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NASA Space

NASA Debates Second Discovery Repair 257

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the neverending-saga dept.
An anonymous reader writes "NASA is debating today whether or not they should attempt a second repair attempt of the Space Shuttle Discovery to repair a possible problem with the thermal blanket. On Wednesday, an astronaut removed two protruding cloth fillers from between the ceramic tiles on the space shuttle's heat shield. "I think in the old days we would not have worried about this so much," said shuttle programme deputy manager Wayne Hale The astronaut extended his gloved hand and quickly removed the first fiber strip, which was sticking up from Discovery's smooth, tiled underside. "It's coming out very easily," the astronaut said. Arm operator Jim Kelly then maneuvered the arm about three meters to the second protruding strip, known as a gap filler, and Robinson gently pulled that piece out as well. The concern now is whether or not a damaged thermal blanket under one of the cockpit windows would tear apart during re-entry and strike the orbiter."
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NASA Debates Second Discovery Repair

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  • by Orrin Bloquy (898571) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @01:31PM (#13241885) Journal
    What's the worst that could happen?
    • by TheOtherAgentM (700696) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @01:34PM (#13241918)
      If the window does come off, the inanimate carbon rod can always save you as you sing Battle Hymn of the Republic upon reentry.
    • I'm worried they are actually doing more damage by removing materials than just leaving them be.

      Those gap fillers came out when some guy pulled on them, you'd think the force of re-entry would have pushed them right back into place with no problem. By pulling it out they've left a gaping, but small, hole in their thermal protection system. I'm still convinced that they should have just left it alone, and that the orbiter's completely ready for re-entry.

      Whatever they decide to do, I hope they hurry up
      • Whatever they decide to do, I hope they hurry up and get it done, so that when they come back unscathed everyone can breathe easier.

        People love a tragedy, don't they? And when something tragic happens, they look so intently for someone to blame, that those who have any ability to do anything to prevent a reoccurance are put on super-high-intensity alert. Can putting so much crazy media pressure on NASA be good for these folks? And why don't we care two licks about the incredible scientific and diploma
      • by Mindwarp (15738) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @02:55PM (#13242968) Homepage Journal
        One of the gap fillers was there to prevent tiles vibrating together on take-off, and therefore isn't necessary during re-entry. In fact this gap filler wasn't even designed for thermal protection.

        The second gap filler is there to stop repeated thermal exposure to the part of the orbiter sub-frame surrounding the front landing gear. Luckily since that is an area of high heating on the orbiter the sub-frame is designed to withstand extremely high temperatures. The gap filler is really to stop that part of the orbiter from repeatedly being exposed to high temperatures mission after mission. It should be absolutely fine for one re-entry.
    • If you look for things that are wrong, you will find them. Your car may run fine and be safe, but give it a thousand point inspection, and I am certain that you will find numerous potential safety issues.
      There is some risk involved in being an astronaut. 20 of our brothers get killed in Iraq because they were driving around in a amphibious landing vehicle with a flat hull, and we are spending many many millions on this damn problem with the shuttle? And before you get into dollars and cents and say that th
      • Great comment, just a little nitpick: NASA is in no way a part of the DOD. They will play nice with each other for satellite launches and such, and military types are often selected to be astronauts (Cmdr. Collins is retired Air Force), but NASA is an independent agency. Up until last year it was funded under the budget heading "Health and Human Services and Independent Agencies." That's right, Health and Human Services. It got bumped into a different category for this FY (reports to a different congres
  • Waited too long... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 04, 2005 @01:31PM (#13241888)
    > BREAKING NEWS NASA determines droopy shuttle insulation blanket not a danger to Discovery, no fourth spacewalk required. Details soon.
    • by jdunlevy (187745) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @02:12PM (#13242445) Homepage
      Yeah, the "Latest News" at NASA's "Return to Flight" site [nasa.gov]:
      No Fourth Spacewalk Needed
      Mission control radioed the Discovery crew today with news that they will not need to make a fourth spacewalk to fix a thermal blanket near the Commander's left window. Mission Control and the crew agreed that it was "good news."
      The Mission Management Team, which made the decision based on extensive analysis, is still meeting. More details about the decision will be discussed at a news conference at 3 p.m. EDT today.
      • sfn [spaceflightnow.com]:

        Deliberately damaged blankets similar to the one aboard Discovery were tested overnight in a wind tunnel at NASA's Ames Research Center in California to help engineers and aerodynamicists calculate when during entry debris might rip away, what sort of trajectory it might follow and whether an impact could cause serious damage to the shuttle's rear wing elevons, rudder/speed brake or aft rocket pods.

