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8/25/2009
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No Joke: 'Colbert' Shuttle Grounded

Faulty valve means Discovery and the COLBERT exercise device are grounded for second straight day.

NASA's COLBERT Treadmill
(click image for larger view)
NASA's COLBERT Treadmill

NASA scrubbed the launch of space shuttle Discovery for a second straight day as a pre-launch inspection revealed a faulty hydrogen valve. The shuttle was to have lifted off in the pre-dawn hours early Wednesday.

NASA cancelled a launch attempt Tuesday morning due to thunderstorms that loomed in the vicinity of Florida's Kennedy Space Center.

Wednesday's launch "was called off earlier today after a problem developed with a liquid hydrogen fill-and-drain valve in the aft compartment of the shuttle," NASA said in a statement. "There is a concern that the valve is either open or partially open, but that needs to be evaluated for confirmation," NASA said.

The space agency has yet to reschedule the launch. The COLBERT treadmill is among the numerous pieces of equipment that will be on board Discovery when it lifts off. The exercise device is named after comedian Stephen Colbert. Discovery also will carry to the ISS the Leonardo supply module, which features refrigerator-size storage racks.

STS-128, as the mission is called, will be commanded by veteran astronaut Rick "C.J." Sturckow. Joining him are six other space goers, including pilot Kevin Ford and mission specialists Patrick Forester, Jose Hernandez, Nicole Stott, and John Olivas. Christer Fuglesang will represent his native Sweden on the mission.

The crew arrived at Kennedy last week for prelaunch preparations.

"It's great to be here for the launch," said Sturckow. "We've been studying and training hard, and we're ready to go accomplish this mission."

NASA officials anticipated a successful launch.

"I can't say enough about the quality of the review we had over the past day and a half," said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations, at a news conference last week. "It was a very effective review; I think we're ready to go fly," he said.

But with two straight days of cancellations, Gerstenmaier and his team are still waiting.

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