NASA develops shuttle repair plan slowly

&to=http:// ' target=_blank>NASA is relying on an overhaul of the space shuttle's towering external fuel tank to eliminate dangerous debris that triggered the fatal breakup of Columbia nearly two years ago, space agency officials said Monday.

Months before NASA plans to launch the first post-Columbia mission, recent tests indicate the chunks of insulating foam that typically peel from the tank could be much smaller and less hazardous in future missions.

Reducing debris shed from fuel tanks during liftoff represents the linchpin in NASA's near $1.2 billion plan to resume safer shuttle missions. NASA wants to launch Discovery in May or June, reports Houston Chronicle.

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