        But the wind tunnel tests, along with additional analyses, showed the blanket posed no significant th

  • by FortKnox (169099) * on Thursday August 04, 2005 @01:32PM (#13241894) Homepage Journal
    ... better safe than sorry.

    Plus its not like its costing us any extra money or anything. Safety first and all that.
    • by ptbarnett (159784) * on Thursday August 04, 2005 @01:43PM (#13242050)
      Plus its not like its costing us any extra money or anything.

      Preparing for, and performing a spacewalk requires that the astronauts skip other tasks that have already been planned.

      Safety first and all that.

      A spacewalk is not without risk. That risk has to be weighed against the risk of not repairing the thermal blanket.

      • A spacewalk is not without risk.

        OK, There is risk but what is the chance of an accident during the space walk? Has there ever been an accident during a space walk?

        It seems like there have been more space walks than shuttle flights.
        • OK, There is risk but what is the chance of an accident during the space walk? Has there ever been an accident during a space walk?

          There have been some close calls, but no serious accidents in the US program. During the 60's, a Soviet astronaut had problems getting back into the capsule and shutting the hatch, due to the pressuration in his suit. More recently, a problem with pressure in an oxygen bottle forced a spacewalk at the ISS to be aborted.

          But, the risks aren't just to the spacewalker. Just

          • by Zathrus (232140) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @03:15PM (#13243175) Homepage
            q[During the 60's, a Soviet astronaut had problems getting back into the capsule and shutting the hatch, due to the pressuration in his suit.]q

            To be fair that was during the first space walk. Ever. The Russians didn't let the rest of the world know about the problems encountered though -- including that he had to drop the suit pressure below the minimum safety level in order to get back in.

            It's only been since the fall of the Soviet Union that a lot of the problems of the Soviet space program have come to light.
        • Pierce the space suit and the astronaut is in a world of trouble. Space is a hostile enough envirionment that if the debris strike didn't kill the astronaut outright, the resultant loss of air pressure would. To get an idea of the liklihood, you can look at the shuttle windows as they record every hit they take on each flight. This article [timesherald.com] notes:

          With all the cosmic debris orbiting the earth, it's little wonder the space shuttles routinely get dings in their windshields.

          A tiny speck of space debris smashed

          • Didnt some astronauts suit get pierced once? I remember watching an interview on tv. He said he didnt even realize it until later when he took off the suit and noticed a welt or something on his skin. his skin basically filled the hole heh
      • A spacewalk is not without risk.

        Indeed. From Wikipedia: EVA hazards [wikipedia.org]

        The primary [risk factor] is collision with space debris. Orbital velocity at 300 km above the Earth (typical for a Space Shuttle mission) is 7.7 km/s. This is 10 times the speed of a bullet, so the kinetic energy of a small particle (e.g. a fleck of paint or a grain of sand) is equal to that of a bullet with a mass that is 100 times as large.
    • Plus its not like its costing us any extra money or anything. Safety first and all that.

      Incorrect. The astronauts were not going to simply sit there for the duration of the mission. They had a work schedule - and lot of experiments to perform. Since some of them are now spending time on repairs instead of carrying out their programmed schedule, this work will not be done. This lost work cost money in terms of the mass of the equipment that had to be lifted into orbit for nothing (mass
      • by Rei (128717) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @02:12PM (#13242447) Homepage
        There is ALWAYS a cost for anything if you're prepared to look for it

        Yeah, because when you factor in the salaries, benefits, and office resources used by those looking for the cost...
      • Most contollers have "day jobs" at NASA as wel. So NASA IS at full staff during a mission and also when the STS is on the ground. Other work is postponed for controller duties, and alternate shifts are worked. Extended 1 days costs NOTHING, the consumables on the STS (food, and fuel cells, and to some extent air) are the limiting factor. Most experiments are automated, but some will require readings to be taken by astronauts, that is why there is a Science Office on board. He/She has that job as thier prima
      • by J05H (5625)

