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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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  • 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.
  • (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....
  • Lack of worry (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dbhankins ( 688931 ) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @01:36PM (#13241956)
    "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 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 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.

  • by igny ( 716218 ) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @01:45PM (#13242081) Homepage Journal
    How much actually useful work was done by this flight? Most of the work seems to be about testing whether $1bln upgrades are worth a damn. If the future flights would require that much work to be able to safely return, no wonder there is a debate on scrapping the shuttle program.
  • 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.
  • by WillAffleckUW ( 858324 ) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @01:54PM (#13242190) Homepage Journal
    i agree, the slashdot editors should have definitely pointed to or at least if they wanted a link for this.

    but i guess they get ad revenue from those guys or something.
  • by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @01:54PM (#13242193)
    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!
  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @01:55PM (#13242209)
    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 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.

          Also the shuttle flight was extended 1 day so far. This has certain implications for the mission control/tracking staff on the ground - I am sure NASA is not on full staff when they are not flying a mission.

          There is ALWAYS a cost for anything if you're prepared to look for it.
  • 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...
  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @02:26PM (#13242615) Homepage
    Why do people around here like to pretend that NASA hasn't been/isn't working on shuttle replacements? Do the projects "NASP", "X-33", "OSP", and "CEV" not ring any bells?

    The reason NASP and X-33 don't exist is because they called for technology that doesn't exist - congress, the white house, and top NASA brass tried to schedule innovation. OSP was rolled into CEV, and CEV doesn't exist because the project was just started.

    CEV, being rather unambitious, probably *will* come to exist (at least the LEO CEV, which is looking more and more to be different from the lunar CEV, which will in turn be different from the Mars CEV), but I hope that they don't stop research on the "enabling" technologies that were needed for NASP and X-33 that weren't ready yet.
  • Re:Evolution (Score:2, Insightful)

    by boarder8925 ( 714555 ) <thegreentrilby&gmail,com> on Thursday August 04, 2005 @02:27PM (#13242619) Homepage
    Could be better, but I'll sign it anyway:
    Calling moderation is not like calling your shot. The mods are far more fickle than baseball pitchers. ;)
  • 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.
  • by Alex P Keaton in da ( 882660 ) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @04:12PM (#13243848) Homepage
    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 the lives of an astronaut are more important than that of a grunt because of all the training, A: do some research into what it costs to train a grunt and B: soldiers who are willing to go in hot zones (I am talking Marines, infantry etc.) are not easy to come by....
    My point is, and I am aware that the shuttle is a symbol and all, but it is just bad taste to be nitpicking every little thing on a Military Plane (Nasa is part of the DOD) carrying seven people, while soldiers are driving around Iraq in insufficent vehicles..... Sorry if this comes accross as flame bait- but this really chaps my ass.
  • by jafac ( 1449 ) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @05:05PM (#13244513) Homepage
    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-sustaining colony, or a manned mars landing.)

    The reason why the public is disenchanted with the shuttle is because it doesn't have the promotional budget of McDonalds. The public is conditioned by now, not to take anything seriously unless it's a major media event. That runs counter to the "routine" bit about routine space travel. The grand things the shuttle has achieved simply have fallen below the public's "exitement" radar. Maybe NASA should have launched a pop-star. I dunno. I just can't figure out why a permanent manned presence in space isn't exiting to most people, or smashing a comet, or landing on an asteroid.
  • Re:I'd be worried. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Radak ( 126696 ) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @05:14PM (#13244603) Journal
    From a gravitational standpoint, Discovery is parked on top of a very, very big hill, so by your analogy they should be just fine.
  • FLEA (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zogger ( 617870 ) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @05:53PM (#13244994) Homepage Journal
    Forward Light Escort Armored-cancelled right at the last second due to politics, not engineering

    I think after korea, nam and gulf disaster 1, grunts should realise it's a different military service now. Hummvees are big go karts, never designed to be armored, and as such, will never be an adequate vehicle.

    Ever since we stopped actually declaring righteous war,after WW2, it's gone downill fast. Anyone going in now should realise that they are encountering the same corporate boss mindset that drives civilian workplaces,ie, it sucks, there is no loyalty or thought for the "workers", the push is to make maximum profits for the few big corporations who are really running the show, and that's it. the rest is political razzle dazzle smoke and mirrors huckstering. Snake oil politics.
  • by vsprintf ( 579676 ) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @07:22PM (#13245699)

    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.

  • by J05H ( 5625 ) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @07:26PM (#13245727) Homepage
    Rei, I'm with you on this. also keep in mind that the "next gen" projects of the past 20 years have siphoned billions of dollars into the Aerospace Primes, and they have produced NOTHING. There are others billions spent as well: x-34, SLI, SMV. SMV will probably fly, but it's an Air Force project now.

    CEV as family of unrelated vehicles: by the time NASA is ready for Mars, and maybe Luna, there should be commercial solutions (t/space) that negate any viewgraph configurations. They need to keep it simple and robust and GO!


The moon may be smaller than Earth, but it's further away.