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Shuttle Discovery Patched Up, May Fly Next Week

Photo Courtesy - NASA/Tony Gray(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- Shuttle Discovery could be ready to launch as early as next week, barring another major setback.

Had things not gone awry, Discovery would have already returned from its last mission to the International Space Station but the early November launch was postponed due to a persistent hydrogen gas leak and cracks in the ribs of the shuttle's external tank.

On Monday, NASA officials said that all the necessary repairs were made and that Discovery might be good to go on or near Dec. 3.

Later this week, program managers will discuss the rationale for launching the shuttle with the repairs and if it passes muster, a final review will be conducted next Monday to give it approval for liftoff.

This would presumably be Discovery's 39th and final flight.  Endeavour is scheduled for the last mission next February before the orbiter fleet is formally retired.

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