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Discovery to Launch in February; Endeavour's Commander May Not Fly

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- NASA is dealing with two important issues at the moment -- one technical, one personal.

On Tuesday, officials with the space agency said shuttle Discovery would likely launch in late February, more than three months past its scheduled November lift-off.

Meant to be the penultimate flight of the shuttle program, Discovery has been plagued with a series of problems, not the least of which have been cracks in support beams that stabilize the spacecraft’s external fuel tank.

The goal is to take off for the International Space Station at or around Feb. 27.

In other developments, shuttle Endeavour is on track to put a cap on the program’s 30-year history this April, although the scheduled commander of the mission might be missing.

Astronaut Mark Kelly is the husband of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was gravely wounded in last Saturday's shootings in Tucson, Arizona.

Bill Gerstemaier, NASA associate administrator for space operations, said Tuesday the decision to fly will be left entirely with Kelly, who has more urgent matters to attend to at the moment.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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