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Shuttle managers back Hubble decision
Posted: Sun, May 2, 2004, 2:40 PM ET (1840 GMT)
STS-107: launch (NASA/KSC) NASA officials overseeing the space shuttle's return to flight said Friday there are several technical reasons why shuttle missions should not be conducted to the Hubble Space Telescope or destinations other than the International Space Station. Shuttle managers, discussing the latest version of the return-to-flight plan, said that the lack of a "safe haven" at Hubble was a key issue that made shuttle flight s there riskier than those to ISS. Without the resources to keep the shuttle crew alive for more than a few weeks, NASA would have to rush the launch of a second shuttle, essentially requiring ground crews to prepare two shuttles for launch simultaneously. There would also be issues changing out the cargo of the second shuttle as well as requirements for "many safety and operations waivers," as well as a need to develop techniques for transferring astronauts from one shuttle to another. Managers also said than an independent capability for the shuttle to inspect and repair tile damage will not be ready for the initial post-Columbia shuttle flights, and engineers concentrate on means to conduct such work at the ISS. Overall, shuttle officials said they are still on track to launch the next shuttle mission, STS-114, in March of 2005. Maintaining that launch date will depend on the ability of engineers to solve the problem of foam coming off the external tank, they said.
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