NASA: Discovery to Launch in July

6-17-06 - KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (AP) - NASA says it's going ahead with plans to launch the space shuttle Discovery on July First.

It will be the first shuttle mission in almost a year, and the second since a piece of flying foam doomed Columbia in February 2003.

Discovery's seven-member crew will try out inspection methods and repairs that were devised in response to the Columbia disaster.

The launch date was announced after two days of meetings by NASA's top managers and engineers.

Officials say the most contentious debate focused on whether the shuttle's external tank should undergo further changes. Some argued
that more foam should be removed from areas called ice-frost ramps.

But top managers say they only want to make one major modification to the tank at a time.

About 35 pounds of foam has already been removed from an area of the tank where a one-pound piece of foam fell off during Discovery's launch last July.