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NASA eyes May launch for Shuttle

Delayed by hurricanes

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NASA has announced that the Space Shuttle will take to the skies once more next year, in a launch window that lasts from mid May to early June. It will be the first mission in more than two years after all flights were grounded in the wake of the Columbia shuttle disaster in which seven astronauts died.

The space sgency had originally planned to get Shuttle back in orbit early in 2005, but the (already tight, possibly too tight) schedule slipped somewhat thanks to Florida's busier-than-usual hurricane season. Several of NASA's facilities had to shut down because of the storms.

William Readdy, Space Flight Leadership Council co-chair and associate administrator for Space Operations commented: "After four hurricanes in a row impacted our centers and our workers, it became clear, we needed to step back and evaluate the work in respect to the launch planning date."

Eileen Collins, NASA's first and only female commander, will take the helm on flight STS-114. She previously commanded mission STS-93, on which the Chandra X-Ray Observatory was deployed.

Around 28 more shuttle missions are planned, NASA says, most of which will help with the construction of the International Space Station. ®

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