        Incorrect. The astronauts were not going to simply sit there for the duration of the mission. They had a work schedule - and lot of experiments to perform. Since some of them are now spending time on repairs instead of carrying out their programmed schedule, this work will not be done. This lost work cost money in terms of the mass of the equipment that had to be lifted into orbit for nothing (mass which could have been used for something else like more supplies fo
  • news source (Score:2, Informative)

    by sHORTYWZ (777909)
    Out of all places to link a news story like this we choose an overclocking webpage? Irregardless, they have decided not to repair the blanket per MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8826983/ [msn.com]
  • Overclockers.com? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 04, 2005 @01:33PM (#13241917)
    Is this truly the best source to quote for this type of story? I can think of several much better ones off the top of my head....
    space.com
    spaceflightnow.com
    nasa.gov
    flatoday.com
    chron.com
  • by LexNaturalis (895838) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @01:34PM (#13241927)

    L.L. Bean filed suit against NASA for using the term "Thermal Blanket" when discussing the potential repairs.

    Joe Smith, lead counsel for L.L. Bean is quoted as saying "It's clear that NASA is attempting to make our consumers believe that L.L. Bean's thermal blankets are hazerdous. The fact is, there is no evidence to suggest that Thermal Blankets have ever caused damage, much less damage to a space shuttle."

  • Lack of worry (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dbhankins (688931)
    "I think in the old days we would not have worried about this so much,"

    should be immediately followed by,

    "but of course in the old days we lost two shuttles because we didn't worry so much, and I'm not the one who has to ride the inside of a flaming torch across a couple thousand miles of sky, so who am I to say?"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 04, 2005 @01:40PM (#13242011)
    "extended his gloved hand and quickly removed the first fiber strip, which was sticking up from Discovery's smooth, tiled underside."

    Is it me or am I the only person who when first glancing at that thought it was segment from erotic literature?
  • Go for it (Score:2, Funny)

    by OBx2 (889562)
    Hell yes, probably doesn't need fixing - but the astronauts need to have fun.
  • by Otter (3800) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @01:41PM (#13242022) Journal
    This mission is it for the shuttles. There's no way they're going to go through this process again and again. The program has passed the point of rehabilitation, from a political and PR point of view, if not necessarily from a technical one.

    I'll leave it to the space buffs to argue about whether that's a good or a bad thing -- I just pay my taxes and enjoy the pretty pictures.

    • by Buran (150348) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @01:47PM (#13242106)
      Actually ... can't be farther from the truth.

      There has never been a 100% nominal sortie and there has never been a sortie without risk. The public has this idea that spaceflight is or should be risk-free, or at least as much as driving to work or flying commercially. Well, when you're in a mach 25 orbiter at 300 nm AGL in an environment where only 9 humans out of 6 billion are currently living, there's not much that's risk free. All in all, STS-114 is going well. It's doing exactly what it set out to do. It's delivered it's ISS module and completed replacement of a CMG. It's validated the new quality control photography. It is currently ops testing unprecedented inflight repair procedures. While we're talking about a few glitches, this is NOT something that compromises the survivability of the orbiter. If anything, this is something that increasing the engineering data on the TPS and can be used to improve TPS integrity on future flights, not to mention bettering the crew capacity for repair. As of flight day 9, STS-114 is a great flight.
      • I agree that this is not the end of the line for human space flight, but this flight does seem to be the end of the line for anything approaching routine space flight with the shuttle. I know that space flight is never (as yet) routine, but the dream of the shuttle was to make it approach that. Clearly, the shuttle does nothing of the sort. It's a very powerful machine, but it is also not the way to go.

        At least two positive things are coming out of this shuttle mission. One, the public interest is very enga
        • Unfortunately, while space travel may some day be routine, it is not routine now and won't be with the shuttle. However, the lessons learned from it will be rolled into the next set of launch vehicles and, someday, into a more-practical space plane.

          Unfortunately, far too much of the "public interest" I've seen these days is bitching and moaning by people who don't know anything about what they're talking about but just see idiotic news articles also written by people who don't really know what they're talki
      • You're completely missing my point.

        Technically, things may be going fantastically. It doesn't matter. The whole mission is about "Don't screw up! Don't screw up!" and every future mission will be "Don't screw up! Don't screw up!" until inevitably something does get screwed up. Every flight will consist of going into space to do the equivalent of refinishing a bathroom floor.

