Bill Nelson and a third shuttle mission

In comments yesterday, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) suggested that NASA might have to forego the additional shuttle mission included in the NASA authorization bill because of problems with the external tank currently mated to the shuttle Discovery. “They do have an extra tank, because they always have that third shuttle flight that we have authorized in the NASA bill,” he said to reporters yesterday in a brief exchange about the status of the mission (video of which is available from Central Florida News 13.) “And if worst came to worst, and they felt like that this tank was not safe, they would stand down and, at that point, would only fly two more shuttle flights instead of the three that are authorized.”

NASA shuttle managers will provide an update on the status the next shuttle mission this afternoon, although there’s been no indication that they are considering such a tank swap, instead electing to reinforce aluminum brackets in the tank, where several cracks had been discovered.


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