Two weeks before the US space shuttle Endeavour is scheduled to lift-off, the US space agency NASA says a piece of equipment that was to fly on the mission was deliberately sabotaged. And as if that weren't enough, there were reports Thursday that astronauts flew while drunk. VOA's Jessica Berman reports.
During a briefing on launch preparations for space shuttle Endeavour, NASA officials revealed that a space program worker deliberately damaged a piece of equipment that is scheduled to fly aboard the space craft.
The tampered device was due to be delivered to the International Space Station by Endeavour. It measures strain on a space station beam and relays the information to controllers on the ground.
NASA's chief of space operations, Bill Gersteinmaier, says the space agency was notified of the sabotage by the company servicing the mission.
"We then inspected the flight unit and determined that some wires were cut on the inside of that unit. It's a subcontractor on the space station side," he said. "We'll fix the hardware. We'll get [it] ready to go fly. I can't really discuss that and won't discuss that much more at this point."
Gerstenmaier says the sabotage is under investigation and officials declined to speculate on a motive.
Gersteinmaier says the tampered device was due to be loaded aboard the shuttle when the sabotage was discovered almost two weeks ago. But there was never any danger.
Meanwhile, a report that's due to be released Friday on the health and fitness of the US astronaut corps reportedly found that on at least two occasions, astronauts were allowed to fly by even though surgeons and other astronauts warned they were so drunk they posed a flight-safety risk.
Details of the investigation were published by Aviation Week and Space Technology on its website.
During the pre-flight briefing for Endeavour, Bill Gerstenmaier was asked about heavy use of alcohol by astronauts prior to flight. "I..I..we really can't answer that at this point," he said.
Gerstenmaier says he's never had to deal with drinking among astronauts in space, nor has he been involved in a disciplinary action.
The report looking at the conduct of the astronaut corps was ordered by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin after an incident in February involving former astronaut Lisa Nowak. Nowak was dismissed from the space agency after allegedly stalking the girlfriend of a fellow astronaut.
Meanwhile, NASA announced Thursday it's on track to launch the space shuttle Endeavour on August 7.