Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
NASA Space

Images of Endeavour's Damaged Tiles 331

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the that-sure-doesn't-look-good dept.
Roland Piquepaille writes "Neptec Design Group, a Canadian company and a NASA prime contractor for 25 space missions, was kind enough to send me exclusive images of Endeavour's damaged tiles during its last take-off. So here are some of these pictures" The pictures are pretty amazing and make the urgency of this whole thing much more amazing.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Images of Endeavour's Damaged Tiles

Comments Filter:
  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:00AM (#20235927)
    This kind of damage MUST have been occurring throughout the history of the program. And, if it has been NASA would have been aware during the regular retiling of the Shuttle. My question is why wasn't the ice impact problem wasn't addressed long ago.
    • by arkham6 (24514) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:09AM (#20236063)
      Very good point. I remember back in the early 80's news reports of the shuttle coming back with 1/3rd of the tiles being gone due to faulty glue. Even when they didn't need to repalce the tiles so much, I'm sure they HAD to go over every inch with a fine tooth comb, and I'm sure that more than once they found some with holes from damage, either ice or micrometers. This whole "omg teh tiles have holes in them' thing is a reaction to the columbia disaster, and a way to show the media that 'yes, we are aware of the issue'.
      • Turn in your geek card. It wasn't the 80's, and the shuttle wasn't coming back because it hadn't been to space. It was the Enterprise, it was the 70's, and it was during the development of the shuttle.
        • by tgd (2822) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:47AM (#20236633)
          But his overall point is quite correct -- every single shuttle mission came back with missing and damaged tiles.

          Most of the shuttle is not under the same level of thermal load as the front edges of the wings during re-entry. Columbia got unlucky that the damage was at the worst possible spot.

          Its a bad design, but the whole shuttle is an awful design. Most of the time it works, though.

          IMO, this is a reaction to Columbia and a dramatically reduced interest in the shuttle program. For ten years launches barely got reported. Its nice (for the continuance of the shuttle program) for people to be talking about it.

          Plus, for those who haven't seen a shuttle tile up close, they're not very big. Thats not a six inch gash in there.
    • by igjeff (15314)
      Actually, some of the comments are that there is at least a perception that ice damage has increased since the return to flight after Columbia.

      The thought is that since they've added an extra hour into the countdown after the external tank is fueled that there is a longer time for ice to build up, and then a great tendency for it to break off and smack the orbiter.

      Oh, and for another tidbit. Ice, since its denser, and heavier than the insulating foam, is a bigger problem than the foam is when it breaks off
      • wrong (Score:5, Informative)

        by everphilski (877346) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:25AM (#20236307) Journal
        Oh, and for another tidbit. Ice, since its denser, and heavier than the insulating foam, is a bigger problem than the foam is when it breaks off. It takes a smaller chunk of ice to break off and smack the orbiter to cause an equivalent amount of damager to a larger chunk of foam.

        Foam does more damage than ice. Ice is dense and keeps its velocity high, which translates to a low velocity relative to the shuttle. Foam on the other hand is much less dense and slows down very quickly, translating to high velocities relative to the shuttle.

        Remember, kinetic energy = 0.5 * mass * V^2. Velocity is what kills, not mass.
        • by igjeff (15314)
          Ok, I'll buy that as being possible.

          Only parroting comments I heard from folks while watching NASA TV (I've been playing with multicast on our network and NASA TV is a nice good stream to multicast around). Perhaps I should've clarified that statement as also being comments that I had heard from relatively authoritative sources...I don't mean to make any claims of absolutely truth on it.

          There were also some references (if I remember correctly) to the velocity of whatever substance impacting the orbiter was
          • That's not to say that ice does not cause damage; just that the physics of the flow field cause the foam to be more damaging contrary to intuition. It is pretty much consensus that a suitcase-sized piece of foam did Columbia in, and most sources I've heard this week are citing foam although I have heard ice thrown around.
        • by Thuktun (221615)

          Foam does more damage than ice. Ice is dense and keeps its velocity high, which translates to a low velocity relative to the shuttle. Foam on the other hand is much less dense and slows down very quickly, translating to high velocities relative to the shuttle.

