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NASA planning shuttle return to flight as early as fall
Posted: Sat, Mar 15, 2003, 8:06 PM ET (0106 GMT)
STS-107: launch (NASA/KSC) NASA officials are making preparations to return the space shuttle to flight as early as this fall, although NASA officials and outside experts agreed that a more lengthy delay is most likely. In a memo to NASA officials, dated arch 12 and released to the media two days later, associate administrator Bill Readdy said the agency needed to begin work on critical issues now in order to support a shuttle return to flight as early as this fall. Those issues, similar to those earlier leaked to the media, including investigations of on-orbit tile inspection and repair, a review of the foam insulation used on the external tank, and an analysis of how in-flight safety issues are addressed. The work is supposed to be completed in time to allow the shuttle to resume flying in the fall, although NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe said the date was a "placeholder" to allow planning to resume for future flights, in response to Congressional requests. Other officials within NASA as well as outside experts believe that it could be up to two years before the shuttle could be ready to resume flights, depending on the outcome of the current investigation.
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