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No New Shuttle Flight Unless Rescue Mission Can Be Guaranteed

Washington (AFP) Mar 22, 2005
The United States will not resume shuttle flights unless it has a support shuttle ready to carry out rescues in space, the US space agency said Tuesday.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration suspended shuttle missions after the Columbia disaster in February 2003. It had hoped to stage a new flight in May this year with the shuttle Discovery.

But NASA said a new flight would not be held if a second shuttle could not be launched in time to rescue a crew on the International Space Station.

"In the unlikely event that all of our efforts to reduce risk and safely return the space shuttle to flight have failed, we have made plans to keep the space shuttle crew on the International Space Station and mount a rescue mission," NASA said in its latest report on preparations for shuttle flights.

"For the near term, we will not launch a space shuttle unless the second shuttle can be prepared and launched within the time the International Space Station can provide accommodation for the first shuttle's crew."

Atlantis is generally considered the reserve shuttle of the three remaining vessels. NASA said a rescue mission would only be carried out "in the most dire of circumstances and will not be used to justify flying unsafely."

Columbia broke up as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere on February 1, 2003, killing all seven crew. Following criticism of NASA procedures, the other three shuttles have been grounded since.

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Shuttle Crew Checks Out Equipment For Return To Flight Mission
Cape Canaveral FL (SPX) Mar 20, 2005
The astronauts of the Space Shuttle Discovery got a chance today to work with some of the equipment they will be taking to space. Flight commander Eileen Collins and her crew were at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., for the Payload Crew Equipment Interface Test.

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