NASA: Hurricane Won't Delay Shuttle Flights

Hurricane Ike Delays Space Station Delivery
This picture of Hurricane Ike was downlinked by the crew of the International Space Station on September 10, 2008. Houston mission control evacuations have forced NASA and Russian officials to delay the docking of a Progress cargo ship with the space station.
(Image: © NASA)

NASA still aims to moveEndeavour out to Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 39B this week, and itappears that the ongoing recovery from Hurricane Ike in Houston will not delaythe agency's next two shuttle missions, officials said Monday.

In a widely distributede-mail, NASA shuttle program manager John Shannon said employees whose liveshave been disruptedby Ike should take care of their families first.

Many who evacuated inadvance of the monster storm have not been able to return to their homesin communities that surround Johnson Space Center, which escaped major damage, butwill remain closed to all but recovery crews this week.

The weeklong closure willstall astronaut and flight controller training for the Oct. 10 launch ofAtlantis on a HubbleSpace Telescope servicing mission and the Nov. 12 launch of Endeavour on anInternational Space Station outfitting flight.

But NASA says the datesnonetheless remain achievable.

"We don't have anydata that says we should have to delay the launches," NASA spokesman MikeCurie said.

Recovery crews at the homeof NASA's Mission Control Center and astronaut corps restored commercial powerSunday, and have been inspecting buildings to identify and prioritize anyrepairs that might be necessary.

The roof at Mission Controlwas damaged during the storm, and heavy rains swamped areas of the center,particularly those closest to Clear Lake, a body of water that connects withGalveston Bay three miles from Johnson Space Center.

Surrounding communities -particularly Seabrook - struggled to restore power, as well as sewer and phoneservice.

Back at Kennedy SpaceCenter, technicians in the Vehicle Assembly Building began preparations for theplannedrollout of Endeavour at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

The 4.2-mile move to pad39B is expected to take six to eight hours.

Endeavour will be onstandby to fly a rescue mission should Atlantis - which is onnearby pad 39A - sustains critical damage during its Hubble servicingmission.

The Atlantis astronautswould not be able to seek safe haven on the space station because it is in adifferent orbit, and the shuttle would not have enough fuel to get there.

The rollout will mark thefirst time since 2001 - and only the 16th time in history - that vehicles havebeen on the pads simultaneously.

A practice countdown forthe Atlantis astronauts remained scheduled for early next week, and a readinessreview for the mission remained scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.

A firm launch date is to beset at the end of the two-day meeting.

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