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NASA Space Science

Gouge Found on Shuttle Endeavour's Underside 151

SonicSpike writes " NASA has discovered a chunk missing from the underside of the space shuttle Endeavour. It was discovered after the shuttle docked with the ISS earlier today. Technicians theorize it may have been caused by ice ripping free of a fuel take during takeoff. From the article:'The gouge — about 3 inches square — was spotted in zoom-in photography taken by the space station crew shortly before Endeavour delivered teacher-astronaut Barbara Morgan and her six crewmates to the orbiting outpost ... On Sunday, the astronauts will inspect the area, using Endeavour's 100-foot robot arm and extension beam. Lasers on the end of the beam will gauge the exact size and depth of the gouge, Shannon said, and then engineering analyses will determine whether the damage is severe enough to warrant repairs. Radar images show a white spray or streak coming off Endeavour 58 seconds after liftoff. Engineers theorize that if the debris was ice, it pierced the tile and then broke up, scraping the area downwind. Pictures from Friday's photo inspection show downwind scrapes."
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Gouge Found on Shuttle Endeavour's Underside

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  • by CWRUisTakingMyMoney ( 939585 ) on Friday August 10, 2007 @11:13PM (#20192153)
    I wonder how many times this kind of thing happened in the 20-ish years before the Space Shuttle started monitoring its underside like this. Surely this can't be the first time (ignoring Columbia) falling foam has taken a chunk out of the shuttle's heat shielding. IMHO, this is a nearly inevitable side effect of the idiotic design of the shuttle, putting the astronauts next to the fuel and not above it. These kinds of tests and precautions can only be good, but if NASA had stuck with what worked up to that point (astronauts on top of the assembly) instead of changing things up, the tests and worries wouldn't be necessary, and lives would have been saved in 2003, and possibly 1986. Here's hoping this turns out to be inconsequentially small, or at least easily repairable.
  • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) <akaimbatman&gmail,com> on Friday August 10, 2007 @11:23PM (#20192209) Homepage Journal

    It's curtains for them

    Yeah, that's it. That's why NASA has sent up tile repair kits with the crew, and made sure they dock at a space station capable of supporting the astronauts for an extended stay. I'm sure the crew of the Endeavour is quite doomed.</sarcasm>

    Failure is not an option! []
  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) on Saturday August 11, 2007 @12:11AM (#20192497)
    Not only that, but they insist on rolling the shuttle over to fly upside down underneath the main engines which increases the likelihood of debris from the main engines hitting the payload.

          Not at that speed. Gravity becomes negligible when creating vectors compared to the wind resistance. Upside down, vertical, horizontal, it doesn't matter. There's only one real direction: DOWNWIND. That's the only place your debris is going to go.

          Now you could make the argument that some of the streams of air are shaped to blow debris onto the shuttle, that I would buy. Gravity has nothing to do with it, however.
  • by Hamster Lover ( 558288 ) * on Saturday August 11, 2007 @12:13AM (#20192507) Journal
    I once had a little Corolla like the shuttle. Every time I took the car out for any sort of drive I had to re-inflate one of the tires, so eventually I just bought one of those lighter powered air compressors. Eventually I got the money and replaced the tires and soon after the car.

    You would think that with billions of dollars and thousands of talented engineers they could come up with a way of launching the shuttle without having to resort to repairing the damn thing before they can return home again.
  • by Kashkalgar ( 1135029 ) on Saturday August 11, 2007 @12:44AM (#20192691)
    Not necessarily. The terminology 'gouge' could be the result of the overcompensation for the Challenger and Columbia tragedies. Reading the NASA articles carefully, it seems that there 'could' be damage to a heat shielding plate based on computer imaging. If inspection shows damage, then I am sure the ISS crew will be more than happy to host the Astronauts until the repairs are completed, and re-entry has been shown to be safe in the most conservative of minds. My prediction; the Endeavor will arrive home quite safely.
  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Saturday August 11, 2007 @01:08AM (#20192803) Journal

    Because doing what you suggest cost money, taxpayers money. It is an election year (ah, democracy were goverment is paralysed for months before and after an election every two years, might this be the REAL reason countries like Japan, Korea and now China raced ahead of the west so fast?) and you are calling for an increase in spending, and therefore taxation.

