NASA discovers 9 cracks in shuttle foam insulation

NASA has found cracks in the insulating foam on a &to=' target=_blank>space shuttle fuel tank and is investigating whether they are related to the debris-shedding problem that doomed Columbia and recurred on the last shuttle mission, managers said on Tuesday.

"It would be premature to say that the cracks played a factor in that, but they might have," said John Chapman, who oversees the shuttle external tank program at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Technicians found nine hairline cracks in the insulation on a fuel tank that was originally earmarked for the &to=' target=_blank>Discovery mission launched July 26. It was twice filled with cryogenic fuels for tests before being replaced with another tank, for unrelated technical reasons, before Discovery launched, reports Reuters.

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