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Friday, August 10, 2007

Space Shuttled “Gouged”

posted by on August 10 at 17:40 PM

A couple of decades after the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded—that was the shuttle with the school teacher on board—NASA finally managed to successfully get a school teacher into orbit yesterday. But will they be able to get her back down?

NASA discovered a worrisome gouge on Endeavour’s belly soon after the shuttle docked with the international space station Friday, possibly caused by ice that broke off the fuel tank a minute after liftoff.

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.

“What does this mean? I don’t know at this point,” said John Shannon, chairman of the mission management team.

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Hmmm. Was this very widely covered in the media lately? I've been hiding from mass media, so I'm not sure. I'm wondering if they downplayed it in case something happened or I was just oblivious.

I remember I was seven when the Challenger exploded and it was a very traumatic thing. The teachers at school had been building it up and we were going to watch tv footage of it. It was pretty darn shocking really. It's the first "national tragedy" I have memory of. Later I moved to Auburn in junior high and even though seven years had passed there was still a great awareness as the memory of Dick Scobee lurked about there. I sincerely hope that the lady makes it back safely. It's also interesting that they stayed with the same lady instead of picking someone else.

Posted by Nay | August 10, 2007 6:23 PM

Another teacher slips the surly bonds of earth and touches the face of god, alas probably wearing Pampers if NASA's track record is any indication.

Posted by kinaidos | August 10, 2007 7:08 PM

They're not entirely without options here: if Endeavor isn't capable of making a landing, the astronauts can come down in Soyuz capsules. It's a bumpy ride, but statistically rather safer.

(Do I even need to mention that the Shuttle should have been retired 15 years ago?)

Posted by Doctor Memory | August 10, 2007 8:04 PM

Our "space exploration" is like a caveman splashing in a shallow pond.

The shuttle is a death trap, which everybody knew from the start:

Posted by Chris | August 10, 2007 8:11 PM

Well, Chris, you get what you pay for.

DM @ 3, I'm holding judgement until they get a closer look at the area, and there's always the possibility of doing an EVA to further inspect, and if necessary attempt to effect a repair. Then it's a question of whether MC decides the fix is sufficient to warrant de-orbit.

If it's not, it does bring up an interesting dilemma, because if as you say, the crew has to come down in Soyuz, that also means they'll be forced to leave Endeavor docked with ISS until NASA can figure out what to do with it.

Posted by COMTE | August 10, 2007 9:13 PM

The shuttle is a "death trap"? In case you haven't noticed, maned (sorry ECB... "Astronaughted") space flight is an incredibly complicated and dangerous business, regardless of the vehicle used. Of the 118 shuttle flights, there have been two tragic accidents. When you think about the millions of parts and pieces, and the many thousands of things that must go right each and every time... I think it's incredible that more people haven't perished. Show a little pride. Those people up there have balls, big ones.... and I admire them for riding that thing up there, regardless of how rickety it might be.

Posted by david | August 10, 2007 10:05 PM

It's ridiculous that we don't have a better way of getting into space and back by now.

Posted by Gabriel | August 11, 2007 5:07 AM

I think it would have been a lot smarter to launch the teacher into space some time when -- I dunno - REGULAR SCHOOL IS IN SESSION so that lots of kids could follow it.

Posted by mr. ryan | August 11, 2007 11:04 AM

Well, hopefully they remembered to bring a roll or two of duct tape with them. Duct tape fixes everything.

Posted by Boomer in NYC | August 11, 2007 2:10 PM

I am always alarmed by a "worrisome gouge", whether it be in space, or here on Capitol Hill.

Posted by It's Mark Mitchell | August 11, 2007 10:32 PM

I was in school when it happened, too. They made an announcement, and some of us got to go to the library and watch the footage that they were playing on the news. It was just devastating - I can still see the images of it in my head.

Posted by wench | August 11, 2007 11:43 PM

At least there's a space station for them to dock with -- that was my first thought. Imagine if they found that the shuttle was too badly damaged for a safe re-entry, and they had no other way to get home?

And yes... the tech used to build the shuttles is way out of date. They can probably build something now that is safer. I think they even have designed something better and safer, but NASA lacks the funds to develop it.

Posted by Toby | August 13, 2007 7:55 AM

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