NASA: Discovery Escaped Serious Damage
Am I the only one who is more than irritated about this.
SPACE CENTER, Houston – Discovery seems to have been spared serious damage from the foam shrapnel that flew off the fuel tank during liftoff in an eerie repeat of the problem that doomed Columbia and appears in good shape for a safe return in just over a week, NASA said Thursday.
“Some good news is, it looks like all of the foam loss that we had from the tank did not hit the orbiter,” flight operations manager John Shannon said a day after future shuttle flights were grounded because of the problem.
Shannon noted that all initial reports indicate “it looks extremely good and we don’t have anything to worry about on Discovery.” But he cautioned that it will be another three days before the space agency can conclusively give the shuttle a clean bill of health.
Earlier in the morning, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said the space agency may never be able to prevent threatening chunks of insulation foam from breaking off the shuttle’s fuel tank during launch.
“We are trying to get it down to the level that cannot damage the orbiter,” Griffin told NBC’s “Today.” “We will never be able to get the amount of debris shed by the tank down to zero,” he said.”
This is ridiculous. How would you like to be stuck in a tin can with the knowledge that the crew before you were made into human smores because of an accident and that you are at risk for the same problem.
“The loss of such a large chunk of debris â€” nearly a pound â€” was a vexing problem NASA thought had been fixed and shattered the euphoria from Tuesday’s shuttle launch, the first in 2 1/2 years. The redesign of the fuel tank was the focal point of the space agency’s $1 billion-plus effort to make the 20-year-old space shuttles safer to fly following the 2003 Columbia tragedy.”
This is wrong. I am a huge supporter of the space program but there is no reason that we cannot improve upon the past. Yet here we are again.
“The piece of foam flew off Discovery’s redesigned tank just two minutes after what initially looked like a perfect liftoff, right after the booster rockets peeled away. But in less than an hour NASA had spotted images of a mysterious object whirling away from the tank.
Mission managers did not realize what the object was â€” or how much havoc it would cause â€” until Wednesday after reviewing video and images taken by just a few of the 100-plus cameras in place to watch for such dangers.
Shuttle program manager Bill Parsons offered no excuses, saying, “You have to admit when you’re wrong. We were wrong.”
Engineers believe the irregularly sized piece of foam that came off was 24 to 33 inches long, 10 to 14 inches wide, and between 2 and 8 inches thick. It weighed an estimated 0.9 pounds, about half the mass of the 1.67-pound chunk that smashed into Columbia’s left wing during liftoff. The plate-sized hole let in superheated gases that caused the shuttle to break up on its return to Earth on Feb. 1, 2003.”
Can you see me shaking my head.
“On Discovery, the foam broke away from a different part of the tank than the piece that mortally wounded Columbia.
In addition to the big chunk of foam, several smaller pieces broke off, including at least one from an area of the fuel tank that had been modified after Columbia. Thermal tile was also damaged on Discovery’s belly soon after liftoff; one tile lost a 1 1/2-inch piece right next to the set of doors for the nose landing gear, a particularly vulnerable spot.
Deputy shuttle manager Wayne Hale said none of the tile damage looked serious and likely would not require repairs in orbit.
Imagery experts and engineers expect to know by Thursday afternoon whether the gouge left by the missing piece of tile â€” or anything else â€” needs another look. The astronauts’ inspection boom could determine precisely how deep the damage is, and they will probably pull it back out Friday.”
I am still shaking it. There is something very very wrong here and we need to do better.