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NASA Space

NASA Debates Second Discovery Repair 257

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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  • 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.
  • news source (Score:2, Informative)

    by sHORTYWZ ( 777909 ) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @01:33PM (#13241909) Homepage
    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: []
  • by vertinox ( 846076 ) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @02:02PM (#13242306)
    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.
  • by EvilMidnightBomber ( 778018 ) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @02:06PM (#13242372) Homepage
    A spacewalk is not without risk.

    Indeed. From Wikipedia: EVA hazards []

    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.
  • by jdunlevy ( 187745 ) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @02:12PM (#13242445) Homepage
    Yeah, the "Latest News" at NASA's "Return to Flight" site []:
    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.
  • by twiddlingbits ( 707452 ) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @02:12PM (#13242448)
    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 primary job. In short, I don't think the extra day or the extra spacewalks cost anything. The STS launch is pretty much a fixed cost whether is 1 day or 14 days. As for lost work, they'll just work a few longer hours and get less sleep. Remember you got a 7 person crew and only two did the repairs. I don't think the other 5 sat around and watched!
  • by WillAffleckUW ( 858324 ) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @02:34PM (#13242708) Homepage Journal
    All these little repairs don't leave any time for science. Remember science, the reason that we go to space?

    You mean like fixing the Hubble Space Telescope that most of the public is overwhelmingly behind, instead of the Big Boondoggle Space Station that only the DC beltway insiders care about?

    But that would be logical - and useful.

    Weaponizing space is more important than science ... or at least that's what they think. It's not like Japan and China are in a race to build a moon station while we fiddle around - oh, wait they are.

    Where's the darn [sarcasm] key when you need it ...
  • by Buran ( 150348 ) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @02:48PM (#13242883)
    The View from Here: Lily-Livered Pansies []

    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 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.
  • by iphayd ( 170761 ) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @05:26PM (#13244735) Homepage Journal
    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 shuttle.

    I agree that something else needs to be designed, built, and run. However, we are still in the middle of constructing the ISS, and the last thing we need to do is get rid of our freight vehicle/crew cab.
  • by wasted time ( 891410 ) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @05:33PM (#13244806)
    Well, let's see.

    PDF of STS-114 Mission Overview: ew_july05.pdf []

    NASA provides a ton of information about the shuttle and ISS programs online. You have to go find it. You're not going to see most of this info reported by the general media because it doesnt have all the foolsih drama and it would require research/explanation.

    I've been off all week and have had the chance to watch almost the entire mission on NASA TV as well as crawl their websites. (Yes, I need a shower and shave about now.) They update their website pretty quickly when new events take place and just about anything you could want to know is available by doing a simple search. p [] [] [] []

    It's been interesting to watch the mission and press meetings live and then compare that to the drivel the media spews. The only issue I have with NASA TV is that I have to watch it over the web because my cable operator only offers it with a overpriced package of junk I could care less about. Would be nice if it were freely broadcast, at least when there is an active mission.

  • by J05H ( 5625 ) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @07:05PM (#13245583) Homepage

                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 for the space station). It also costs money because now ANOTHER Shuttle/Soyuz mission will be necessary to get this equipment into orbit or get these experiments done.

    Sorry, bud. No experiments and no space science on this flight. This is an ISS resupply mission and test flight. The closest thing to "experiments" are the examination of the Shuttle TPS and the material tests in the cargo bay. Except for the spacewalks, which are man-power intensive, the majority of the work is unloading the MPLM and repacking it. Space Science has largely ceased in the Shuttle-Station system - it is engineering/construction at this point. The ISS crew has extremely limited time for science (10hrs/wk or less lately) and except for the final Columbia flight most Shuttle missions the past few years have been station assembly.

    As far as "cost", you are right. Actual money as a measure doesn't really work, but adding spacewalks definitely hits the assembly schedule or other projects. The time hit the extra spacewalks caused wouldn't cause another mission to added, it would stretch this one out. If the MPLM repacking were delayed, they still need it ready before coming home.

    Not the crew itinerary, but pretty close. No science involved: line.html []

  • by Buran ( 150348 ) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @07:34PM (#13245772)
    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 prove the scientists right, but in the end, there was no blame to place there except on those who do not listen but should.

    In this case, the blame lies on those who should know better than to make idiotic statements of the sort they make.
  • by NOLAChief ( 646613 ) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @11:03PM (#13246762)
    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 congressional committee, cant remember which), but is still in no way connected to the military budget.

"Never give in. Never give in. Never. Never. Never." -- Winston Churchill