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Images of Endeavour's Damaged Tiles

CmdrTaco posted more than 7 years ago | from the that-sure-doesn't-look-good dept.

NASA 331

Roland Piquepaille writes "Neptec Design Group, a Canadian company and a NASA prime contractor for 25 space missions, was kind enough to send me exclusive images of Endeavour's damaged tiles during its last take-off. So here are some of these pictures" The pictures are pretty amazing and make the urgency of this whole thing much more amazing.

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Roland (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20235909)

Maybe they can patch it with Roland. His sacrifice will be noted.

Re:Roland (2, Funny)

Mannerism (188292) | more than 7 years ago | (#20235965)

Nay, 'tis not to be. Like Lance before him, he too shall continue to plague the Earth's surface.

Re:Roland (0, Offtopic)

BladeMelbourne (518866) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236011)

The Slashdot spam, Hawaiian shirt and queer glasses means Roland will never be in space. I like the idea of a Roland sacrifice though ;-)

Spamking (-1, Troll)

BladeMelbourne (518866) | more than 7 years ago | (#20235917)

Roland - still the Slashdot spamking.

This image explains a lot...
http://i.zdnet.com/images/ms/rpiqepaille_105x110.j pg [zdnet.com]

AAPL to LOSE 20% by end of trading TODAY !! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20236019)


AAPL to LOSE 20% by end of trading TODAY !!

Sell/cover your ass !! or stay away from open windows of great height because you WILL LOSE !!

How long has this been happening? (5, Interesting)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 7 years ago | (#20235927)

This kind of damage MUST have been occurring throughout the history of the program. And, if it has been NASA would have been aware during the regular retiling of the Shuttle. My question is why wasn't the ice impact problem wasn't addressed long ago.

Re:How long has this been happening? (4, Insightful)

arkham6 (24514) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236063)

Very good point. I remember back in the early 80's news reports of the shuttle coming back with 1/3rd of the tiles being gone due to faulty glue. Even when they didn't need to repalce the tiles so much, I'm sure they HAD to go over every inch with a fine tooth comb, and I'm sure that more than once they found some with holes from damage, either ice or micrometers. This whole "omg teh tiles have holes in them' thing is a reaction to the columbia disaster, and a way to show the media that 'yes, we are aware of the issue'.

Re:How long has this been happening? (3, Informative)

MarsDefenseMinister (738128) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236235)

Turn in your geek card. It wasn't the 80's, and the shuttle wasn't coming back because it hadn't been to space. It was the Enterprise, it was the 70's, and it was during the development of the shuttle.

Re:How long has this been happening? (5, Interesting)

tgd (2822) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236633)

But his overall point is quite correct -- every single shuttle mission came back with missing and damaged tiles.

Most of the shuttle is not under the same level of thermal load as the front edges of the wings during re-entry. Columbia got unlucky that the damage was at the worst possible spot.

Its a bad design, but the whole shuttle is an awful design. Most of the time it works, though.

IMO, this is a reaction to Columbia and a dramatically reduced interest in the shuttle program. For ten years launches barely got reported. Its nice (for the continuance of the shuttle program) for people to be talking about it.

Plus, for those who haven't seen a shuttle tile up close, they're not very big. Thats not a six inch gash in there.

Re:How long has this been happening? (0)

SomeGuyTyping (751195) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236115)

They used to use different materials to manufacture and adhere the foam on the external tank, but environmentalist groups got their way and now we have a riskier space program.

Re:How long has this been happening? (5, Informative)

SomeGuyTyping (751195) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236207)

from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_extern al_tank):

Development of the ETs thermal protection system has been problematic, and has proven a fatal weakness to shuttle mission safety. NASA has had difficulty preventing fragments of foam from detaching during flight, ever since a 1995 decision to remove chlorofluorocarbon-11 (CFC-14) from the composition of the foam in compliance with an Environmental Protection Agency ban on CFCs under section 610 of the Clean Air Act. In its place, a hydrochlorofluorocarbon known as HCFC 141b was certified for use and phased into the shuttle program. The "new" foam containing HCFC 141b was first used on the aft dome portion of ET-82 during the flight of STS-79 in 1996. Use of HCFC 141b was expanded to the ETs acreage, or larger portions of the tank, starting with ET-88, which flew on STS-86 in 1997.

Re:How long has this been happening? (5, Informative)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236525)

environmentalist groups got their way and now we have a riskier space program.

This point about how the foam insulation process was changed has come up many times in discussions about the damage to Endeavor. And it's wrong.