          This argument makes no sense to me.

          Ignoring air resistance, which won't be much different for similarly-shaped pieces, once detached from the shuttle, pieces of ice and foam would accelerate towards the ground at the same rate. The shuttle continues to accelerate upwards at the same rate relative to the two. Ice has higher density and would thereby accumulate consequently higher momentum and greater kinetic energy than the foam. Since ice is also much harder and would deform less, it would clearly be th

          • Re:wrong (Score:4, Interesting)

            by everphilski (877346) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @10:21AM (#20237131) Journal
            Ignoring air resistance, which won't be much different for similarly-shaped pieces, once detached from the shuttle, pieces of ice and foam would accelerate towards the ground at the same rate.

            You can't ignore air resistance at low altitudes (the impact happened in the first 2 minutes) at supersonic speeds! Acceleration due to gravity is negligible due to the timeframe, we are talking fractions of a second. So for similarly shaped pieces, the drag force will be similar. The lighter piece, foam being much lighter than ice, will slow down very quickly. Now we approach the shuttle which has not slowed down. We have a large speed differential between the foam and the shuttle, whereas between the ice and the shuttle, there is very little speed difference.
        • Lets solve this the old fashioned way with a snowball fight. Everyone on the 'foam is the cause' over to the left tile castle, and start throwing the foam balls. Everyone on the 'ice is the cause' over to the right tile castle, and start throwing the snow balls.
    • Is it possible to find a way to launch the shuttle with the belly facing AWAY from the main tank? That way any impacts from ice or foam would strike surfaces not critical for reentry.
      • Sure. Just open the cargo bay doors, mount the tank to braces on the inside and you'll solve the problem.

        Granted, you won't be able to carry any cargo but at least you won't have to worry about falling bits of foam striking surfaces critical for reentry.
        • Seeing as they have figured out how to attach the braces without compromising the heat shields I would guess engineers could figure out a way to do it without eliminating the cargo bay.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by YrWrstNtmr (564987)
        Is it possible to find a way to launch the shuttle with the belly facing AWAY from the main tank?

        Sure, if you redesign the entire thing. That tail sticking up kinda screws that idea.

        That way any impacts from ice or foam would strike surfaces not critical for reentry.

        'Non critical'. Like the windshields, flight controls, thinner skin of the body. Non critical stuff like that.
        • Or moving the tank up past the tail fin and protecting only vital areas such as the cabin. The windshield is already heavily reinforced to protect against small orbital debris. You have to think of unconventional alternatives sometimes.
          • Or moving the tank up past the tail fin and protecting only vital areas such as the cabin.

            Again, you'd have to redesign the whole thing. The belly of the ship is like the frame on your car. The strongest part. You couldn't bolt the axles of your car to the roof, flip it over, and drive around. The roof would collapse. Similarly, you couldn't bolt the tank to the top skin of it, without major redesign.

            The best way would be scrapping the side-by-side design altogether, and going with a stack. Which they a
  • Endeavour: (Score:5, Funny)

    by kaleco (801384) <.moc.tenretnitb. .ta. .2llahsram.gierg.> on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:01AM (#20235943)
    "it's just a flesh wound"
  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:01AM (#20235949)
    On NPR this morning, I heard that NASA was actually debating whether or not to even address this, as they did not want to go to all the trouble and spoil the shuttle's schedule.

    This sounded especially insane to me...if NASA loses another shuttle because of this same tile-damage problem, and because they couldn't be bothered to take the time to fix the problem when they could have, it will be the end of NASA.
    • by datan (659165) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:06AM (#20236027) Homepage
      maybe we should leave the rocket scientist stuff to real rocket scientists...
      • by russ1337 (938915)
        >>>... maybe we should leave the rocket scientist stuff to real rocket scientists...

