NASA Postpones Shuttle Launch After Hail Pelts Atlantis' Tank

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - NASA is postponing its launch plans and sending space shuttle Atlantis back inside for repairs.

Earlier this week, golf ball-size hail pelted the shuttle, dimpling its fuel tank. The hail storm also crushed some foam along wedge-shaped brackets, an area where the shuttle in the past has shed foam - a potential danger. It did some cosmetic damage to more than two dozen tiles along the shuttle's left wing.

External tank manager John Chapman says they want to get a look at the shuttle up close.

The launch, planned for March 15th, has been pushed back to at least late April.

Space shuttle program manager Wayne Hale says this was the worst damage they have ever seen from hail on the external tank foam.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)