CAPE CANAVERAL (CBS4) – NASA workers are checking out minor damage to the space shuttle Endeavour caused by a severe thunderstorms which swept Cape Canaveral on Wednesday.
Torrential rain was accompanied by hail, lightning and reports of a funnel cloud; wind gusts reached 90 mph.
“Shuttle Endeavour’s external fuel tank sustained minor damage to some of its insulating foam,” said NASA spokesman Allard Beutel.
The space center was under a tornado watch Thursday morning causing space shuttle commander Mark Kelly and his crew to skip some of their practice countdown drills.
Meanwhile Kelly is still waiting for a doctors’ blessing to bring his wounded congresswoman wife to the launch in just under three weeks. Kelly is the husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords who was shot in the head two and a half months ago in Tucson, Aizona.
Kelly said he’s still working out all the plans with NASA in case his wife attends his launch. He’s still debating what to do about the traditional prelaunch party for his guests. Each shuttle crew member arranges a party for family and friends who come into town for the launch. The astronauts themselves are in quarantine and cannot attend; spouses stand in as hosts. In Kelly’s case, his identical twin astronaut brother, Scott, could fill in. Scott is just back from a five-month stay at the International Space Station.
“I’ve been asked that a number of times and I’ve been pretty busy,” Kelly said. “I haven’t put it together yet. So if you’re willing to organize it for me, I think we might have a volunteer.
Kelly told reporters he’s “pretty hopeful” Giffords will make it to his April 19 liftoff. It will be Endeavour’s final flight and the next-to-last shuttle mission, and will feature the delivery of a $2 billion physics experiment to the International Space Station.
(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)