        I dunno. I think the Slashdot crowd would make for interesting space program management.

        Couldn't be much worse....
        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:24AM (#20236299)
          It always amuses me how the masses sitting on the sidelines always feel they can do better then the trained professionals. I'm assuming you've already done the calculations between risk of the loss of them doing a spacewalk vs tile damage, where the tile is positioned, and taken into account the fact before Columbia that tiles fell off without incident. I could be wrong, but I'm just as qualified as you are. So is the guy I bought a hotdog from yesturday for that matter.

          This would be like my mom telling me she can do computer support better then me. She's a smart lady, but her KNOWLEDGE level when it comes to Computers is low.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Stormcrow309 (590240)

            As a trained project manager,I have to take issue with this statement. I do think that NASA suffers from management who makes risk calculations with too much consideration of 'the schedule' verses the risk of life. However, NASA has done a valid risk mitigation step by examining the shuttle after takeoff and trying to determine what to do. Most sensible people can do the risk management required by asking a few questions. What is the risks? What are the chance of those risks being realized? How can we mitig

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by pragma_x (644215)

          I think the Slashdot crowd would make for interesting space program management.

          Poll: Preferred Shuttle Heat-Shield Repair Technology
          • NASA developed tile repair goo
          • Spare heat-shield tiles
          • Switch to ablative shielding instead
          • Inanimate carbon rod
          • Modulated tachyon pulse
          • Whatever Cowboy Neil had for lunch
    • by grommit (97148) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:13AM (#20236123)
      You do realize that the Shuttle has landed many times before the Columbia disaster with whole tiles missing. This most likely is a non-issue although I'm glad NASA is treating it seriously. Besides, these tiles are on the belly of the orbiter. The damaged RCC panels on Columbia were on the leading edge of a wing where there are greater temperatures on reentry.

      I don't think you realize the inherent danger in attempting to fix these either.
      • by YGingras (605709)
        Can't they plug the hole with some kind of high-tech epoxy goo? I'm sure that avoiding the extra air turbulence that this hole will generate can't hurt.
      • by jafac (1449) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @11:11AM (#20237793) Homepage
        I still feel strongly that they should attempt a repair, in this case.

        First and foremost - if there is a small chance of catastrophic loss of vehicle, then measures should be taken to prevent that.

        But Secondly - and possibly more importantly; how many more shuttle flights will there be? What if there is more serious damage on the next flight? And we still have never tested the repair techniques?

        I think that this damage is a perfect opportunity for NASA to do what it does best: testing new aerospace technologies - and in this case, repair of shuttle heat-shield damage. The repair job will be a great opportunity to learn new EVA skills and techniques. After the shuttle is safely down, the repair job can be studied, and evaluated for how it held up during re-entry, and I think that is valuable science that wouldn't otherwise be done.

        To *not* repair this damage, is short-sighted in two ways: It's hoping that the damage to Endeavor isn't fatal, and it's hoping that the next mission to get damaged, also does not require repairs, and if it does, that we will get the repair right the first time, when we've never ever done anything remotely like it before.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Lumpy (12016)
        greater tempreatures AND pressure differentials. at the leading edges the pressure differential from outside the wing to the inside is HUGE a gap will cause the heat to be sucked into the wing area. Basically the problem happened because everything that could have gone wrong and caused the failure, happened. It was bad damage, and was at a location that enhanced the problem during reentry.

        Honestly it could be fixed with a loss of payload capacity, put in an emergency ablative system in place, a set of mi
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by everphilski (877346)
      They are in the wind tunnel doing test studies on a similar gouge crafted from the laser data taken on Monday. The Shuttle people know what they are doing. You have to remember, this gouge was downgraded from the size stated earlier this week, its only about the size of a business card, half the size that was being reported on Monday and less a quarter of the size that was thought to have dealt Columbia in.