        If NASA starts something new and ambitious with a clear, exciting goal -- the media and public will be able to accept risk the way they

        • ...next week, on "Survivor", see who will get voted off the shuttle!
        • Wait -- I don't get part of what you're saying. "Goal of not killing them?" I'm not sure what you mean. This mission is largely a test mission although it also is important for ISS resupply. You have to test things, it's a normal fact of life.

          As for going back to the Moon, etc. -- that's what the goal formally is now -- to return to the Moon and on to Mars. If there's funding and the interest -- I know I'd like to see it happen -- it will happen.

          But you have to learn to crawl before you can walk -- and so m
        • No every mission will be the equivalent of refinishing a bathroom floor.

          8/1/05 Science Friday got it head on. The Shuttle is the only vehicle capable of carrying the modules for the ISS. These modules are not US modules, but rather have been designed and constructed by other countries'. Their money has been invested in objects that are sitting on the ground, waiting for a shuttle to take them up and install them.

          This is why there is still a manned shuttle crew. This is why they are trying to fix the shu
      • Mach 25 at orbit doesn't mean anything. Isn't the astronaut's relative speed to the spacecraft the only measure of speed that matters to the astronaut?

        After all, the Earth itself travels at about mach 87.

      • The public has this idea that spaceflight is or should be risk-free

        I think that's a bunch of baloney. I think the truth is that politicians and pundits have this idea that the public has this idea that spaceflight is or should be risk-free. Nobody ever asks the public about it, they just say "the public wants X."

        I know a fair number of non-geeks and none of the ones I've chatted with about the shuttle (shuttle safety being a current event and thus fair game for casual conversation with non-space-nuts)

      • I agree with what you say except for:

        The public has this idea that spaceflight is or should be risk-free, or at least as much as driving to work or flying commercially.

        It's a combination of Congress and the media that whip up a frenzy about spaceflight dangers and accidents. The public goes to NASCAR races expecting to see a fiery death or two. It's strange that we don't have senate hearings and demands for new safety initiatives after people die while driving 500 miles at Daytona.

        • The last big death in Daytona that I'm aware of was a result of a driver basically saying "I don't like this safety system because I find it annoying and even though you have proof it works, I refuse to wear it".

          The guy died from that same type of injury as a direct result of his refusal to listen to those who understand this stuff.

          As a direct result of that accident, the use of the safety system in question is now directly required and you cannot drive without one. It is a shame that someone had to die to
    • They know there's no real risk from any of these things... the whole point is to get experience in fixing things when it doesn't matter if it works or not, so when it does matter, you know you can do it.
    • Don't think that every shuttle mission except for the Challenger incident, the columbia incident, and then this one have all been perfect. The media just usually didn't care about the little problems that popped up from time to time. You're dealing with a very complex piece of equipment, going through some of the most stressful experiences and environments around. There's been lots of problems. That's why NASA chooses very smart people to be astronauts, then trains the hell out of them.

      The astronauts know i
  • by ivanjs (801614) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @01:45PM (#13242085) Homepage
    It's still not too late to bring This Ol' Bird [lyzrdstomp.com] out of retirement...
  • The blurb on the homepage is probably 85% of the full article, so here is the rest.

    NASA has run different scenarios at the Ames Research Center in California to test them in a wind tunnel.

    NASA will make issue a press release today stating whether or not they will proceed with another spacewalk to repair the shuttle.

    Discovery is scheduled to return to Earth on August 8th.

    Ads by Goooooogle

  • Wow... (Score:5, Funny)

    by praxim (117485) <pat@@@thepatsite...com> on Thursday August 04, 2005 @01:53PM (#13242178) Homepage
    "The astronaut extended his gloved hand and quickly removed the first fiber strip, which was sticking up from Discovery's smooth, tiled underside."

