NASA's Florida Spaceport Weathers Hurricane Wilma

NASA Workers Shield Space Shuttles, Pluto Probe From Hurricane Wilma
The Aqua satellite's MODIS instrument captured this image of Hurricane Wilma on October 23, 2005.
(Image: © NASA. Click on image to enlarge.)

CAPE CANAVERAL - NASA'smultibillion dollar space shuttle fleet, twin launch pads and other facilitiesKennedy Space Center appear to have survived Hurricane Wilma without sufferingmajor damage, officials said Monday.

But heavy rain and high winds nevertheless swept through the space center asthe hurricane moved across the southern part of Florida and toward the AtlanticOcean.

"We're in the Mary Poppins mode. We've getting hit pretty hard withsideways rain," said KSC spokesman George Diller.

The rain at times was so heavy that NASA's 36-story shuttle launch pads couldnot be seen from the KSC Launch Control Center three to four miles away, Dillersaid.

A tornado touched down briefly near the southern entrance to the space centeron North Merritt Island about 10:00 a.m. (1400 GMT), and a funnel cloud wasspotted near Haulover Canal an hour later but did not touch down.

The storm produced hurricane-force winds when a sustained wind of 76 miles perhour (122 kilometers per hour) was measured at Kennedy Space Center on a500-foot-tall (152-meter) weather tower near the Vehicle Assembly Building at11:25 a.m. (1525 GMT).

A gust of 94 miles per hour (151 kilometers per hour) was measured near alaunch pad at 11:30 a.m. (1530 GMT), officials said.

NASA emergency management officials planned to send a team out to assess damageearly this afternoon. Preliminary reports indicate that no major damage wasdone, Diller said.

"We might have lost a couple of panels on the Vehicle Assembly Building,but overall, we don't see any obvious damage," Diller said. "It'sturning out to be just about what we expected."

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