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Security Scare And Drunkeness Report Hit Space Shuttle Program

A very expensive booze bus.
by Jerome Bernard
Washington DC (SPX) Jul 27, 2007
NASA space shuttle program was once again in crisis as officials found a sabotaged computer meant for an imminent mission, and a trade magazine reported astronauts had been drunk on duty. The tampered computer was due to be installed on the US space shuttle Endeavour for an August mission to work on the International Space Station. "One of our subcontractors noticed that a network box for the shuttle had appeared to be tampered with," NASA spokeswoman Katherine Trinidad told AFP on Thursday. "It is intentional damage to hardware."

She said workers who discovered the computer damage at the subcontractor's facility -- not at NASA's -- had notified the space agency "several days ago," adding: "There is an ongoing investigation."

She gave no details of who the subcontractors were nor exactly where the damage was.

"What we are trying to do now is repair that unit and try and fly it when possible," she added.

Endeavour and a crew of seven were due for launch on August 7 from NASA's base at Cape Canaveral, Florida, for a mission aimed at continuing work on building the orbiting space laboratory.

Safety is a major concern in shuttle missions after damage sustained by the Columbia craft on launch caused it to break up on re-entry in February 2003, killing all seven astronauts on board.

Also on Thursday, the trade magazine Aviation Week & Space Technology, citing an internal NASA panel, said astronauts had been allowed to fly spacecraft while drunk on at least two occasions. It did not specify which missions had been affected.

The panel also reported "heavy use of alcohol" inside the standard 12-hour "bottle to throttle" abstinence period applied to NASA flight-crew members, the magazine said.

A NASA spokesman was not immediately available for comment, but NASA has scheduled a press conference detailing the panel findings for Friday afternoon.

In anticipation of the report's formal release, one US lawmaker was primed to seek answers from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

"If the reports of drunken astronauts being allowed to fly prove to be true, I think the agency will have a lot of explaining to do," said Bart Gordon, chairman of the House of Representatives' science and technology committee.

"That's not the 'right stuff' as far as I'm concerned," he said, alluding to a 1983 film about early NASA crews, "The Right Stuff", based on Tom Wolfe's 1979 book.

The internal NASA panel was set up to review astronaut health after astronaut Lisa Nowak in February was arrested and charged with trying to kidnap a woman who was dating another astronaut. NASA fired her in March.

NASA faced more heartbreak in April, when contractor Bill Phillips sneaked a revolver past security at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and barricaded himself inside a building.

He duct-taped a female co-worker to a chair and shot a male colleague dead before turning the gun on himself.

The agency also faced political pressure in May when NASA chief Michael Griffin drew fire for comments on the hot topic of harmful climate change. He publicly questioned the need to tackle global warming.

A rare bit of good news came with the successful Atlantis mission to the ISS in June, although it had been delayed three months after hail damaged the shuttle's external fuel tank as it stood on its launch pad.

The delay forced NASA to cut the number of planned shuttle flights this year from five to four.

On the August mission, Endeavour astronauts are to deliver a giant truss to be attached to the ISS, along with an external stowage platform and a Spacehab module -- a pressurized cargo carrier.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Shuttle Computer System Sabotaged, Mission Launch Not Impacted
Washington (AFP) Jul 27, 2007
A computer due to be installed on the US space shuttle Endeavour for an August mission was found to be sabotaged, the US space agency NASA said on Thursday. "One of our subcontractors noticed that a network box for the shuttle had appeared to be tampered with," NASA spokeswoman Katherine Trinidad told AFP. "It is intentional damage to hardware."

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