September 3, 2004T
housands of automobiles clogged Florida's highways during the largest evacuation in state history as residents anticipated the arrival of Hurricane Frances. Taking this threat seriously, NASA also made plans for the powerful storm.
On Thursday, NASA closed the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for the weekend. The center sent its nearly 14,000 workers home to prepare for Frances. For now, the KSC is scheduled to re-open September 7.
Before leaving, KSC workers prepared the facilities and equipment to prevent storm damage. All three space shuttles were stowed and secured, most systems powered down, hardware covered with plastic or tarps, equipment moved indoors, and sandbags placed around building openings. Other spacecraft and ISS components also were prepared for the hurricane's arrival.
"KSC houses some of the jewels of America's space flight program," says associate administrator for space operations Bill Readdy. "We've taken every precaution to secure our spacecraft and facilities and to keep our workers safe. In 40 years of space flight operations at Cape Canaveral, we've never sustained a direct hit from a hurricane, but we've always been prepared."
For recent animations of Hurricane Frances, scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Space Science and Engineering Center have created an on-line tool for users to track the storm. The web site
uses images of the hurricane projected on a base map obtained from NASA's Earth Observatory Team.