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Nasa launches investigation after cocaine is found in space shuttle hanger



By Mail Foreign Service

Last updated at 8:27 PM on 15th January 2010



Nasa has launched an investigation to find out which of its employees breached a zero-tolerance policy on drugs after cocaine was found in a space shuttle hangar.

A bag containing residue from the drug was discovered outside a bathroom at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, where six astronauts including Briton Nick Patrick are due to blast off into orbit next month.

The American space agency says that the mission will not be affected.


article-1243371-030A6E7B0000044D-939_468x399.jpg Nasa have launched an investigation after cocaine was found outside a bathroom at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida


However, Nasa officials want to know how cocaine got into a restricted area, and which of its workers or contractors breached a zero-tolerance policy on drugs.

'There are no obvious indications of anyone acting oddly or under the influence,' Nasa spokesman Allard Beutel told the space.com website.

'People know how serious this is and how serious people take it. And it’s not acceptable. That’s the bottom line.'

Three years ago, Nasa was forced to deny allegations of boozy parties in crew quarters when an official report claimed that at least two astronauts had flown into space while drunk.

The agency announced strict new guidelines for the use of intoxicating substances among its workforce and introduced drink and drugs testing for its astronauts and ground workers.

But the discovery of cocaine in a hangar where space shuttles are processed before flight raises safety concerns, and will embarrass the new Nasa chief Charlie Bolden, a former astronaut who inherited control of the agency last summer.


There are only five more space shuttle missions left before the fleet is retired later this year, and Mr Bolden was keen to ensure they passed without incident.

The bag that contained 'a small amount' of cocaine was spotted outside a bathroom by a worker, who immediately reported it to his superiors, Mr Beutel said.

An on-site test suggested that the powder inside the bag was cocaine, findings confirmed by subsequent examination.

About 200 Nasa workers and contractors have access to the hangar, and Nasa began testing all of them for drugs on Wednesday.

The hangar was where the shuttle Discovery was processed before its journey last week to the launchpad, where it stands ready to blast off to the International Space Station on February 7.

Its crew is scheduled to take supplies and construction materials to the orbiting outpost.


Yorkshire-born Mr Patrick, a former student at Cambridge University who holds dual U.S.-British nationality, is set to make his second flight into space.


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1243371/Nasa-launches-investigation-cocaine-space-shuttle-hanger.html#ixzz0cmRkj4S8

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