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NASA Assesses the Damage From Hurricane Frances.

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Hurricane Frances.
Hurricane Frances devastated Florida.

It's bad, but it could have been much worse. Hurricane Frances devastated Florida over the weekend, with the eye sweeping close to NASA's Kennedy Space Center - the region sustained winds as high as 110 kph (70 mph). There were no injuries, and the worst damage was to the Vehicle Assembly Building, which lost more than 1,000 panels, leaving huge holes in its sides. None of the space shuttles or the Swift mission were damaged. The center is closed Tuesday for most employees, and a more detailed damage assessment should be released later today.

NASA teams are surveying the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for damage caused by Hurricane Frances. Initial assessments show KSC weathered the storm fairly well. There are no reports of any injured KSC workers, and there does not appear to be damage to the Space Shuttles Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour.

"Our initial feeling is we dodged a real bullet," said Kennedy Space Center Director Jim Kennedy. "Even though this was the worst storm ever to hit KSC, I feel very fortunate."

KSC will remain closed Tuesday for most employees. Workers who need to report to work will be notified. A more detailed damage assessment is expected Tuesday.

The most serious damage reported so far is to the center's landmark structure, the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), and to the facility that manufactures Space Shuttle Thermal Protection System tiles and blankets.

Sustained wind of more than 70 mph was recorded during the storm. Approximately 1,000 panels were blown off the VAB. In some places, exterior panels and underlying sub-panels are missing, leaving the interior of the building exposed to the elements. There are several holes, including one estimated to be 50 feet by 50 feet, in the building. Emergency operations personnel have not entered the VAB, as several loose panels are still hanging from the building and present a safety hazard.

The KSC Space Shuttle tile and blanket facility's roof is partially torn off, and there is significant wall damage. Damage to the facility and its effect on the Space Shuttle Return to Flight effort is not yet known. The building housing International Space Station hardware and modules appears to be in good shape. KSC was powered down last week as Frances approached. Emergency operations teams are working to restore electricity and phone service to the center. NASA will provide new information as available.

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