      You also have to consider position. This is at the very rear of the vehicle. Reentry heating evironm
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by couchslug (175151)
      "it will be the end of NASA."

      Good. Space exploration is more important than a few casualties. If we must lose a Shuttle to dump that idiotic program, than that's what it takes. It's time we got rid of the desire to shove humans out in front of unmanned systems, but people are stupid so it may take a bloody nose.

      NASA can turn into something else, because the people running it have the wrong priorities.
      We don't need meat in space right now because it is a drag on techno-evolution.
      Manned systems must have slow
    • it will be the end of NASA.

      Or the end of the space shuttle, which wouldn't be such a bad thing.
  • Is it so urgent? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FishWithAHammer (957772) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:01AM (#20235953)
    Perhaps I'm missing something (and I'm sure I am), but perhaps this is something of a blessing?

    Leave Endeavour in orbit. Compared to the big-mother boosters, the shuttle itself does not require a lot of fuel, and given the smaller size of the next-generation craft we're looking at, I could see a use for a "space truck" the size of Endeavour, even after the shuttle program does out the door.

    Just send up something else to bring them home.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Brane2 (608748)
      There is "only" one problem with that suggestion: Shuttle can't stay indefinitely in orbit.
      IIRC it is rated for week or two at the most.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Boilermaker84 (896573)
        It is a resource issue. This mission is 14 days with some additional days in reserve for bad weather issues with landing. That limitation is mostly a crew environment issue (need to generate water and oxygen, have food on hand, etc.)

        The vehicle could stay up longer in an unmanned configuration, but still has limited fuel resources to run the OMS. The shuttle just isn't designed to go anywhere but orbit and back.
      • More like a month or two, disconnected from ISS, though it would not be fun. If shit hit the fan, the backup plan is to fast-track the next orbiter for a rescue mission. Or at least that is my understanding.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Himring (646324)
      I could see a use for a "space truck"

      The Space Shuttles are more like "space tubes."

    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @02:07PM (#20240061) Homepage
      I could see a use for a "space truck" the size of Endeavour, even after the shuttle program does out the door.

      Oh sure, but you know how it is. As soon as your buddies find out you have a space truck they'll want you to help move their space sofas into their new space condo.
  • Exclusive images? (Score:5, Informative)

    by jdhutchins (559010) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:02AM (#20235969)
    I wouldn't call those too exclusive.... look at the "3D Video of Endeavour Tile Damage" video on this page: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/main/ind ex.html [nasa.gov]
    • look at the "3D Video of Endeavour Tile Damage" video on this page [of nasa's website]

      Or on Neptec's own website [neptec.com].

      Why can't slashdot accept stories that directly link to the content, instead of forcing us to go through Roland's inane commentary?

    • by MobyDisk (75490)
      When did NASA start using RealVideo? I thought they used to use standard formats. Yay, my tax dollars at work undermining standards to prop-up proprietary formats.
  • by ExE122 (954104) * on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:02AM (#20235971) Homepage Journal
    I bet those are pictures of Roland's bathroom floor.

    --
    Capitalism: When it uses the carrot, it's called democracy. When it uses the stick, its called facism.
  • It's only two tiles that are damaged, but how big are they in the first place?
    They're not done running simulations for the effect on re-entry, but that non-smooth edge between the two damaged tiles in the gouge would worry me no matter the outcome with that much more friction and eddying.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jridley (9305)
      If they're typical tiles and they haven't drastically changed things from the demo they have down in Florida that I looked at 10 years ago, they're 3 or 4 inches on a side. The NPR story this morning said the gouge was 3" long.