It has its origin in one of Rush Limbaugh's lies [mediamatters.org] . As it turns out, the foam that dealt Columbia the death blow was the old-style CFC foam. The problem was in the hand-spraying application method used on that area, which left gaps and voids in the foam.

Yes, when they first started using the CFC-free foam in 1997 there were some problems seen. Changes were quickly made to improve the adhesion.

There were also plenty of problems with the CFC foam - "popcorning" from trapped air bubbled was noted in 1995 [newscientist.com] , while in 1992 Columbia was struck by a large piece of foam, ripping a 12cm gouge in the tiles. Both of these were before the switch to CFC-free foam.

Re:How long has this been happening? (4, Insightful)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236837)

Did you even read what you linked to?

Limbaugh says "there's a theory going around" and after explaining it says "a lot of people are beginning to think that the banning of Freon actually caused the shuttle accident, the Columbia shuttle accident, two flights ago. And I'm inclined to believe it when I hear this." This was on August 3rd, according to media matters. At this point the NASA report had not been released yet--it wouldn't be fully released for months! There was nothing to lie about!

Can someone really "lie" when they say "there's a theory I'm inclined to believe" ?

But I suppose it's just much easier to hysterically claim that Rush Limbaugh both originated the theory AND lied about it that to actually read your own link though!

Re:How long has this been happening? (1)

igjeff (15314) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236245)

Actually, some of the comments are that there is at least a perception that ice damage has increased since the return to flight after Columbia.

The thought is that since they've added an extra hour into the countdown after the external tank is fueled that there is a longer time for ice to build up, and then a great tendency for it to break off and smack the orbiter.

Oh, and for another tidbit. Ice, since its denser, and heavier than the insulating foam, is a bigger problem than the foam is when it breaks off. It takes a smaller chunk of ice to break off and smack the orbiter to cause an equivalent amount of damager to a larger chunk of foam.

wrong (5, Informative)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236307)

Oh, and for another tidbit. Ice, since its denser, and heavier than the insulating foam, is a bigger problem than the foam is when it breaks off. It takes a smaller chunk of ice to break off and smack the orbiter to cause an equivalent amount of damager to a larger chunk of foam.

Foam does more damage than ice. Ice is dense and keeps its velocity high, which translates to a low velocity relative to the shuttle. Foam on the other hand is much less dense and slows down very quickly, translating to high velocities relative to the shuttle.

Remember, kinetic energy = 0.5 * mass * V^2. Velocity is what kills, not mass.

Re:wrong (1)

igjeff (15314) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236409)

Ok, I'll buy that as being possible.

Only parroting comments I heard from folks while watching NASA TV (I've been playing with multicast on our network and NASA TV is a nice good stream to multicast around). Perhaps I should've clarified that statement as also being comments that I had heard from relatively authoritative sources...I don't mean to make any claims of absolutely truth on it.

There were also some references (if I remember correctly) to the velocity of whatever substance impacting the orbiter was a result of the delta-v of the shuttle, rather than the delta-v of the chunks of whatever. Some indications that this is the reason that foam impacts in the first minute or so after launch were the most problematic because that's when the delta-v of the shuttle is highest, apparently.

I'm no expert, here, just passing on comments I've heard watching this stream...whether its all legit or not, I'll let you decide.

Re:wrong (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236697)

That's not to say that ice does not cause damage; just that the physics of the flow field cause the foam to be more damaging contrary to intuition. It is pretty much consensus that a suitcase-sized piece of foam did Columbia in, and most sources I've heard this week are citing foam although I have heard ice thrown around.

Re:wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20236811)

it is contrary to intuition, and it is wrong.
ice has larger momentum, since its mass is higher. the difference in speed is not enough to compensate for that.

Re:[AC]wrong (4, Informative)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236891)

It isn't momentum, again, it is kinetic energy that causes damage, KE = 0.5 * m * V^2. The velocity, squared, overcomes the density difference in short order. Again, go do some research on Columbia. It is consensus that foam did the damage.

Re:wrong (1)

Thuktun (221615) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236833)

Foam does more damage than ice. Ice is dense and keeps its velocity high, which translates to a low velocity relative to the shuttle. Foam on the other hand is much less dense and slows down very quickly, translating to high velocities relative to the shuttle.
This argument makes no sense to me.

Ignoring air resistance, which won't be much different for similarly-shaped pieces, once detached from the shuttle, pieces of ice and foam would accelerate towards the ground at the same rate. The shuttle continues to accelerate upwards at the same rate relative to the two. Ice has higher density and would thereby accumulate consequently higher momentum and greater kinetic energy than the foam. Since ice is also much harder and would deform less, it would clearly be the more significant impactor.

