January 23 2019
Storms, lightning threaten final shuttle launch
07 July 2011

Thunderstorms threatened to delay the last space shuttle launch, set for today, and a lightning strike near the pad prompted NASA to convene an engineering panel to discuss any possible damage.

The lightning struck within a third of a mile from the spacecraft around mid-day yesterday. Technicians hurried out to check for any signs of electrical problems. A review board was quickly assembled; officials said early indications were that the shuttle and pad were fine.

Over the years, lightning has struck on or near the launch pad occasionally, but no recent launches have been delayed by damage.

At the same time, the weather outlook for today was dismal, with a 70 per cent "no-go" forecast.

NASA test director Jeff Spaulding pointed out that space shuttles have managed to launch with worse forecasts.

"There's some opportunity there," he said Thursday as the rain set in. "It's a really tough day if you make a decision not to go and it turns out to be good weather." Launch time is 11:26 a.m.

NASA is closing out its 30-year space shuttle program to take aim at asteroids and Mars, destinations favoured by the White House. Private companies will take over the job of hauling cargo and crews to the International Space Station, freeing NASA up to focus on points beyond.

"We believe that on behalf of the American people, it is time for NASA to do the hard things to go beyond low-Earth orbit," NASA's deputy administrator, Lori Garver, told reporters gathering for the launch.



Related Stories