QuoteU.S. Rep. Dave Weldon, a Republican whose Florida district includes the Kennedy Space Center, proposed extending the shuttles' lifetime to close the gap until their replacement ships, called Orion, are ready for their first manned flights in 2015. His proposal, which would cost about $10 billion, would have the shuttles make six or seven additional flights between 2010 and 2013 and speed up development of the Orion ships to be ready by then. A second proposal would keep the shuttles flying until 2015 and leave Orion's schedule alone. "This is an issue of priorities," said Weldon, who announced his plan at the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center on Monday.
QuoteIf the storm shifted toward Houston, NASA would evacuate the space centre, which oversees the shuttle during flight, and set up an emergency command post at KSC in Florida. Endeavor is scheduled to touch down in Florida at 1232 EDT (1632 GMT) on Tuesday, but the back-up landing site at Edwards Air Force Base in California will be available if needed, Shannon said.
QuoteShuttle astronauts used a robot arm to scan the damage with a laser that provided a three-dimensional view showing that the 8-centimetre (3-inch) gash penetrated all the way through the thin tiles that protect the shuttle from heat as it flies through the atmosphere before landing. Mission management team chairman John Shannon said NASA needed to do more tests before making a decision to repair the damage, caused by a chunk of foam that fell off the shuttle's fuel tank about a minute after lift-off on Wednesday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, US.
QuoteSpace shuttle Discovery and its seven-member crew landed safely on Friday at Florida's Kennedy Space Center after worries about weather had scotched an earlier landing time. The landing concluded a successful 13-day mission to continue construction of the International Space Station (ISS) in four space walks, including one added at the last moment to fix a stuck solar array.
QuoteThe astronauts will enter the station for the first time about 0755 EDT (1155 GMT), where they will be greeted by its crew. The welcome ceremony with the station's three astronauts will not last long, however. The two crews will quickly begin preparations for the first spacewalk - Tuesday's installation of a 16-tonne truss that will support new solar panels. The crews will use the shuttle's robotic arm to hand the truss to the station's arm. NASA says the 11-day mission to boost the power-generating capacity of the ISS entails the most complex work ever undertaken at the nearly eight-year-old orbiting laboratory.
QuoteTwo technicians managed to swap the short bolts with longer versions late on Saturday and early on Sunday. The replacement will not delay the launch, which is set for 1630 EDT (2030 GMT) on 27 August. "Everything looks good," says Tracy Young, a spokesperson at Florida's Kennedy Space Center. "We're on schedule."
QuoteThe decision to confirm the launch date was made after a two-day flight readiness review. The launch window lasts until 7 September. During the review, NASA also discussed an issue regarding bolts on the shuttle that could potentially come loose. Recently, engineers discovered that two of four bolts that hold a communications antenna to Atlantis' payload bay are too short.
QuoteThere was one small glitch in the pre-landing check out. One of three Auxiliary Power Units (APUs) in Discovery's rear compartment has a small leak - about six drops per hour. The APUs power the hydraulic pump, which controls some of the systems needed for landing, such as the rudder/speed brake and the elevon. Flight controllers are not sure whether the leak is hydrazine fuel or the nitrogen that is used to pressurise the fuel tank. A hydrazine leak would be more serious than a nitrogen leak. Before the de-orbit engine firing, Discovery turned on that APU and it appeared to be working fine.
Quote"We have a very clean vehicle," shuttle flight director Tony Ceccacci says of the initial safety check, which came on the first full day of orbit. The seven-member crew was checking for possible damage from loose foam that came off the craft a couple of minutes into Tuesday's critical launch. NASA said the team was working very hard to complete the safety check in 24 hours and that initial indications were all good.
QuoteOn the ground the focus remained on the shuttle's vexing external fuel tank. One of the safety improvements was the installation of 100 cameras to scrutinise the shuttle for foam debris during its launch. An early review of those images pleased NASA officials. The pictures showed Discovery shed some small pieces of foam as expected a few minutes after launch but officials say they fell off too late to threaten the orbiter.
