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Friday, April 8, 2005; Page C12

NASA Shuttle Program Prepares for Liftoff

• There's a space shuttle on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the first time in more than two years.

Shuttle Discovery rolled slowly (less than a mile an hour) from its assembly building to the launch pad, arriving early yesterday. The four-mile journey was one of the most visible signs that the United States is ready to get back into space after the Feb. 1, 2003, disaster that destroyed shuttle Columbia and killed its seven astronauts.


Discovery moves to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center. (Reuters)

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is hoping to launch Discovery between mid-May and the beginning of June on a mission to the international space station.

Discovery was moved on a 5.5 million-pound transporter, a huge platform on caterpillar tracks, along a specially built road that is almost as wide as an eight-lane highway. The transporter had a banner signed by NASA employees that read "We're Behind You Discovery."

The Columbia disaster was caused by a chunk of foam that fell off the shuttle's enormous external fuel tanks during liftoff and gashed one of the wings.


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