By all accounts, NASA's long-awaited return to flight has not gone as smoothly as hoped. Shortly after Tuesday's launch of the space shuttle Discovery--the first since the Columbia shuttle's re-entry disaster in February of 2003--large chunks of insulation foam from the external fuel tank broke off and hit the wing. Discovery appears to have emerged from the event without significant damage, but the same problem was responsible for the Columbia accident. The incident comes as a blow to the agency, which has invested nearly a billion dollars and two and a half years of work to make the shuttles safer following the failure of Columbia. In response, NASA has again grounded the shuttle fleet until engineers figure out how to avoid a repeat of the foam shedding. Meanwhile, Discovery has docked successfully with the International Space Station, to which the crew is delivering some 15 tons of supplies.

Exactly what impact the debris issue will have on the future of the shuttle program remains to be seen. In hopes that Scientific American's past coverage relating to this topic will give readers some context for this developing story, we have compiled a list of stories below.


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07/04/2005
Feeling the Pinch

06/27/2005
Lost in Space

12/27/2004
A Bad Fix for Hubble?

10/01/2004
Readying for a Relaunch

04/05/2004
Fly Me to the Moon

04/01/2004
SA Perspectives: Breaking Out of Orbit

08/01/2003
SA Perspectives: Houston, You Have a Problem

04/01/2003
Rethinking the Shuttle

02/07/2003
The Cold Odds against Columbia

02/04/2003
Space Shuttle Investigation Continues

05/27/2002
Lost in Space

04/30/2002
Has the Space Age Stalled?