미 우주항공국은 26일 발사된 우주왕복선 디스커버리호의 외부 연료탱크에서 떨어져 나간 파편 한 조각이 발사시 이 왕복선의 날개에 부딪혔다고 밝혔습니다.

나사는 앞서 이 파편들이 디스커버리호에 부딪히지 않은 것이 분명하다면서, 다음달 7일 지구로 안전하게 귀환할 수 있을 것이라고 말했었습니다.

우주왕복선 계획의 부책임자인 웨인 해일씨는 28일 발표를 통해 디스커버리호에 부딪힌 조각은 떨어져 나간 3개 파편 가운데 하나라면서, 전문가들은 이로 인한 손상이 크지 않은 것으로 보고 있다고 말했습니다.

(영문)

The U.S. space agency now says a piece of falling debris from the space shuttle Discovery's external fuel tank may have struck the orbiter's wing on liftoff Tuesday.

Deputy Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale issued that assessment Thursday, saying the foam was one of three pieces that fell off during the launch. Mr. Hale said experts believe there was no significant damage, if any. Earlier, the space agency said Discovery apparently was not harmed by falling debris from the tank, and that the spacecraft looked safe to fly home August seventh.

NASA says it is not at this time contemplating a rescue mission using the space shuttle Atlantis. NASA is investigating why the foam insulation flew off. It has grounded future shuttle missions for now as it looks into the problem.

The same thing happened two-and-a-half years ago to the shuttle Columbia, leading to its disintegration while re-entering Earth's atmosphere. All seven astronauts aboard Columbia were killed. On Thursday, Discovery docked safely with the International Space Station.