    It might be possible to get setup a campaign with that but you would also be the first person in history to actually end up with a negative amount of votes.

    Not saying you are not right, just ain't gonna happen. Not until the Chinese space program becomes news and the US suddenly realizes that it is loosing face and it starts another space race (by setting a goal they can achieve quickly and then loudly shouting that was the goal all along for everyone and claim victory even if some doubters question the actual results (was the US/USSR space race "won" by landing on the moon OR did the russians with the their continued space pressence with MIR really have the most succesfull program?)).

  • by florescent_beige ( 608235 ) on Saturday August 11, 2007 @01:15AM (#20192831) Journal

    NASA doesn't exactly come across as a "crack" outfit anymore...

    I understand why you might say that, but it's a little bit unfair to cast your net that wide.

    At one time in my long and sorted career I participated in a NASA sponsored symposium on UBE [] engines. Have to admit, there was a rush to riding the bus that had NASA written on it, and I had a NASA badge. It was really something, just being associated with that acronym.

    My point is, the young lads and lasses that work for NASA are just pumped to be there. Don't disparage them for feeling that way. It's the older bunch that should know right from wrong, and that's where you have a point, they don't always act like they do.

    NASA has a unique problem engineering-wise, which is that the very name psyches out the people that work there. Anywhere else, a highly qualified young person would feel protected to call bullshit, but not at NASA.

    If I could give any advice to a 20-something working at that place it would be: don't act like you work for a legendary establishment. Act like you work for ACME spaceships Inc. Call it like you see it, and if you find it hard to do think of this: if NASA turfs you out, there are plenty of opportunities for people with those 4 letters on their resume to make obscene amounts of money. So, theres absolutely no reason to worry about your future. Do the right thing.

  • by vought ( 160908 ) on Saturday August 11, 2007 @02:29AM (#20193169)
    The shuttle has become a death trap because NASA has placed image before technological reality.

    Oh, bullshit.

    The shuttle may have been a flawed design to begin with, and that may have been because NASA was concerned with big-budget DoD and pie-in-the-sky programs during the 70s...but practically everything except the shape of the ship has changed since the Shuttle first flew in 1981.

    It hasn't "become" a death trap. Even LEO flight is risky, and the Shuttle is heavy and uses very bleeding-edge technology (still) like throttled H2/LO2 engines. Be honest and argue about the fundamentals of the Shuttle designs, but don't try to bullshit me and claim that things have gotten more dangerous for Shuttle crews now.

    Maybe they should have started Constellation ten years ago - but on the whole, the Shuttle is safer now than it has ever been; in other words, still very dangerous, but less so than before Columbia.

    I apologize for the brusque tone, but it really cheeses me off when people who do nothing but read think they know how complex and difficult manned spaceflight really is - especially with 35-year-old technology.
  • Geography (Score:2, Insightful)

    by lawyer boy ( 152954 ) on Saturday August 11, 2007 @06:36AM (#20194085)
    I live within 50 miles of KSC, so I hate to turn on my fellow central Floridians, but shouldn't NASA consider moving its launch facilities to the desert southwest? Wouldn't the lower humidity mitigate the ice/foam problems? Wouldn't the thinner, drier air of the high desert require at least a little less fuel for launch? I've always assumed that the Cape was chosen as a launch location because it was fairly far to the south and allowed launches over water, but launching over water doesn't seem to be that big of a deal when (a) it doesn't add any additional safety for the astronauts and (b) there are plenty of areas in the desert SW that would allow for launches over uninhabited territories.

    What am I missing?

What this country needs is a good five cent ANYTHING!