Flying the friendly space of NASA
The shuttle Discovery, like Columbia, lost a large chunk of foam debris during liftoff that could have threatened the return of the seven astronauts, NASA said Wednesday. While there are no signs the piece of insulation damaged the spacecraft, NASA is grounding future shuttle flights until the hazard can be fixed.
“Call it luck or whatever, it didn’t harm the orbiter,” said shuttle program manager Bill Parsons. If the foam had broken away earlier in flight — when the atmosphere is thicker, increasing the acceleration and likelihood of impact — it could have caused catastrophic damage to Discovery. “We think that would have been really bad, so it’s not acceptable,” said Parsons’ deputy, Wayne Hale. He said every indication so far is that Discovery is safe for its return home.
Uhhhh…really bad? That instills mucho confidence. One can only hope they don’t have CNN in the shuttle so that the astronauts up there don’t break into a sweat.
If NASA was an airline, it would be permanently grounded. All those hundreds of engineers just can’t fix this damn thing to make it passenger-worthy, I was over at The Alternate Brain today, where The Fixer posted the following about the launch before this grounding news came out:
Head guy: Wow, we got it up there.
Other guy: Yeah, now we have to check for damage from the shit falling off. Is it because I fix things for a living, or does anybody else have a problem with this?
[. . .]
A 1 1/2-inch-wide bit of tile captured on camera appeared to fly off the shuttless belly, on the edge of a door that encloses the nose landing gear. It was not clear if the tile had been struck by anything. Pieces of tile, which protect the shuttle from searing heat on return to Earth, have been lost on past flights without preventing a safe homecoming. [my emphasis]
[. . .]
If an inch and a half piece of tile can critically damage the fucking thing, why the fuck is it flying? Especially since little shit falls off the thing constantly on takeoff.
As I said at over at The Brain, Is there no QA with this thing? Besides the fact that the same problem occurred this time with the foam breaking off, they still didn’t fix the fuel indicator problem that grounded it last week — NASA couldn’t find the source of the anomoly. So they launch anyway, since it was a redundant system. Is that like kicking the tires or just rebooting the computer? What are our tax dollars paying for?