I’m Steve Ember with IN THE NEWS in VOA Special
This week, the space shuttle Discovery flew
to the International Space Station as NASA struggles to meet an important date. A
plan to complete the station by 2010 is at risk.
This is only the second shuttle flight since 2003. In February
of that year, the space shuttle Columbia broke apart as it prepared to land. The
accident killed the seven crew members.
Now, just short of a year has passed since the return to flight.
Plans call for sixteen shuttle flights by 2010. NASA, the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration, has fallen behind in its effort
to reach that goal.
The goal is part of a plan that President Bush announced two and a half years
ago to send astronauts to the moon again.
Government money would finance a new spaceship that could take
people to the moon by 2020. The last time anyone went there was in
1972. The plan also calls for traveling to Mars.
But Mr. Bush said the first goal was to finish the space station
by 2010, to study the long-term effects of living in space. Fifteen other
nations are also involved in the space station.
NASA plans to retire its three remaining shuttles once the station is
This week, Discovery became the first shuttle launched on America’s
Independence Day. It lifted off with a crew of seven on Tuesday from the Kennedy
Space Center in Florida.
Bad weather had delayed the launch. Also, there had been some concerns about
the safety of the foam protective material on the external fuel tank.
During the Columbia launch, a piece of material fell off the fuel tank and
struck a wing. The piece weighed more than seven hundred grams. It put a hole in
the heat shields and the shuttle came apart on re-entry.
A small amount of foam did come loose from the fuel tank on the Discovery.
But officials decided it was not enough to be dangerous. Also, astronauts are
examining the heat shields while at the space station.
If any damage were serious, an emergency plan calls for the astronauts to
remain on the station. NASA would then send up another shuttle to return them to
Discovery carried up thousands of kilograms of equipment and supplies. On
Friday, crew members connected a big storage container to the station. The
Italian-made container is called Leonardo.
The shuttle also brought a German astronaut who will remain on
the station for six months. The arrival of Thomas Reiter means a full three-person
crew for the first time since May of 2003.
The other two crew members, Pavel Vinogradov of Russia and American Jeff
Williams, arrived on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in March.
IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English was written by
Jerilyn Watson. You can download our programs at voaspecialenglish.com. I'm