CAPE CANAVERAL - Johnson Space Center will reopen Monday after suffering what emergency crews deemed "extremely light" damage Saturday from Hurricane Rita.
The storm's shift to the east Friday meant the Houston area did not get the worst of Rita's fierce winds or storm surge. A direct hit could have sent sea water as far inland as the space center, near Galveston Bay.
NASA instructed government and contractor workers to check in today to find out whether they would be able to return to duty Monday. A building-to-building damage assessment Saturday found mostly minor problems.
The center evacuated Wednesday as Rita appeared on course to barrel into Galveston Bay as an intense Category 4 or Category 5 hurricane.
JSC is home to 13,000 workers, including the astronaut corps and mission controllers. It is NASA's prime center for design, development and testing of human spacecraft.
The shuttle and International Space Station programs are headquartered at JSC. Mission Control, where teams work around the clock watching over the space station and its two-man crew, shut down too. Primary control of the space station transferred to Russia's Mission Control Center outside Moscow.
Facilities at JSC are ready to reopen Monday. Still unknown is the status of thousands of workers and their homes.
Workers were to report their location and personal situations to NASA on Saturday and today so the agency could assess what services could be restarted Monday.
Rita did no new damage to the shuttle external tank factory in New Orleans, which has been closed since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city.
The Michoud tank factory remains closed except to a small group of emergency personnel. NASA hopes to resume work on external tanks with a minimal number of employees as early as Oct. 1.
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