NASA Adds a Day to Shuttle Mission

NASA has extended the Space Shuttle Discovery's mission by a day to provide more time to move supplies to the International Space Station. The move comes after NASA decided to ground the shuttle fleet after foam broke away from Discovery's external fuel tank during launch last week.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

The astronauts aboard the space shuttle Discovery will get to spend an extra day orbiting the Earth while docked with the International Space Station. They were originally scheduled to return home next Sunday, but NASA decided this weekend to have them remain the extra day to help move more supplies into the space station and to lend a hand with some space station maintenance. Wayne Hale, the deputy manager of the space shuttle program, explained the decision to extend Discovery's mission.

Mr. WAYNE HALE (Deputy Manager, Space Shuttle Program): This will allow the crews to get more work done during the dock period together, more transfers. They're transferring a number of extra items over and above what they had thought to transfer before.

HANSEN: The extra items include paper, pens and laptop computers. The need to move over more equipment was prompted by NASA's decision to ground the shuttle fleet once again after chunks of foam broke away from Discovery's external fuel tank during launch last week. NASA officials say they believe that Discovery did not suffer any damage similar to the gash from the breakaway foam that doomed the space shuttle Columbia and its crew two and a half years ago. But they decided to postpone any more shuttle flights until another review could be completed on the persistent problems with foam from the external fuel tank. Safety concerns did not chip away at astronaut Steven Robinson's enthusiasm during a space walk yesterday.

Mr. STEVE ROBINSON (Astronaut): There just are no words to describe how cool this is.

HANSEN: On the first of three space walks, Robinson and Discovery crew mate Soichi Noguchi tested caulk that could be used to repair any damage caused by pieces of break-away foam. NASA engineers were eager to learn how the caulk would perform in space. Engineers on the ground said they were pleased with how things went from how Robinson described the process.

Mr. ROBINSON: Space spackling. Yeah, I just see a very little bit above me. We'll push it into the crack here, into the corner, make sure it adheres because we're in the adhesion layer, and try to scrape out most of what I put in. It's a little bit overapplied, fairly gluey stuff, so it's a little hard to get off.

HANSEN: Robinson, 49, is a veteran of three previous shuttle missions. When he has his feet on the ground, Robinson plays lead guitar in an astronaut rock band called Max Q. Before going to work for NASA 30 years ago, Robinson was a radio disc jockey in his hometown of Sacramento, California. Astronaut Noguchi, Robinson's space walk companion, was born in Yokohama, Japan, in 1965. He is on his first shuttle flight.

It's 22 minutes before the hour.

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