
underway at the Lockheed-Martin plant near New Orleans. "The impact
there is... at least a week, and that's assuming no damage from the
storm," said former shuttle astronaut and task force co-chairman
And, don't look now, space fans, but Jeanne is still out there,
still a threat to the Space Coast.
But compared to the technical issues that still must be overcome
before a return to flight, weather delays seem rather mild. So far,
NASA has met five of the 15 goals set forth by the Columbia
Accident Investigation Board (CAIB). Repairs and modifications
could cost upwards of $2.2 billion.
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