      It looks borderline to me. I think they've successfully landed with much bigger gouges or missing tiles in the past, but it probably depends on WHERE the gouge is. If it's in a flat part of the belly, it's probably not a problem. If it's near a leading edge, more of a problem.
      • by wytcld (179112)

        it probably depends on WHERE the gouge is

        Where, and what the turbulence pattern will be there, and how much heat will be directed right to that small spot of bare metal skin. Then there's the question of whether they have good enough computer models to predict that to any accuracy; or whether minute changes in angle-of-approach and so forth render the chances essentially random. Since they have a patch kit, they'll be fools not to use it - unless the patch could itself deform into a funnel channeling the fi

  • by roman_mir (125474) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:04AM (#20236005) Homepage Journal

    Image 1 [blogsforcompanies.com]
    Thermal Image [blogsforcompanies.com]
    Image 2 [blogsforcompanies.com]
    Image 3 [blogsforcompanies.com]
    Image extracted from a video made by Neptec LCS [blogsforcompanies.com]
    • by pragma_x (644215)
      The thermal images you linked have to be the scariest of the the set. The center of the gash is clearly not insulated as it's a dramatically different temperature than the exposed tile material around it. IMO, it illustrates how bad the situation is better than the optical images we've all become familiar with thus far.

      I'm convinced. Attempting to land this orbiter without repair would be like attempting the same with the windows open.
  • by cryfreedomlove (929828) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:13AM (#20236135)
    I like the fact that our society is open enough that this information and this debate is public. There are many governments in this world today who would not allow this information to be released and would make the decision based on cloaked objectives and goals. The USA has its problems (e.g. the stupidity of Iraq) but it sets us apart that this is happening in the open. Nobody is going to get arrested for debating or questioning this intense and sensitive topic.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Thank you for your comment. It has been analyzed and approved by the NSA and the CIA. A copy of your comment (and your voting record) will be kept on backup indefinately at our Langley VA storage facility.
  • Without a scale... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:19AM (#20236225) Journal
    Without a scale to compare to, the gouge looks HUGE and devastating.

    I've heard on the radio that they are discussing a roughly 3" scrape....which, if scaled to the longest axis, is objectively pretty small, but when considered against the turbulence, heat, and pressure that those belly tiles are faced with? It looks huge and devastating again.

    Those astronauts have balls of steel if they ride that thing down again.
    • by Volante3192 (953645) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:34AM (#20236431)
      Astronauts have balls of steel to begin with. Two sets. You're sitting, surrounded by just how much in explosive fuel? Blasted into one of the most uninhabitable climates for human survival. (Ranks up there with volcano caldera and bottom of ocean...) Then set on a 100 mile free fall course to the Earth, the same trip many meteors take, and burn up well before hitting the ground most of the time.

      And yet I so want to do it for myself...
      • Astronauts have balls of steel to begin with. Two sets. You're sitting, surrounded by just how much in explosive fuel?

        Smart and Brave, hell the thought of sitting on two sets of steel balls both confuses me and puts fear in my heart.

        Of course I'm sure when they're old their sacks hand down to their ankles.

      • Don't forget the stomach of steel too... can you imagine what it feels like to be permanently suspended in the "barfy" state that most upside-down roller coasters do for just an instant?
      • OK, what's the original quote, and was it Shepard or Glenn? Or was this just too good a line for any of the Right Stuff mob to pass up?

        "When reporters asked Shepard what he thought about as he sat atop the Redstone rocket, waiting for liftoff, he had replied, 'The fact that every part of this ship was built by the low bidder.'"

