Experts Will Confer on Shuttle Cracks
NASA managers canceled a key launch review Wednesday and headed to Houston to discuss whether the shuttle Discovery can be cleared for liftoff next week despite door hinge cracks.
“It’s just a matter of trying to tie up loose ends,” said Leonard Nicholson, shuttle program director at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Discovery, along with a seven-man crew, is tentatively scheduled to blast off at 12:49 a.m. PST on March 9 for an eight-day mission.
But managers and engineers appear to be split over whether to launch Discovery without fixing the hinge cracks, or making repairs that likely would delay the flight for several weeks.
A final decision on how to proceed had been expected by Friday, after a two-day flight readiness review at the Kennedy Space Center. But the review was canceled Wednesday after NASA Administrator Richard H. Truly ordered top shuttle administrators to fly to Houston to discuss the hinge cracks with key project officials.
The concern centers on two cracks in the hinge assemblies of two, 50-square-inch fuel line doors in the belly of the shuttle.