CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- The commander of the next space shuttle said yesterday that NASA has taken the right steps to reduce the amount of potentially lethal foam that falls off during launch.
''We will lose foam on this flight, just like every other," said commander Steven Lindsey, who could lead a crew into space as early as May. ''The key is to make sure that the foam we do lose is a small enough size so it can't hurt us if it hits the vehicle."
NASA had redesigned the external fuel tank after a large piece of insulating foam hit the wing of the shuttle Columbia in 2003, sparking the disaster that killed seven astronauts.
Despite the redesign, foam unexpectedly fell off Discovery's fuel tank last July.
In response, NASA removed a troublesome section of foam that had protected cables running along the fuel tank.