NASA looked closely at foam covering fuel tank

NASA's space shuttles are making their final treks into space to ferry gear and personnel to the ISS before the fleet is set to be retired. NASA is set to send another shuttle mission to the ISS barely a month after the last mission left.

Aboard the shuttle will be the treadmill named after comedian Stephen Colbert. Colbert urged viewers of his Comedy Central program to vote to name an ISS module after him. The viewers listened and the name with the most votes was Stephen Colbert. NASA opted to call the module "Tranquility" and instead named a treadmill COLBERT (Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill).

InformationWeek reports that the shuttle crew arrived at Kennedy Space Center Wednesday to do final prelaunch preparations. The Discovery will be carrying the Leonardo supply module to the ISS, which is fitted with equipment racks the size of refrigerators.

Mission commander Rick Sturckow said, "It's great to be here for the launch. We've been studying and training hard, and we're ready to go accomplish this mission."

Much of the preflight review centered on the foam encasing the Discovery's fuel tank. Sections of the foam broke off the fuel take during the launch of Endeavour last month. Foam breaking from the fuel tank is a big concern after the catastrophic failure of Columbia in 2003 after a chunk of foam hit the shuttles wing on liftoff.

NASA is looking very closely at the foam on the fuel tank since pieces have fallen off in the last two shuttle launches. One area of concern for the foam is in the section where the foam covers fuel lines. Ultimately, after concern and testing the fuel tank was unanimously certified as ready for flight.

Shuttle program manager John Shannon told the AP, "That's how close we're looking. That's how sensitive we are to foam loss. I feel extremely good about the results of the meeting. I think we have done absolute due diligence on the foam piece of it."

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