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Jan 18, 2010 12:35 PM by Dan Billow

NASA launches probe after cocaine found in Space Shuttle hangar

Cocaine was found on the floor near a bathroom in a restricted area of the Kennedy Space Center Thursday morning, according to NASA officials.

"It's unacceptable," NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said.

The cocaine was found in a plastic bag on the floor near a restroom inside the Orbiter Processing Facility, where space shuttle Discovery is being prepared for launch in March. Beutel noted that the presence of illegal narcotics is considered a safety hazard because astronauts' lives depend on the precision work done in the hangar.

"We have zero tolerance because we have zero margin for error," Beutel said.

About 200 employees were working in the hangar at the time the cocaine was found. NASA officials said those employees and others will be drug tested.

NASA also said that when the culprit is found, all of the person's work will have to be redone or rechecked. "We're dealing with spaceflight hardware," Beutel said. "You can't have that."

No one has been connected to the cocaine, but Beutel promised criminal prosecution for any suspect who is identified.

Discovery's launch is targeted for March 18. NASA said they expect to hold the schedule.

They added that anyone identified as the owner of the cocaine will be turned over to federal prosecutors.

 

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