    Man, I didn't know spaceship repair could be so HOT... I need a moment alone...
  • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @01:54PM (#13242193)
    <RANT>
    In the current climate of "safety at all costs", it's a wonder any of us leave the house. How many product commercials and local newscasts contain that dreaded solemnly intoned phrase "How you can keep your fmily safe". My god, the last presidential election was all about safety at all costs, and little else. We've lost fewer men in Iraq than an average day during World War II. Cars are marketed about safety, efficiency be damned. Does anybody remember when being blasted into space on the tip of a rocket was a brave and noble thing to do because it was fucking dangerous? Remember Gordo Cooper? Chuck Yeager? Anybody rember White, Grissom and Chaffee? How about the Russians who died? Can we please stop obsessing about Crista damn McAuliffe and go back to exploring space? Jesus Christ, America TAKE A CHANCE!
    </RANT>
    • it's all part of the culture of fear which permeates the red states and the DC beltway.

      they're all chickens who've never flown, and the only risk they take is going to a race car rally or trying to step down from their monster trucks without breaking their ankles.

      if you want real adventurers, you have to tune out those fear mongers, and live.

      i've done more impossible things before breakfast than many, and find this Oh My Fricking G.. attitude to permeate those scaredy cats thinking. it's all they have, fea
    • You do know that Chuck Yeager never flew on a space craft?
    • by prisoner-of-enigma (535770) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @02:59PM (#13243009) Homepage
      esus Christ, America TAKE A CHANCE!

      While I agree with you that this country has become far too risk-averse for its own good, you're not getting the whole point here.

      Risk in and of itself is a vice, not a virtue. Risk is something to always be avoided wherever and whenever possible...unless the rewards from taking such a risk are deemed worth the danger, and so long as there is no better way to accomplish the goal.

      In the case of the shuttle, exactly what are those seven astronauts risking their lives for? So we can study space? They could've done that in an Apollo capsule much more safely. Or, for that matter, in Skylab, launched not by the shuttle by by a stripped-down version of the Saturn V. Most of the experiments being performed on board the shuttle right now could be performed without the need for humans to interact with them. Indeed, some experiments would benefit from being on something other than a shuttle full of oxygen/nitrogen, rattling around from astronauts bouncing off the walls/floors, and shooting hydrazine thrusters all over the place.

      In short, these astronauts are risking their invaluable lives, along with a billion dollars worth of hardware, to do some marginally-useful science that could be done much cheaper and more easily via other means. That, my friend, is the very definition of a stupid risk.

      Now, if the astronauts were risking their lives to found a colony on the moon, or to go to Mars, that'd be something entirely different. But to keep going to LEO for the 115th time? What's the point? No wonder the public is disenchanted with the shuttle! It doesn't do anything grand, like land a man on the moon or go to Mars, and it still is very risky. More risk and less reward? Sure, gimme more of that any day. Not.
      • I'd say that going to LEO for the 115th time *is* something grand. Making spaceflight routine was the main goal of the shuttle - by using "reusability" as a technique to address out-of-control cost escalation. (an ineffective technique, I might add).

        I'd say that in 10 years, if we'd been to LEO another 115 times, that would be a "grand achievement". Particularly if that grand achievement were built upon to make something even more grand, (like a permanent presence in space - ISS, or a moon base, or a self
    • Normally I would agree with you abou the obsession
      with safety,

      but, the problem with the Shuttle is poor
      engineering, bad engineering management and
      excessive CUA by beaurocrats whose only risk
      is that the public will wake up to their
      repeated failure, and exactly the same thing
      comes with most military procurement.

      The fix is fire the NASA __Management__, and
      appoint someone like Bert Rutan or Richard
      Branson.
    • Nonsense. It's not "America" that's risk-averse. It's NASA, a huge government beauracracy that's gone so far off the rails that they're unlikely ever to be useful again. NASA's operating in an environment where every single thing they do or don't do is endlessly picked apart, so their natural inclination is to do as little as possible and hope no one hits them again.

      Most Americans aren't happy with this attitude at all, despite what you might have heard. That's why private individuals like Burt Rutan are by
  • Maybe we should send the shuttles up and make them permanent space craft instead of trying to bring them back all the time. Then just send up rockets to them man them and bring people back. I'm sure the shuttle get more wear and tear with the re-entries and launches more than anything else.
    • Yeah, the shuttle shouldn't be used at all unless they're bringing an orbiting satellite back to earth. That was its original advantage right? to bring stuff up... and back?

      Supply-only missions don't need all these fancy wings, cargo bays and heat shields.

    • Then just send up rockets to them man them and bring people back.

