BEIJING, June 27 (Xinhuanet) -- NASA plans to launch the Discovery this week in a bid to test modifications to the spacecraft and service construction of the International Space Station.
|The space shuttle Discovery is prepared for transport in the Vehicle Assembly Building before rolling to launch pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, May 19, 2006. (Xinhua Photo/Reuters)|
The shuttle Discovery is scheduled to lift off as early as Saturday from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on just the second flight since the Columbia disaster, even though some engineers argued that more needed to be done, according to a New York Times report on Tuesday.
The Columbia disintegrated while re-entering earth's atmosphere from a research mission on Feb. 1, 2003, after being critically damaged at launch when a piece of foam broke from its external fuel tank and struck its left wing.
NASA then flew the highly modified Discovery last year. But a problem with shedding foam persisted, postponing the second flight which was originally scheduled to follow just weeks later.
The main goals of the 12-day flight are to test the post-Columbia modifications and procedures, perform maintenance on the space station and deliver critical supplies, and deliver a new crew member to the station.
The shuttle fleet is scheduled to fly 16 more missions to complete work on the half-finished space station and possibly to service the Hubble Space Telescope. The three remaining shuttles — Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour — are scheduled to be retired in 2010. Enditem