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NASA: Tile Damage Won't Delay Shuttle Launch

Thermal tiles on the Space Shuttle Discovery that were damaged by a falling window cover have been repaired and will not delay its Wednesday launch, NASA says. The shuttle mission is the first since Columbia broke up during reentry in February 2003.

As it sat on its launch pad undergoing final preparation and tests at around 5 p.m. ET, the cover of one of Discovery's cockpit windows fell off and struck a panel on the left side of the vessel, 60 feet below. The force of the blow was enough to damage several tiles. Officials say it took about one hour to replace the panel.

NASA maintains that the most important variable in Discovery's launch, planned for Wednesday afternoon at 3:51, ET, is the weather. Experts raised the chance of rain to 40 percent Tuesday.

The mission from the Kennedy Space Center was scheduled to re-supply and repair the international space station, but it is also an important symbolic step after the Columbia disaster.

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Award-winning journalist Richard Harris has reported on a wide range of topics in science, medicine and the environment since he joined NPR in 1986. In early 2014, his focus shifted from an emphasis on climate change and the environment to biomedical research.