        "I felt about as good as anybody would, sitting in a capsule on top of a rocket that were both built by the lowest bidder." (Senator John Glenn, Colonel USMC, Retired)

        "It's a very sobering feeling to be up in space and realize that one's safety factor was determined by the lowest bidder on a government contract." -- Alan Shepard.
  • More information (Score:2, Informative)

    More information on the size and use of the anti-heat tiles or High-temperature reusable surface insulation (HRSI) can be found in this article on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_shuttle_thermal _protection_system [wikipedia.org]

    It seems they are not that big, and I do not think one or 2 damaged tiles whould have a massive effect on the safety of the shuttle. However if someone leaked that tiles were damaged (no matter how few tiles) and NASA did not act on it, the public would be outraged. So perhaps NASA th
  • *Yawn* (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:35AM (#20236449)
    Those are some dinky little low resolution pics. Here's one of Endeavor with the Earth as backdrop [nasa.gov], today's NASA "Image of the day". Yesterday's [nasa.gov] is spacewalking astronaut Rick Mastracchio fixing something outside the space station. Here it is [nasa.gov] taking off, and here's another liftoff pic. [nasa.gov] These are all of the present mission that's still up there inspecting tiles. Here [nasa.gov] is the "Image of the day" gallery. These are bigassed, high resolution pictures, most of them breathtaking.

    -mcgrew
  • Delicate tiles (Score:5, Informative)

    by electromaggot (597134) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:38AM (#20236487)
    What's interesting is how delicate the tiles are. I saw a presentation by a NASA guy some time ago and I was allowed to hold the tiles. They're extremely light, almost feeling like their core is some kind of foam. The black ceramic layer on top is surprisingly thin.

    I asked the presenter specifically about how delicate they felt. He then "flicked"/snapped the tile with his finger/fingernail, which put a sizeable dent into the tile, easily cracking the brittle black layer, and you could see the white foam underneath.

    Therefore, it's no surprise to me to see this kind of damage. It probably wasn't even impacted with what could be considered excessive force.

    Makes you wonder what kind of tile damage shuttles had -- all those successfully landed shuttle missions -- before such close scrutiny.
  • by LordSnooty (853791) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:43AM (#20236579)
    Blimey, he's done well for himself. All those /. links to his blog did some good.
  • Okay, this is a silly thing to point out, but it is driving me crazy. Why on earth does Roland P.'s portrait on ZDNet have obviously drawn-in yellow glasses???
    • by Radon360 (951529)

      When I saw those ugly yellow frames along with the yellow shirt and plastered comb-over, the first thought that crossed my mind was he's gunning for a role in one of those Vytorin commercials (you know, where they compare a person with a goofy wardrobe with some entree). The question is, what dish would they match him up with? A banana split?

  • As part of reinstating the Shuttle fleet, didn't NASA put a repair kit onboard for just this type of thing? If they say it's not a big deal I'd have to believe them, it's probably a very common occurrence. However, how hard can it be to go EVA and trowel in some space-spackle just to cover their butts?
  • Ol' Bricks and Wings (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Paulrothrock (685079) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @09:58AM (#20236777) Homepage Journal

    It's sad that we have to do this on EVERY launch when we had developed a perfectly good system where the heat shield was covered for the entire time it wasn't in use.

    What, precisely, was wrong with the capsule system that necessitated the development of something that can *gasp* glide to a landing? How have we saved money by building a reusable craft when it costs a billion dollars a launch?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by geekoid (135745)
      "...was wrong with the capsule system that necessitated the development of something that can *gasp* glide to a landing? "

      Size, risk, recovery costs. Well, when you calculate the cost of a single use capsule that can make deliveries to the Space Station, launch satellite, used to repair satellites, THEN you can do a cost analysis. Saying we have or have not 'lost' money compared to some non-existent thing, or that using a capsule wouldn't have cost more lives is a logical fallacy.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by scharkalvin (72228)
      At the time of its' design, the Space Shuttle made a lot of sense. The original concept called for full horizontal takeoff and landing with ALL parts being reusable. Due to cost over runs we ended up with the system we currently have. The original idea was to have an air breathing booster taking off from a runway which would fly up to the top of the stratosphere at which point it would switch to rocket power and climb up to a sub-orbital arc and release the orbiter. The 'booster-naults' would then guide

Top Ten Things Overheard At The ANSI C Draft Committee Meetings: (2) Thank you for your generous donation, Mr. Wirth.

Working...