      I am glad that other people have that belief as well as myself. I think the Orbiters are proven infallible at orbiting. They have a commendable launch record and equally commendable landing record. But, they have a percentage of error in each of those. At the same time they made hundreds of orbits per mission. This is an excellent idea IMHO. Leave them permanently docked at ISS and use them in orbit for satellite repairs etc...
  • NASA should stop trying to polish a turd (Space Shuttle) and move on to building the next generation space vehicles. The design is decades old and is obviously failing in many areas.
  • by dmorin (25609) <dmorin&gmail,com> on Thursday August 04, 2005 @02:07PM (#13242391) Homepage Journal
    I noticed this back in the early 90's when one of the shuttle astronauts spoke at my college graduation. They always say "reached out his gloved hand."

    Man's in the vacuum of space. Isn't it sort of implied that he's got gloves on? I always wanted the story to go, "He reached out his hand and thought, 'Oh shit I've forgotten my gloves.'"

  • Thank you for copying the article verbatim, afterall, a summary should include every word, phrase, and sentence of the original.
  • We were at work all evening to figure out how to remove the insulation fibers from the outside of the suits so they don't contaminate the air system. Those fibers are sticky little bastards.

    But we heard this morning that there is not going to be a 4th EVA this trip. Oh well, we're ready for it next time.
  • Is it just me or is this a bit of a coincidence? The space shuttle has been running fine for decades (minus challenger which was unrelated) then suddenly, something hits it and damages the tiles causing it to break up later. Then, the very first shuttle launched after this suffers the exact same fate. Out of 100's of shuttle missions, 2 have had this problem right after each other, what are the odds? Why have we never heard of shuttles having tiles repaired in space before or having damage caused by somethi

    • Is it just me or is this a bit of a coincidence?

      It's just you.

      then suddenly, something hits it and damages the tiles causing it to break up later. Then, the very first shuttle launched after this suffers the exact same fate.

      No, nothing hit the orbiter on this flight at all. Debris did come off, but it didn't hit the orbiter.

      Out of 100's of shuttle missions, 2 have had this problem right after each other, what are the odds?

      Of stuff hitting the orbiter if debris comes off? Pretty good. They didn't think mu
  • http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20050804/ts_nm/space_sh uttle_dc [yahoo.com]

    NASA already decided no further spacewalks are needed.
  • by Buran (150348) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @02:48PM (#13242883)
    The View from Here: Lily-Livered Pansies [spaceref.com]

    Elliot G. Pulham
    President & Chief Executive Officer

    No country ever built an airplane by running for the hills and abandoning the program the first time a bolt sheared or a rivet popped during test flight. Our effort to conquer the seas was not cast on the trash heap of history the first time some ship sprung a leak.

    These points seem to be lost on our current generation of lily-livered commentators and pundits, and even a few faint-hearted friends in Congress. In the wake of the successful launch of Discovery, a chorus of these "timid souls" seem willing to abandon human space flight at the first sign of evidence confirming that which we all know - putting humans in space is a tricky, difficult, unforgiving and risky business that is nonetheless worth it all.

    I shudder to think where our country would be if this "do nothing, risk nothing" attitude had prevailed throughout our history. Our territories west of the Mississippi would likely fly the French and Mexican flags, railways would never have crossed the continent, and heaven knows the defense department never would have been allowed to fund the Wright Brothers and that risky, dangerous, flying machine contraption.

    A test flight is a test flight. It is designed to ferret out problems and flaws. If you understand this, then you understand that, thus far, mission STS-114 has been a fabulous success that has generated a treasure trove of knowledge that will make future human space flights - not only of the space shuttle but of any spacecraft - better.

    I normally balk at over reacting to anything that happens at NASA. In speeches around the country, I usually start by debunking the notion that NASA "is" space - pointing out that the largest space agency in the world is the U.S. Air Force, that NASA accounts for less than 10 percent of space activity world wide, and that, since 1996, commercial space activities have comprised the largest sector of the market.

    But it matters what NASA does. The fact that hundreds of millions of people watched the launch of Discovery on television, a half-million showed up in person in Florida for the launch, and another half-million more had it streamed to their desktops should tell us all we need to know. Human space flight and space exploration is what captivates the minds and hearts of our people, especially our youth, and propels us forward.

    Warts and all, foam shedding and all, the fact that virtually every newspaper in America (and most around the globe) has had space exploration on its front page for nearly every day of the past week should tell us something. We know it is dangerous. We know it will probably always be dangerous. And still we want to go, for in going lies all our hopes, dreams and aspirations.

