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NASA NEEDS IMAGE FIX

It hasn't been a great six months for the people at NASA.

These folks have long been seen as the best and the brightest, and deservedly so. But lately they have become fodder for late-night TV comedians. You can't blame people if they pick up supermarket tabloids and expect to see astronauts alongside Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton.

The problems started earlier this year with the love triangle of astronaut Lisa Nowak.

What has happened lately is a lot more serious, and NASA needs to work quickly to restore its credibility and image.

Earlier this month, there was the report that an employee for a NASA subcontractor had cut the wires in a computer about to be loaded into the shuttle Endeavour. And then, at almost the same time, came the news that NASA allegedly let astronauts fly drunk.

The independent panel created by NASA after the Nowak incident also said that alcohol is freely used in crew quarters, where astronauts are confined at Kennedy Space Center for three days prior to launch. The panel also said NASA is not set up in a way to deal with alcohol use by astronauts.

The eight-member panel recommended NASA institute policies involving drinking before flight, and that individuals and supervisors be held responsible. That's a decent start.

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