Re:How long has this been happening? (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236255)

Is it possible to find a way to launch the shuttle with the belly facing AWAY from the main tank? That way any impacts from ice or foam would strike surfaces not critical for reentry.

Re:How long has this been happening? (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236395)

Sure. Just open the cargo bay doors, mount the tank to braces on the inside and you'll solve the problem.

Granted, you won't be able to carry any cargo but at least you won't have to worry about falling bits of foam striking surfaces critical for reentry.

Re:How long has this been happening? (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236873)

Seeing as they have figured out how to attach the braces without compromising the heat shields I would guess engineers could figure out a way to do it without eliminating the cargo bay.

Re:How long has this been happening? (2, Informative)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236421)

Is it possible to find a way to launch the shuttle with the belly facing AWAY from the main tank?

Sure, if you redesign the entire thing. That tail sticking up kinda screws that idea.

That way any impacts from ice or foam would strike surfaces not critical for reentry.

'Non critical'. Like the windshields, flight controls, thinner skin of the body. Non critical stuff like that.

Re:How long has this been happening? (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236821)

Or moving the tank up past the tail fin and protecting only vital areas such as the cabin. The windshield is already heavily reinforced to protect against small orbital debris. You have to think of unconventional alternatives sometimes.

Endeavour: (4, Funny)

kaleco (801384) | more than 7 years ago | (#20235943)

"it's just a flesh wound"

Re:Endeavour: (2, Funny)

superstick58 (809423) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236215)

"I've had worse!"

Err on the side of caution...don't you think? (4, Insightful)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 7 years ago | (#20235949)

On NPR this morning, I heard that NASA was actually debating whether or not to even address this, as they did not want to go to all the trouble and spoil the shuttle's schedule.

This sounded especially insane to me...if NASA loses another shuttle because of this same tile-damage problem, and because they couldn't be bothered to take the time to fix the problem when they could have, it will be the end of NASA.

Re:Err on the side of caution...don't you think? (5, Insightful)

datan (659165) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236027)

maybe we should leave the rocket scientist stuff to real rocket scientists...

Re:Err on the side of caution...don't you think? (0, Flamebait)

balthan (130165) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236175)

That worked so well for Columbia.

That was the problem (2, Funny)

ipjohnson (580042) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236221)

the rocket scientist weren't allowed to do there jobs before smart ass.

Re:Err on the side of caution...don't you think? (1)

russ1337 (938915) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236219)

>>>... maybe we should leave the rocket scientist stuff to real rocket scientists...

I dunno. I think the Slashdot crowd would make for interesting space program management.

Couldn't be much worse....

Re:Err on the side of caution...don't you think? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20236299)

It always amuses me how the masses sitting on the sidelines always feel they can do better then the trained professionals. I'm assuming you've already done the calculations between risk of the loss of them doing a spacewalk vs tile damage, where the tile is positioned, and taken into account the fact before Columbia that tiles fell off without incident. I could be wrong, but I'm just as qualified as you are. So is the guy I bought a hotdog from yesturday for that matter.

This would be like my mom telling me she can do computer support better then me. She's a smart lady, but her KNOWLEDGE level when it comes to Computers is low.

Re:Err on the side of caution...don't you think? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20236677)

You missed why the NASA folks thought it might be a good idea to skip the repairs.

"as they did not want to go to all the trouble and spoil the shuttle's schedule"

Re:Err on the side of caution...don't you think? (2, Funny)

pragma_x (644215) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236729)

I think the Slashdot crowd would make for interesting space program management.

Poll: Preferred Shuttle Heat-Shield Repair Technology
  • NASA developed tile repair goo
  • Spare heat-shield tiles
  • Switch to ablative shielding instead
  • Inanimate carbon rod
  • Modulated tachyon pulse
  • Whatever Cowboy Neil had for lunch

Re:Err on the side of caution...don't you think? (5, Informative)

grommit (97148) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236123)

You do realize that the Shuttle has landed many times before the Columbia disaster with whole tiles missing. This most likely is a non-issue although I'm glad NASA is treating it seriously. Besides, these tiles are on the belly of the orbiter. The damaged RCC panels on Columbia were on the leading edge of a wing where there are greater temperatures on reentry.

I don't think you realize the inherent danger in attempting to fix these either.

