Space Shuttle Atlantis Damaged
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) _ Technicians preparing space shuttle Atlantis for a flight next March have inadvertently damaged the ship’s wing flaps, NASA said today.
The technicians were testing the inboard elevons on Atlantis’ wings late last week when they heard a noise, said NASA spokesman Joel Wells. They discovered the push rods on the flaps, or elevons, had been bent and some panels damaged.
All of the damaged parts must be replaced.
Although the mishap still is being investigated, NASA believes the technicians failed to release small doors before moving the elevons, Wells said. That apparently caused the damage, he said.
Atlantis is supposed to haul supplies to the international space station in March, a month later than planned because of ongoing wiring inspections. All four shuttles have been checked for defective wiring since a short circuit marred Columbia’s launch in July. The repairs to the damaged flaps should be done well before March.
It’s too early to speculate whether Atlantis’ flight will be further delayed because of this week’s failed launch of a Russian Proton rocket, said James Hartsfield, another NASA spokesman. The same kind of rocket will be used to launch Russia’s long-delayed service module, which contains the space station’s life-support systems.
The service module must be attached to the orbiting station before Atlantis flies.