Quote"Repair is an option, fly as is is an option," LaNasa said. "It is not rare to repair damage on the pad. It is more rare to roll back." LaNasa said the external tank's liquid oxygen feedline is designed to flex during the fuel loading before a launch and unloading after a scrub. That flexibility, he said, allows the 17-inch feedline to handle the super-cold -297 degree Fahrenheit temperature of the liqid oxygen.
QuoteWeather looks to be a problem once again at Florida's Kennedy Space Center. Forecasters are estimating a 70% chance of unacceptable launch conditions thanks to thunderstorms and anvil clouds, which blow off the top of thunderstorms and could cause lightning. The storms should crop up earlier in the day than they did on Saturday, when the afternoon launch was called off just minutes before liftoff because of anvil clouds in the area.
QuoteNASA shuttle weather experts consistently predicted a 60 percent chance that weather around Discovery's Pad 39B launch site could prevent today's liftoff. Anvil clouds - a potential source of triggered lightning during launch - from inland thunderstorms are among the primary concerns. But earlier this morning, conditions changed. Discovery now has a 60 percent chance of launching into space, with only a 40 percent chance of anvil clouds and inland thunderstorms affecting the space shot.
QuoteWeather conditions are important for the actual liftoff because lightning from anvil and cumulus clouds could strike the shuttle. The clouds could also block the view of ground cameras that must track the shuttle's ascent into space. And NASA does not want to fly the shuttle through rain because water could damage the orbiter's sensitive heat shield. But the weather must also be favourable around the runway at KSC in case the shuttle encounters a major problem during launch and has to make an emergency landing. Such a manoeuvre has never been tried in the 25-year history of the space shuttle programme.
QuoteA Saturday launch would occur at 1939 GMT (1539 EDT). An early weather forecast indicates a 40% chance of rain and a 30% chance of lightning on Saturday afternoon. "I'm hoping the weather's going to improve a little bit ... so we can get off on time," says astronaut Piers Sellers. If Discovery does not lift off on Saturday, its launch window shifts about 25 minutes earlier each day. This will give it a bigger chance of avoiding the afternoon thundershowers that are common in Florida in July. Discovery's window extends until 19 July.
QuoteNASA will begin the countdown for the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery at 5 p.m. EDT June 28. The countdown includes nearly 28 hours of built-in hold time leading to a scheduled launch at about 3:49 p.m. on July 1. The launch window extends for nearly five minutes. The launch team at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., will conduct the countdown from the newly renovated Firing Room 4 of the Launch Control Center.
QuoteHe says programmatic risk is not the same as risk to the crew, arguing that Discovery's seven astronauts have safety options that were not available to Columbia's crew. They will inspect the underside of the orbiter with cameras during launch and when they first reach space. And if they find a small hole or crack in the heat shield, they have rudimentary repair methods that might be able to fix the problem. If the damage was serious, they could also stay on the International Space Station until a shuttle came to pick them up. Shuttle Atlantis is being prepared for its next flight in August but could be called upon for a rescue mission.
QuoteThe Mars rover Opportunity is working to free itself from a patch of loose soil it got stuck in on Monday. But rover scientists are hopeful it will escape relatively easily, since it got out of a similar predicament last year simply by spinning its wheels backwards. The rover was attempting to drive along a trough between the crests of ripples in the Martian soil when it got stuck. But it is not mired as deeply as it was in April 2005, when it was trapped for about five weeks on a 30-centimetre-high ripple of soil, nicknamed "Purgatory Dune".
QuoteThe thruster residue that might be on the Kromka plate is toxic. The residue can cause damage to the eyes, so spacewalking astronauts were supposed to put a plate from the experiment in a bag that snaps tightly shut like a clamshell. But the crew could not find that bag when they were collecting together their spacewalking gear on the station. So they may use another bag, close it with bungee cords and then put it inside several other bags.
QuoteSpace shuttle Discovery's external fuel tank appears to be safe to fly the next mission on 1 July, according to shuttle managers and engineers who completed a two-day review on Wednesday. NASA still expects some of the orange foam insulation to come off the external fuel tank during launch, but nothing as big as that shed during the last two shuttle flights.