Discovery, one of NASA's three space shuttles, is scheduled to launch Wednesday. For NASA, the launch is something of a competency test, said Wayne Hale, deputy manager of the space program. In 2003, the shuttle Columbia broke apart and crashed after a large piece of foam fell from its fuel tank and punctured a hole in the heat shield protecting the shuttle's wing. Some experts question whether NASA has corrected the problems that led to the Columbia disaster, but NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said "significant improvements" have reduced the risks of the shuttle mission.
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