Canaveral, Fla. –

In a sudden storm associated with a tropical weather pressure system crossing Central Florida, NASA says the Shuttle Atlantis launch pad was hit by lightning today, with the shuttle already out on the pad.

Engineers are checking over the shuttle looking for any damage.  The launch pad has a massive lighting arrest system (note the white pole atop the launch pad).  Why it did not work to attract the lightning bolt away from the immediate shuttle pad is not yet clear.

Making the launch event more unlikely, whether in the area is not cooperating; NASA says there is a 70% probability the launch will not happen.

This launch will be the last of the Space Shuttle Program for NASA, as the fleet is being retired.  Other shuttles have already been sent to exhibits in cities that won bids to have a shuttle or are being readied. Future space missions for American astronauts will be done by hitching a ride on Russian Soyuz Rockets until a replacement is made if that ever happens.

NASA says by dropping the costly and inefficient shuttle program, it will allow them to focus on long-range deep space manned missions, and that the agency will remain committed to relevant space missions.  It is expected that the private sector will pick future low earth orbit missions. There are 3 such companies with working prototypes or working models already.

Check back for more updates as we get them.

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