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NASA To Light Space Shuttle Candle May 15

First Shuttle Mission Since Columbia To Fly, All Down To Paperwork Now

It's official: the Space Shuttle Discovery is returning to space on May 15 with a seven person crew. The date was announced on Friday by NASA's Associate Administrator for Space Operations, Bill Readdy, in a conference call with reporters. The next shuttle flight date was also announced for July 12.

"The challenge right now is closure of an awful lot of paper. The vehicle can't launch until all the paperwork is done," said Readdy. "I know that sounds a little bit trivial, but documentation of each and every thing we do is very important."

The special panel tasked with overseeing NASA's implementation of the 2003 Columbia Accident review board recommendations confirmed on Thursday that the agency has completed seven of the fifteen recommendations, with one additional on a conditional basis. The remaining recommendations will be considered during the board's final meeting, scheduled to take place at the end of March.

"We have every expectation that we are going to close all of them," Readdy said. "At this point, we don't see any show-stoppers."

Plans have also been made to accelerate the launch of the next mission as early as June 14 if an emergency situation develops on the Discovery mission. In addition, supplies are being sent to the International Space Station to fulfill a plan to provide emergency shelter for shuttle crews if necessary.



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