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Hurricane Ivan

NASA picks up clutter in case of visit from Ivan

By Associated Press
Published September 10, 2004

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CAPE CANAVERAL - Still picking up the pieces after Hurricane Frances, NASA braced Thursday for the even more menacing Ivan, hurriedly moving mangled strips of aluminum siding and exposed equipment into the hangar that once housed the wreckage of space shuttle Columbia.

Forecasters say Ivan could veer close to Cape Canaveral early next week.

Last weekend, Frances peeled 820 aluminum panels off NASA's 52-story Vehicle Assembly Building and sent them flying.

On Thursday, the space agency rushed to collect the bent 4- by 16-foot panels for fear they could turn into flying shrapnel again if Hurricane Ivan blows this way. The panels were moved to a Kennedy Space Center hangar 11/2 miles farther inland.

Cleanup crews also rushed to gather computers and other equipment in buildings left roofless by Frances and put them in the hangar. Among the critical items going into the structure: any salvageable machinery used to make the thermal tiles and blankets that cover the space shuttles and protect against the heat of re-entry. The tile shop lost a chunk of its roof in what could represent one of the biggest blows to NASA's effort to resume shuttle flights next spring.

NASA officials declined to speculate on whether they will launch Discovery as planned next March or April, given the damage to Kennedy Space Center so far, and with more storm fury possibly on the way.

Hurricane Charley last month caused $700,000 worth of damage to Kennedy Space Center. No estimate is available for Frances.

The space center remains closed to most of its 14,000 employees until Monday, and could stay shut even longer if Ivan hits.

Right after the Columbia catastrophe on Feb. 1, 2003, the charred, twisted remnants of the shuttle were taken from Texas and Louisiana to the huge, sturdy hangar near the shuttle landing strip.

Last September, the pieces were moved out of the hangar to the Apollo-era Vehicle Assembly Building, where shuttles are mounted to booster rockets and fuel tanks.

Although Frances left hundreds of holes in the assembly building, Columbia's remains were dry and safe on the 16th level, said NASA spokesman Mike Rein.

[Last modified September 10, 2004, 01:14:19]

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