Space shuttle Discovery is slated to roll out today to its launch pad at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, the 12-hour journey marking a significant milestone in NASA’s plans to get the shuttles flying again.
In Houston on Tuesday, NASA officials said that they are confident the agency has done everything it can to prevent Discovery from suffering the same fate as Columbia and its seven astronauts in 2003.
“I’m confident that we’re ready to go fly,” said Bill Parsons, manager of the space shuttle program.
Discovery could launch as early as May 15 or as late as June 3. Engineers will review the tapes for any signs of foam, ice or other debris breaking loose and hitting the shuttle.
NASA cannot guarantee Discovery’s flight as risk-free, said Wayne Hale, deputy manager of the shuttle program.
“There’s still going to be the possibility that a golden BB could hit us,” he said.
Just in case, shuttle astronauts will carry a set of experimental tools, including a sort of space “goo gun,” to repair any holes in the protective layers that shield the shuttle’s underbelly and wings. In the worst-case scenario, Discovery would remain docked at the International Space Station until a second shuttle could be launched to rescue the crew.
Kansas votes no on same-sex marriage
Voters in Kansas overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment Tuesday banning same-sex couples from marrying or entering into civil unions.
With 97 percent of the vote reported, 395,468, or 71 percent, voted “yes,” and 163,766, or 29 percent, voted “no.”
Gay marriage is already banned under Kansas law, and the law is not being challenged. But supporters of the ballot measure said the ban must be in the Kansas Constitution to insulate it from legal challenge.
Most voters appeared to brush aside critics’ arguments that the amendment could have unexpected consequences, such as preventing companies from offering health benefits to employees’ partners, gay or heterosexual.
Army fails to meet its recruiting goals again
The Army fell almost one-third short of its recruiting goal in March, its second consecutive month of shortfall amid concerns that the Iraq war is discouraging young people from enlisting.
Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey had said recently that internal forecasts indicated the Army was likely to miss its monthly recruiting goals in March and April, although he and other Army officials have said they remain cautiously optimistic of reaching the full-year target of 80,000 recruits.
The Army has not missed its full-year target since 1999.
The last time it had missed a monthly goal, prior to February, was in May 2000. Opinion surveys have indicated that a growing number of young people and their parents are wary of the Army’s recruiting pitch at a time when soldiers in Iraq are killed and wounded virtually every day.
The Army has responded to the slump by increasing the number of recruiters and offering bigger signup bonuses.
Jackson took shower with boy, maid states
Santa Maria, Calif.
Michael Jackson’s former maid testified Tuesday at his molestation trial that she found the singer showering with a boy who often slept in the pop star’s bed.
The woman, who was Jackson’s personal maid for about five years, told of seeing Jackson in the shower with a boy about 8 years old who frequently stayed at Neverland and slept in the singer’s bed.
Under cross-examination, she said she also recalled seeing Jackson and the boy in Jackson’s bed watching TV, both wearing nothing from the waist up.