Panel: NASA's shuttle efforts fall short

June 28, 2005

An advisory panel says NASA has not fully met three key safety changes it agreed to make in the wake the Columbia disaster that killed the seven-member crew.

The advisory panel, headed by two former astronauts, said Monday that NASA has made significant improvements since foam debris generated during liftoff caused the Columbia to disintegrate Feb. 1, 2003, on re-entry.

However, the panel said NASA had fallen short in three of 15 areas of improvement before returning the shuttle fleet to service: eliminating all ice or foam debris on takeoff, creating a precise analysis of risks that debris poses and making sure damage can be repaired in orbit.

The panel was to present its recommendations to NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, who told The New York Times he expects "vigorous debate" during a flight readiness review this week that could return the shuttle Discovery to orbit as soon as mid-July.

Copyright 2005 by United Press International

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