NASA Looking to Future Flights

After the successful shuttle landing at Edwards Air Force Base in california, NASA officials are looking to the future of the shuttle program.

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Discovery and her crew are safe back on Earth and now NASA scientists start the process of preparing for future flights. There's still the problem of the foam chunks that come off the shuttle during launch. There are also questions about the ceramic tiles and various other problems that come with an aging flight vehicle. Johnson Space Center Flight Controller Leroy Caine oversaw Discovery's landing. He says there's nothing easy about human space flight and this landing was an important milestone for NASA.

The future of the shuttle program is limited, the orbiter is getting older and newer technology will slowly take over. Shuttle Commander Eileen Collins says eventually the shuttle will make its last flight and that will be a sad day for her.

The successful flight of Discovery was bittersweet for the crew as they remembered the Columbia astronauts. Collins says she hopes the Columbia disaster will urge further space exploration.

NASA has suspended future shuttle flights until engineers can find out why chunks of foam are falling off the external fuel tank during launch, even after extensive repairs. A falling piece of foam damaged the shuttle Columbia, causing it to overheat and break apart on reentry.

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Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...