    For all those cranks, sots, killjoys and ignoramuses who think the launch of Discovery was a failure - sit down, shut up, and listen:

    Spectacular Success No. 1 - Discovery is safely on orbit, docked to the International Space Station, and all indications are that she has suffered far less launch damage than any shuttle launched before. Human space exploration is proceeding. It is only the schedule of this exploration that will vary.

    Spectacular Success No. 2 - Thanks to the efforts of thousands of NASA, contractor, and Dept. of Defense personnel (let's not forget that the Air Force plays numerous critical roles in every shuttle launch, and that U.S. Strategic Command is also heavily involved), the new launch observation and monitoring measures performed brilliantly. We've collected more data and imagery on this shuttle launch than on any human space flight in history. The systems worked. Because of that, we know we still have things to fix on the external tank.

    Spectacular Success No. 3 - The NASA culture. Within moments of understanding that foam shedding is still a problem, NASA managers immediately and unequivocally decided th
  • by DumbSwede (521261) <slashdotbin@hotmail.com> on Thursday August 04, 2005 @02:57PM (#13242984) Journal
    If memory serves correctly the very first shuttle missions returned with entire missing heat tiles that broke off during ascent and where known to be gone. Much hand ringing, but a safe landing. No 2 ½ year delay while better adhesives were worked on for the tiles, though I am surprised some repair in space protocol was established back them.

    The rather large hole in Columbia's wing did doom the mission and should have prompted an abort to land, or at least a repair attempt of some sort if no rescue could be attempted, even if it was just stuffing pieces of a spacesuit in the hole.

    My point is, we didn't image the huge damage, but now we are being way to cautious with every nick and ding we are seeing in exquisite detail that were probably there in similar degrees on every previous mission. Am I the only one worried they are going to break something critical trying to fix these minor problems? It wasn't some minor airflow problem over Columbia that doomed the mission, but a gapping hole.

    On a related note, it does seem that more debris is falling of the external tank than ever before. One reason for the increase shedding was explained as a change in fabrication techniques for the foam using ozone safe chemicals. This being speculated in the wake of loosing Columbia. Have we gone back to the older fab technique, or are the few shuttle launches a year just too much of a strain on the environment? Seriously, I support the replacement of dangerous CFCs, but only in situations where they don't endanger life. What percent of ozone depletion could the foam on the Shuttle possible represent?

    Seems like NASA should concentrate on first causes, not this piddling after the fact stuff.

    • The shuttles still use freon for other cooling systems; in fact, Columbia had issues with its cooling system [spaceflightnow.com].

      Oh, and NASA has an exemption from the Freon restrictions anyway.

      While they might have initially switched to the freon-free foam for environmental reasons, there was nothing to prevent them from switching back once they found out it was less safe.

      Trivia time: Which president issued the executive order to stop use of CFCs?
  • Ok is it just me? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gwydion68 (904816)
    Or do these shuttle 'repairs' seem like its just a bunch of PR to show off the new safer NASA?
  • Let's rename NASA to stand for

    NITSEA

    The Navel Introspection and Tile Space Exploration Agency.

    I know this is very important, but can we PLEASE quit with the "Discovery Crew Sneezed: Was a Tile Knocked Out of Place?" threads!? We got damage on EVERY SINGLE ORBITER FLIGHT. Only Columbia's was signficant and severe and should have been looked into when engineers suspected it, but bureaucrats stopped them as they quashed Thiokol's warnings not to fly Challenger in January 1986.

    But this, this is navel lint study
  • If my auto machanic can charge me 100$ an hour to work on my car...

    If I was them, and I made it back ok, I think I might send them a little bill for services rendered.

    The best part is, you could probably charge whatever you like, its not like there are a lot of examples of "Shuttle Repair in Space".

    Heh, that would also sound good on a resume eh?

    "So what makes you think you are suited to work here?"
    "Well Sir, I did repair a space shuttle while in outer space, and then decend in it. I stand by my work!"
  • In the old days, the Shuttle didn't come apart so much. Even the thermal ribbon they "repaired" (by yanking it out and hoping it wasn't necessary after all) has only stuck out a fraction of it's latest malfunction. But it's nice to see NASA at least sensitive enough to public support that they're quick to spin any bad news into public confidence. Let's just hope the engineers don't believe all that management bullshit, and make spacecraft that safely put humans into space and back. Lying government PR is ch

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