The scheduled launch of the space shuttle Columbia at the end of October hung in the balance on October 13 as NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) officials debated whether to go ahead or not despite engine problems.
GV Launch of challenger 2 shuttle. (4 SHOTS)
GV Columbia on launch pad.
SVs INTERIOR Expert test engines. (2 SHOTS)
GV Columbia on launch pad. (2 SHOTS)
SCU James Beggs, NASA administrator speaks. (SOT) (2 SHOTS)
TRANSCRIPT: BEGGS: (SEQ 5) "So there's something we don't understand here and we've gotta understand it before we fly again and it will take a while but we will."
NOTE TO EDITORS: THIS STORY HAS COMMENTARY BY NBC REPORTER ROBERT BAZELL, WHICH MAY BE USED IF REQUIRED.
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: The scheduled launch of the space shuttle Columbia at the end of October hung in the balance on October 13 as NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) officials debated whether to go ahead or not despite engine problems. Mechanical faults were discovered after the successful flight of the previous Challenger mission. The problem lay in the starboard rocket engine - it had almost burned through its insulating heat shield. NASA officials say that a further five to eight seconds could have broken the shield, and caused the shuttle to swerve out of orbit. NASA chief have to make a decision on whether to go ahead with the launch on October 28 with its main payload - the European Spacelab. The countdown for the launch has continued as scheduled, but a NASA spokesman said this was standard procedure. A Spacelab official said that their project had cost nearly one billion dollars and there was no cash left to pay for a delayed flight. If the launch was postponed, the earliest likely re-launch would be in November, or February next year. NASA spokesman James Beggs said the technical problems had to be solved before any take off went ahead.