Re:Err on the side of caution...don't you think? (1)

YGingras (605709) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236727)

Can't they plug the hole with some kind of high-tech epoxy goo? I'm sure that avoiding the extra air turbulence that this hole will generate can't hurt.

Re:Err on the side of caution...don't you think? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20236171)

They could lose an astronaut doing the EVA to fix this. There are trade offs involved here and you don't seem to know any of them.

Re:Err on the side of caution...don't you think? (1)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236263)

They could have lost astronauts during the EVA to fix the Hubble, but they went and fixed it just the same.

So, are you saying preventative maintenance to help raise the odds of all the astronauts coming home safely is less important than a telescope?

Re:Err on the side of caution...don't you think? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20236337)

So, are you saying preventative maintenance to help raise the odds of all the astronauts coming home safely is less important than a telescope?

While many of us Terrans would say 'no', I'm sure most of the astronauts would actually answer 'yes'.

Re:Err on the side of caution...don't you think? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20236303)

The previous shuttles all had similar tile damage and in most cases it was significantly worse. Columbia had a tile problem on the wing tip which is why it broke up during reentry. Under the belly of the shuttle is a safer place for the damage in this regard.

Re:Err on the side of caution...don't you think? (2, Insightful)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236375)

They are in the wind tunnel doing test studies on a similar gouge crafted from the laser data taken on Monday. The Shuttle people know what they are doing. You have to remember, this gouge was downgraded from the size stated earlier this week, its only about the size of a business card, half the size that was being reported on Monday and less a quarter of the size that was thought to have dealt Columbia in.

You also have to consider position. This is at the very rear of the vehicle. Reentry heating evironments are most severe near the stagnation point at the front of the vehicle. Towards the back you can actually get some recirculation that provides some cooling. It may not be worth the risk/reward to go and patch it, based on locale. I guarantee you if this was on the front of the orbiter, it would be a whole different story.

Re:Err on the side of caution...don't you think? (1, Flamebait)

couchslug (175151) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236601)

"it will be the end of NASA."

Good. Space exploration is more important than a few casualties. If we must lose a Shuttle to dump that idiotic program, than that's what it takes. It's time we got rid of the desire to shove humans out in front of unmanned systems, but people are stupid so it may take a bloody nose.

NASA can turn into something else, because the people running it have the wrong priorities.
We don't need meat in space right now because it is a drag on techno-evolution.
Manned systems must have slow development cycles which cripples their ability to evolve quickly. We can RAPIDLY improve unmanned systems, evolve technology quickly, then entertain ourselves with meat in space at leisure.
If we were results-oriented instead of entertainment-oriented we'd go slower and as a result, get there with quality systems.

"Amazing urgency" (0)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 7 years ago | (#20235951)

What does that mean?

Re:"Amazing urgency" (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236249)

I'm amazed you don't know.

The pictures are pretty amazing and make the urgency of this whole thing much more amazing.
File it under "The Redundancy Department of Redundancy" and move on!

Is it so urgent? (2, Interesting)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 7 years ago | (#20235953)

Perhaps I'm missing something (and I'm sure I am), but perhaps this is something of a blessing?

Leave Endeavour in orbit. Compared to the big-mother boosters, the shuttle itself does not require a lot of fuel, and given the smaller size of the next-generation craft we're looking at, I could see a use for a "space truck" the size of Endeavour, even after the shuttle program does out the door.

Just send up something else to bring them home.

Re:Is it so urgent? (2, Interesting)

Brane2 (608748) | more than 7 years ago | (#20235995)

There is "only" one problem with that suggestion: Shuttle can't stay indefinitely in orbit.
IIRC it is rated for week or two at the most.

It can actually stay at the ISS a lot longer now. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20236095)

The last shuttle mission (and this one) installed equipment that allows the Shuttle to draw electrical power from the ISS's solar arrays and electrical grid, rather than being limited to the Fuel Cell consumables on the Shuttle itself (which is where the aprox 2 week number on orbit endurance comes from).

Re:Is it so urgent? (2, Informative)

Boilermaker84 (896573) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236297)

It is a resource issue. This mission is 14 days with some additional days in reserve for bad weather issues with landing. That limitation is mostly a crew environment issue (need to generate water and oxygen, have food on hand, etc.)

The vehicle could stay up longer in an unmanned configuration, but still has limited fuel resources to run the OMS. The shuttle just isn't designed to go anywhere but orbit and back.

Re:Is it so urgent? (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236419)

More like a month or two, disconnected from ISS, though it would not be fun. If shit hit the fan, the backup plan is to fast-track the next orbiter for a rescue mission. Or at least that is my understanding.

