CAPE CANAVERAL - NASA's space shuttle program will keep going until next year.
The space agency made it official Thursday after weeks of hints of launch delays: More time is needed to get the cargo ready for the final two shuttle flights. What's more, a decision regarding a possible third - and really last - mission is off until at least next month.
Managers agreed to postpone the next-to-last shuttle launch until Nov. 1. Discovery had been scheduled to fly to the International Space Station with a load of supplies in September.
The very last mission now has a Feb. 26, 2011, launch date. Endeavour will close out the 30-year shuttle program by delivering a major scientific instrument to the space station.
The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer - a particle physics instrument - is getting a makeover in Europe to ensure a longer working life once it's attached to the space station. The extra work repeatedly has delayed the Endeavour flight, which initially was targeted for this month and then slipped to November.
As for the possibility of an extra shuttle mission, NASA officials said no decision is expected before August. The space agency would like to fly Atlantis one more time, next June, before the fleet is retired. Officials had hoped for an answer by now to start training a crew and preparing the payload.
The White House would need to sign off on any additional mission. NASA estimates it could cost as much as $200 million a month to keep the shuttle program going beyond 2010. The original plan - set forth in 2004 by President George W. Bush - was to quit flying shuttles this year.
Medal of Honor may go to a living hero
The military has sent the White House a recommendation to award the Medal of Honor to a soldier for bravery in Afghanistan, which could make him the first living recipient since the Vietnam War. The Army soldier ran through a hail of enemy fire to repel Taliban fighters in a 2007 battle, saving the lives of a half dozen other men, the Associated Press said it learned from two U.S. officials. AP said they declined to name the soldier because he is still under consideration for the honor. There is concern, officials say, that early disclosure could place political pressure on President Barack Obama to approve the medal or could cause embarrassment for the soldier if it's not approved. The nation's highest award for valor has been awarded only six times in the nine years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq - and all were awarded posthumously.
40M swine flu shots to be burned
About a quarter of the swine flu vaccine produced for the U.S. public has expired, and 40 million doses worth about $260 million are being written off as trash. "It's a lot, by historical standards," said Jerry Weir, who oversees vaccine research and review for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The outdated vaccine, some of which expired Wednesday, will be incinerated. Another 30 million doses will expire later, according to one government estimate. If all that vaccine expires, more than 43 percent of the supply for the U.S. public will have gone to waste. Federal officials and leading health experts say the huge purchase was a necessary risk in the face of the first pandemic in the United States in 40 years.
Online piracy fight goes to colleges
Colleges and universities that don't do enough to combat the illegal swapping of Avatar or Lady Gaga over their computer networks are putting themselves at risk of losing federal funding. A provision of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 that took effect Thursday makes schools a reluctant ally in the entertainment industry's campaign to stamp out unauthorized distribution of copyrighted music, movies and TV shows. That means good-bye to peer-to-peer file-sharing on a few campuses, gentle warnings on others and extensive education programs just about everywhere. What's uncertain is whether the efforts will make a dent in digital piracy.