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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - With the countdown entering its final hours and a fuel gauge problem still unexplained, NASA said it is prepared to bend its long-standing safety rules to launch the shuttle Tuesday on the first flight since Columbia's doomed mission 2 1/2 years ago.
Discovery and a crew of seven were set to blast off for the international space station at 10:39 a.m., after a two-week delay caused by a malfunctioning hydrogen fuel gauge in the spaceship's giant external tank.
Nature, rather than the fuel gauge, could ultimately decide whether Discovery takes off. Forecasters put the odds of good launch weather at 60 percent, with rain and storm clouds both posing threats.
NASA had the paperwork ready to go in case the equipment trouble reappeared and the space agency's managers decided to press ahead with the launch with just three of the four fuel gauges working. That would mean deviating from a rule instituted after the 1986 Challenger explosion.
But no amount of engineering caution can make space flight perfectly safe. The speeds and heating rates are extreme, and the technology is unavoidably pushed close to its limits. Every human flight carries a potentially deadly risk. Thus, every human space flight must pursue mission objectives worth dying for.[...]
The shuttle and space station will be footnotes at best or, at worst, cited as examples of technological myopia.
How can we evolve our human flight program once again into a historic endeavor? The answer seems clear: We need to start exploring again. The obvious destination this time is Mars, a potential human habitat of unrealized possibilities in the best case (or at least a refuge for human survival in the worst). No other place outside Earth in this solar system offers such interesting possibilities.
The human exploration of Mars may well have to be extended beyond this century to be feasible. It is logically an international project, building upon the collaborations developed around the space station. And it encompasses a human destination that many would accept as worth dying for, just as were great geographic explorations in the past.
Originally posted by Dulcimer
I just cant understand why the people that built it, cannot figure out why it doesnt work right.
Doesnt that seem...... sad?