Why NASA Can't Get It Right

A glorious launch. A wayward chunk of foam. And another black eye for the space agency. Should the shuttle fleet stay grounded?

Bread and salt were waiting for commander Eileen Collins and her crew when they docked the space shuttle Discovery with the International Space Station last Thursday. Station commander Sergei Krikalev had prepared the little ceremony, a Russian tradition intended to bring good luck to a visitor to your home. After the shuttle's stunning lift-off two days earlier--the first since the loss of the Columbia orbiter in 2003--it didn't seem the crew would need such happy charms. But now it appears the shuttle program as a whole--if not the astronauts themselves--may need a lot of luck indeed.

Only hours before the docking,...

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