(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – The Space Shuttle Discovery took the next step toward returning to space as it was rolled out to Vehicle Assembly Building early Tuesday morning. NASA plans to launch the first shuttle flight since the Columbia orbiter broke up during reentry killing all seven crew members in February 2003.
“It’s been a tough two years,” said Bill Parsons, manager of the NASA space shuttle program. “We still have some challenges in front of us, but we’re looking forward to a mid-May launch.”
When the Space Shuttle Discovery returns to flight on the STS-114 Mission, its main objectives will be delivering supplies to the International Space Station and replacing one of the Space Station’s Control Moment Gyroscopes.
In a report released last week by the U.S. Space Agency on NASA’s progress toward launching the Discovery shuttle, it acknowledged the risk in human space flights.
“As we look forward to the limited launch window opportunities in 2005, it is reasonable to ask ourselves if the shuttle is safe enough,” the report said. “Although we will never eliminate all the risks from our space shuttle missions, we are confident that we have eliminated those that constituted the proximate cause of the Columbia loss.”
Unlike previous shuttle launches, there is a rescue plan intact in case the Discovery Space Shuttle runs into any difficulties. The seven astronauts from the Discovery shuttle would be required to stay in the International Space Station. The space station which is designed to house three people would have to hold nine under this plan. The Discovery would then have to be pushed into the ocean by remote control to make room for the Atlantics shuttle to pick up the astronauts. It would then have to return to Earth with a record 11 people. If this worst-case scenario were to come true, NASA would be required to end their shuttle program five years ahead of schedule.
The fully assembled shuttle is scheduled to move to launch pad 39B on April 4. The target launch date is May 15.
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This article appeared in the April 4, 2005 issue of the Hatchet.