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NASA ready



NASA ready
Thursday, NASA officially set July 13 as the launch date for the first space shuttle flight since the 2003 Columbia disaster 2 1/2 years ago. The U.S. space agency had previously hoped to launch the shuttle Discovery in May, but halted that plan in April and said more work was needed on a redesigned fuel tank.

"We believe this is the cleanest flight we have ever done," NASA Administrator Michael Griffin told reporters after a two-day flight review, while acknowledging that all space flight carries risks.

"It's risky; we've done what we can do to minimize that."

"Based on a very thorough and very successful flight readiness review we're currently 'go for launch' of Discovery on July 13," Griffin said.

"The crew is go for launch. They want us to be go for launch. They don't want to rush to flight but they are ready to return to flight," he said, adding he had met with mission commander Eileen Collins earlier in the day.

The shuttle Columbia, which suffered damage to a wing from falling debris as it launched, broke up as it reentered the Earth's atmosphere on Feb. 1, 2003, killing all seven crew.

'It is not as safe as it could be,'' said John Logsdon, a member of the board that investigated the Columbia accident and director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University. 'The question is, 'Is it safe enough to commit a crew?' And I think -- I hope -- the answer is yes.''

Griffin said NASA's effort over the last two and a half years was not just to eliminate the possibility of debris damaging the shuttle, but rather a wider review of the entire spacecraft.

"We went literally from stem to stern of the vehicle ... to make sure that we did come back smarter and stronger and safer as a result."

Discovery sits on the launch pad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, awaiting the go-ahead for launch during a period between July 13 and July 31.


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