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Sabotaged computer fixed and put on shuttle

A computer sabotaged by a disgruntled worker for a NASA supplier has been repaired and loaded aboard the space shuttle Endeavour for a Wednesday liftoff.
NASA Prepares For Endeavor Lift-Off
The space shuttle Endeavour stands on Launch Pad 39A on Monday, as seen through the grasses growing at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

A computer sabotaged by a disgruntled worker for a NASA supplier has been repaired and loaded aboard the space shuttle Endeavour for a Wednesday liftoff.

A top NASA manager said Monday that it was apparently an isolated event and that there was no reason to believe anyone had tampered with anything else on the spacecraft.

“We have found no other areas of concern,” space shuttle program manager Wayne Hale said. “We have thoroughly reviewed all the parts made by that contractor and gone back through our records to make sure that all the orbiter systems on board Endeavour thoroughly check out.”

Based on that extra scrutiny, NASA cleared Endeavour for liftoff and was tracking no problems. Forecasters put the odds of good launch weather at 70 percent.

The computer that was the target of rare space program sabotage is being delivered to the international space station, and will not be used by the shuttle. Its wires were cut by an employee for Invocon Inc., a research and development company near Houston.

NASA’s inspector general office is continuing to investigate. Invocon has yet to identify the culprit, a company spokesman said Monday. The company notified NASA last month after discovering damage to a similar computer that was not intended to fly.

Besides wireless data collection systems for the space station, Invocon also provides sensor systems for the shuttle wings that are intended to detect any potentially dangerous strikes by debris.

Hale said the problem has been “dealt with appropriately.”

Drinking policy discussed
He also expressed confidence in NASA’s addressing of an independent health panel’s report that cited at least two occasions in which astronauts drank too much on launch day.

NASA’s top safety official has discussed the policy of abstinence from alcohol within 12 hours of liftoff with Endeavour’s crew. The policy is now in writing and formally implemented “so that there are no questions,” Hale said.

Endeavour’s commander, Scott Kelly, said it is beyond his comprehension that any astronaut would show up on launch day intoxicated. “This is serious business and we take it as such,” he said in a written statement.

Kelly wrote that his crew’s understanding of “NASA’s policy on alcohol and flying aircraft, or spacecraft, was no different before this panel’s report was released than it is now. It simply does not happen.” His statement, written as a letter to a newspaper editor, was released by NASA on Monday.

Kelly’s crew includes Barbara Morgan, NASA’s first educator-astronaut. She was the backup for Christa McAuliffe, who was killed aboard Challenger in 1986.

“It is great to see Barbara up there ready to fly,” Hale said. “She’s been working for a long time to be ready to have her day on orbit.”

He said he frequently thinks of the lost Challenger and Columbia crews, noting that before every launch, the tragedies provide “a real gut check.”