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WEDNESDAY, JULY 20, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Discovery's delay shows NASA got the message

There are long faces at NASA after delays in the launch of space shuttle Discovery, but NASA is showing it can do exactly what the nation wants it to do.

It can squelch its enthusiasm for space exploration in deference to the lives of its astronauts.

The world benefits from NASA's aggressive approach. From top to bottom, the agency is like a prizefighter desperate for a win. It is willing to take risks. It is willing to work around the clock. It knows its mission is all-important.

But, like some other prizefighters, it occasionally bites off an earlobe. Asking the same agency to vigorously pursue an objective while, at the same time, balancing that pursuit, is asking for a lot. We use a referee to handle the balancing in the boxing ring. That does not work so well at NASA, however, because all the referees want to be in the ring.

With the whole world watching, this was a launch NASA felt was critical. The 2- year hiatus since the Columbia tragedy left the agency fearing its primary funding source — U.S. taxpayers — would look to nearer horizons.

But minutes before launch, one of four fuel gauges malfunctioned. Probably nothing. Had NASA not stopped the launch, it would likely have gone off without a hitch with no one knowing the difference.

That is why the delay deserves applause. NASA stopped itself before biting the ear. Even though its astronauts are willing to risk everything, NASA realized that the nation is not.

NASA's delay of space shuttle Discovery should not dampen our support, but increase it. The agency proved it is worthy of our enthusiastic support.

Bring it on, NASA. We're headed for Mars.

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