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Teacher Readies For NASA Endeavour Space-Station Shot

Follow today's launch on NASA TV via Space.TV
by Staff Writers
Washington, Aug 8 (AFP) Aug 08, 2007
Twenty-one years after a pioneering teacher was killed in the launch explosion of the US shuttle Challenger, another primary school teacher will Wednesday shrug off that disaster and climb in the Endeavour shuttle for an ambitious mission into space.

NASA hopes career teacher Barbara Morgan, 55, will safely complete the trip to the International Space Station and help douse the media glare on stories of drunken and love-sick astronauts and space shuttle failures like the 1986 tragedy and the 2003 Columbia disaster.

Morgan trained as Christa McAuliffe's understudy in the 1980s as NASA hoped that sending a teacher into space would fire the imaginations of millions and keep up support for its shuttle program.

But on January 28, 1986, 73 seconds after the Challenger blasted off, it exploded and broke up, killing all seven aboard, and putting an end, at least for two decades, to Morgan's own aspirations to join the elite of US astronauts.

On Wednesday Morgan finally gets her chance to fly beyond the Earth. NASA late Tuesday maintained the green light for Endeavour's launch Wednesday at 6:36 pm (2236 GMT) at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

First Lady Laura Bush called Morgan Tuesday morning to offer congratulations "one school teacher to another," and to thank her for her commitment to the space program and to education.

The great unknown is the weather, which NASA meteorologist Kathy Winter gave an 80 percent chance of offering favorable conditions.

Morgan will join six other astronauts, including mission commander Scott Kelly and co-pilot Charlie Hobaugh on the 11-day journey.

The mission will carry aloft a truss section about the size of a small car, 1.58 tonnes, to extend the space station to a length of 108 meters (354 feet).

The astronauts will also replace a defective gyroscope, one of four keeping the space station on an even keel, and will install a 3.3-tonne exterior stowage platform.

Endeavour, on the 22nd shuttle mission to the space station, will also carry in its cargo bay a pressurized container with 2.7 tonnes of supplies, foodstuffs and equipment.

Three spacewalks, lasting about six hours and 30 minutes each, will allow the two-astronaut teams to accomplish assembly and repair tasks during the 11-day mission.

However, NASA could prolong the mission by three days to include a fourth space walk, to prepare for installation of a boom that will allow crews to inspect the for damage the heat shields of future shuttles while docked with the space station.

NASA has been leery of damage to shuttle heat shields since February 2003, when a broken thermal tile led to the disintegration of the Columbia on re-entry, killing all seven aboard and putting the shuttle program on hold for two-and-a-half years.

Since then, heat shield inspections begin at lift-off and are repeated as the shuttles near the space station.

NASA regained its confidence two years after the Columbia tragedy but in February, its reputation was sullied when astronaut Lisa Nowak allegedly tried to kidnap a woman dating another astronaut.

NASA set up an internal panel to review astronauts' health, and was handed reports that astronauts had been allowed to fly into space while drunk, sparking worry in Congress about NASA management.

The troubled US space agency avoided yet another black eye with this mission, by repairing in time for lift-off a computer that had been sabotaged while in the care of a NASA contractor.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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NASA Develops Wireless Tile Scanner For Space Shuttle Inspection
Moffett Field, CA (SPX) Aug 08, 2007
A new space shuttle tile inspection method using NASA-built, wireless scanners is replacing manual inspection. The new process begins with the upcoming shuttle mission, STS-118. Endeavour is scheduled to launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday, Aug. 8 at 6:36 p.m. EDT. Technicians have been using six new scanners to look for cracks and other imperfections in some of the 24,000 tiles that cover space shuttle Endeavour.

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