By Liz White, UT staffWashington, DC-Progress at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, damaged by the August hurricane, has been so good that the space shuttle team has decided to keep tank work at Michoud. Recovery efforts at Michoud “are progressing better than originally anticipated, almost three weeks after Hurricane Katrina struck,” said a NASA statement. Power has been restored to the entire complex, which is where the massive polyurethane-coated external fuel tanks for the space shuttle are made. Temporary repairs have also been made to damaged buildings, NASA added. The team had explored the option of moving some tank work to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, but decided that by the time these facilities had been outfitted to do tank work, Michoud would already be operational. The agency said it is now assessing how many people are needed for minimal operations at Michoud. Temporary housing for NASA civil servants and contractors whose homes were destroyed by Katrina will be a priority. NASA is shipping two external tanks from Kennedy to Michoud by barge, so that they can be examined to work out why insulating foam keeps breaking off the cover. When external tank 120 arrives-in early October-it will be examined and partially dissected. External tank 119 is also being sent back and will arrive in Michoud in late October. Meanwhile, NASA said, it is still trying to contact 76 of its more than 2000 Michoud employees. The toll-free phone number for employees to check in is 877/470-5240. The picture shows one of the external tanks being prepared for transit before the hurricane. “
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