UnNews:Rain moistens Shuttle, delays launch

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Rain moistens Shuttle, delays launch

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27 February 2007

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Shuttle technicians evaluate wetness expected to delay launch

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Rain from a brief storm moistened a section of space shuttle Atlantis' external fuel tank as it sat on the launch pad, likely cancelling next month's launch, since even the slightest bit of water can doom the shuttle and its crew to a horrifying, explosive re-entry.

NASA managers met Tuesday to determine if the wetness was severe enough to postpone the March 15 launch. The storm left hundreds of droplets on the fuel tank, and made several protective tiles on the shuttle's wing soggy.

"Right now, the big deal is how wet is it? Will the Shuttle dry enough to not affect the launch?" NASA spokesman Bill Johnson said.

The need for a complete absence of moisture raised the likelihood that the launch would be delayed since NASA only has four extra days to spare in its launch-preparation schedule.

NASA managers weighed the options of wiping the external tank on the launch pad using an enormous sponge or moving the space shuttle back into its Vehicle Assembly Building to use a hair dryer, since the shuttle can sometimes be damaged simply by looking at it.

NASA also another external fuel tank at Kennedy Space Center that is being readied for a mission in June, but somebody already has "dibs" on it.

The wetness was concentrated in the upper third of the 153-foot-tall external tank, a section which holds liquid oxygen propellant and cheese.

Monday evening's rainstorms moved quickly and had winds of up to 12 miles per hour. The size of the raindrops was between a 16th to a quarter inch and landed only at the NASA space center. The National Weather Service considers quarter inch raindrops to be "significantly wet," said David Sharp, a meteorologist with the weather service.

"Thank God is wasn't bird shit," Sharp said, as bird droppings would necessitate rebuilding the entire Shuttle.

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