Health & Science

Fuel Leak Grounds Shuttle Just Hours Before Launch

The launch of space shuttle Discovery was canceled today after NASA found a potentially dangerous hydrogen leak. NASA now says the shuttle will stay grounded until at least the end of the month. Carrie Feibel has more.

Early this morning, engineers began filling the shuttle’s external fuel tank, working towards a 2 p.m. launch. But NASA scrubbed the launch process after detecting hydrogen leaking from the giant orange tank. Later, engineers also spotted a crack in the foam that encases the fuel tank. Mike Moses is the launch integration manager.

“It’s a frustrating thing but it’s a good thing, right? Obviously these things happen, it’s the way the space business works and the team is very good at rolling with the punches.”

NASA officials stressed safety over schedule, and said the earliest date they would consider another launch attempt was Nov. 30. NASA has been attempting to launch the shuttle since Monday, but small technical glitches and stormy weather delayed them. Launch director Mike Leinbach brushed off any suggestions that Discovery’s final voyage was plagued by bad luck.

“It’s a machine and every now and then machines break and right now our machine is broken and we need to go fix it. We’re not jinxed at all we’re just dealing with one problem after another, it does get frustrating, it gets frustrating because we’d rather be launching and getting up to the space station, sure.”

It will take at least 24 hours to drain the liquid fuels out of the tank. Only then can engineers safely approach and begin searching for the problem.

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