Astronaut and Iowa native Jim Kelly should be back in space within a couple of hours, if everything goes well with this (Tuesday) morning’s planned launch of the shuttle Discovery. Kristian Anderson, space science educator at the Science Center of Iowa, says we shouldn’t be so quick to criticize NASA because of the many delays since the scheduled launch nearly two weeks ago. Anderson says “Space flight isn’t easy and many of the early missions back in the 60s and 70s era, there were just as many delays back then as there are now. Part of the problem is that, of course, this is the first launch in a couple of years and there’s a lot of expectation. As Americans we want our instant gratification and we want this thing to go.” This is to be the first shuttle launch since the February 2003 crash of the shuttle Columbia, which killed all seven astronauts aboard. Anderson says he understands why NASA engineers are making such an effort to ensure Discovery is in top shape before launch. Anderson says “NASA’s under a lot of scrutiny because of the incident with the Columbia tragedy. They want to be very careful before they launch before they get into something they’re not sure of.” He notes that many Iowans are taking particular pride in this mission. The Science Center of Iowa, in Des Moines, is encouraging people to stop in and write letters to astronaut Kelly, a Burlington native, and they’ll all be sent to Kelly in Houston after the mission is over. Liftoff is scheduled for 9:39 AM, Central time. It’ll be Kelly’s second spaceflight. NASA officials say if the same fuel gauge problem pops up today as it did during the first launch attempt July 13th, they’ll likely launch anyway as there are three other such gauges as backups.
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