NASA postpones launch after storm damages shuttle

NASA postponed next month's launch of space shuttle Atlantis after a hailstorm left hundreds of small dents on the spacecraft's external fuel tank. The launch, which had been set for March 15, was pushed back Tuesday until at least late April to give NASA time to make repairs. NASA technicians planned to move the shuttle back to a giant hangar as early as this weekend to examine the damage and decide whether repairs can be made at the Kennedy Space Center or whether the tank needs to be returned to its manufacturer in New Orleans. "At this point, we don't see anything that looks irreparable," said John Chapman, external tank manager. The storm Monday lobbed golf ball-size hail at the launch pad, denting the upper reaches of the 153-foot (47-meter)-tall external tank. It crushed some foam along wedge-shaped brackets, an area where foam has been known to shed in the past. The hail also caused cosmetic damage to more than two dozen tiles along the shuttle's left wing. "This constitutes, in our evaluation, the worst damage we have ever seen from hail on the external tank foam