Countdown to RTF

All eyes are on NASA this week as the world awaits the space shuttle's return to flight, scheduled for Wednesday July 13, at 3:50:47 p.m. EDT, 2½ years after the tragic loss of Columbia.

Hurricane Dennis blowing through the Gulf of Mexico this weekend fortuitously did not affect launch plans. And as we count the days, minutes and microsecondss to liftoff, naturally an endless stream of commentary and information is being printed, broadcast and blogged. According to a June 24 e-mail from Mike Rein, chief of media services for the Kennedy Space Center, NASA closed media accreditation for the launch at approximately 2,650 folks. This includes representatives of the world's major news organizations as well as your common variety space bloggers. (Yes, the Probe got a press badge, too.)

Of course, you don't have to be standing in the KSC press site to have an opinionn, or a view. A new
USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll taken a few weeks ago found that 40 percent of poll responders rated NASA's job performance "poor" or "only fair" while 53 percent rated it "excellent" or "good." At the same time, nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said the shuttle program should continue; while only 21 percent said the shuttle program should end.

Meanwhile, many would agree with Craig Covault at Aviation Week & Space Technology who writes that the shuttle's
safe return is key to the space programs future (and you may have seen this article republished on Space.com).

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