In an astonishing setback for the shuttle program, NASA (search) on Wednesday grounded future flights because the foam debris that led to the Columbia disaster still poses a risk to space missions.

During Shuttle Discovery's liftoff, a chunk of foam flew off the external fuel tank just two minutes into the flight. NASA does not believe the debris hit the shuttle, but had it come off just a bit earlier it may have caused the same damage that doomed Columbia 2 1/2 years ago.

Shuttle future flights: Fix or nix?

A sample of your responses:

It is my opinion that we, as a nation, have no choice but to fix it. We have this little thing in orbit called an International Space Station that is not yet complete. We must have the Shuttle's heavy lift capibility to launch the remaining pieces of the space station if we are to realize its full potential. That should be, however, the ONLY use of the current U.S. space vehicle until we can get the next generation of space craft on-line. Space station crew replacements need to be conducted via the Russian Soyuz.
Jim M.

The current shuttle is OBSOLETE. Two catastrophic failures are proof that the basic design is badly flawed. Don't stop the program. Hire Bert Rutan to design the next one. The space program is a prolific source of technical advancement that spills over to other fields too numerous to mention. We need the basic research to keep our economy at the head of the pack.
Pat K.
Naperville, IL

FIX the space program! Use "Enviromentally Friendly" production techniques when possible, but for safety reasons, use the BEST techniques when necessary (i.e. foam on the main fuel tank - use the freon!) We are talking about people's lives, and the future of mankind. I truely believe that if you are not forging forward, you are slipping back. There is no standing still. Ask the astronauts, I am confident that they want NASA to continue to explore the possibilities. If you can't take the stress of exploration, stay at home in your safe little living room, but don't stop the explorers from expanding our universe!
Ladonna F.
O'Fallon, IL

We nix the leadership team of the shuttle program, not the shuttle missions themselves. The thermal tile problem was supposed to be fixed prior to this launch. Apparently not. It is obvious that the leadership team isn't concerned with the safety of those men and women who climb aboard the shuttle. I would wager the safety steps would be MUCH different if the leadership team themselves were strapping in for the ride.
Santa Rosa Beach, FL

I think the present shuttle was great 25 years ago when it was new and even with upgrades is outdated. With all the new technology out there they should create a new space shuttle. They can use what they learned, new technology, and new designing tools and create a new and better space shuttle. After awhile anything gets outdated and the space shuttle is very possably outdated.
William H.
Rome, GA

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