Re:Is it so urgent? (1)

Amazetbm (1087099) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236109)

The shuttle isn't made to stay in orbit indefinitely. It has to come down at some point. I wonder if they ever retrofitted any shuttle with a system that would allow them to pilot it remotely?

Re:Is it so urgent? (1)

icebrain (944107) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236291)

As of now, the shuttle is capable of a fully automatic landing--except for the part about lowering the landing gear. NASA came up with a rube goldberg-looking method to do that, involving running a couple cables to various places, loading a special flight software version, and sending a certain command at a given time (or something like that). I've read the entire procedure before on usenet; can't access it here at work though.

Re:Is it so urgent? (1)

Amazetbm (1087099) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236619)

Okay. Because I know the Russians had a system like that on their shuttle....then they ran out of cash.

Re:Is it so urgent? (2, Informative)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236799)

The reason for the landing gear part is because that is a 1 shot deal. The Shuttle must be going less than 300kts when the gear is deployed. And there is no 'retract'. Once the gear is deployed, that's it. It can only be raised in ground operations. And you cannot reenter with the gear down. And after reentry, above 300kts you might tear the gear off. If the computer burps at the wrong time, scratch one shuttle.
For just about every other problem, there is a workaround. Fire the reentry rockets at the wrong time? Not great, but you can land at a different runway.

Other than that, it could be completely guided from the ground.

The Russians flew theirs unmanned, and it only flew the once, because the crew module and software wasn't finished.

Re:Is it so urgent? (2, Funny)

Himring (646324) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236321)

I could see a use for a "space truck"

The Space Shuttles are more like "space tubes."

Exclusive images? (4, Informative)

jdhutchins (559010) | more than 7 years ago | (#20235969)

I wouldn't call those too exclusive.... look at the "3D Video of Endeavour Tile Damage" video on this page: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/main/ind ex.html [nasa.gov]

Neptec's own website, too (1)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236441)

look at the "3D Video of Endeavour Tile Damage" video on this page [of nasa's website]

Or on Neptec's own website [neptec.com] .

Why can't slashdot accept stories that directly link to the content, instead of forcing us to go through Roland's inane commentary?

Re:Exclusive images? (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236477)

When did NASA start using RealVideo? I thought they used to use standard formats. Yay, my tax dollars at work undermining standards to prop-up proprietary formats.

Exclusive? Yeah right... (4, Funny)

ExE122 (954104) | more than 7 years ago | (#20235971)

I bet those are pictures of Roland's bathroom floor.

--
Capitalism: When it uses the carrot, it's called democracy. When it uses the stick, its called facism.

My question (1)

j-min (1011011) | more than 7 years ago | (#20235973)

When is NASA not going to have damaged tiles during a shuttle launch? I haven't been following the story until now but it just seems silly to send some of our best minds into space in these antiquated shuttles.

Is there expected to be as much danger for this shuttle mission as there was for Columbia?

How big is each tile? (1)

Ayanami Rei (621112) | more than 7 years ago | (#20235981)

It's only two tiles that are damaged, but how big are they in the first place?
They're not done running simulations for the effect on re-entry, but that non-smooth edge between the two damaged tiles in the gouge would worry me no matter the outcome with that much more friction and eddying.

Re:How big is each tile? (1)

ArcadeX (866171) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236143)

Saw a demonstration once where they took a blowtorch to one of the tiles, it was little more than a few inches on a side.

Re:How big is each tile? (1)

bitfarmer (219431) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236223)

I doubt it matters how big the tiles are. The thermodynamic stress of reentry is unbelievably huge -- once plasma gets beneath the exterior there's almost nothing to stop it from going wherever it wants to go, including shearing adjacent tiles, the 'zipper' effect. All you need is a small hole probably like this one to get a chain reaction started.

Damage like this has probably been happening of most, if not all, launches since the beginning of the program. You can bet if Richard Feynman were alive today, he'd be standing on top of a table right now somewhere screaming about NASA playing 'Russian Roulette' or some such thing.

If Richard Feynman were alive today... (1)

Ayanami Rei (621112) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236333)

... he'd be standing on top of a table right now screaming about something, NASA shuttle in space or not. He was a pretty intense kind of guy who could get away with standing on tables, soap boxes, and other tall things.

Re:If Richard Feynman were alive today... (2, Insightful)

bitfarmer (219431) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236587)

... he'd be standing on top of a table right now screaming about something, NASA shuttle in space or not. He was a pretty intense kind of guy who could get away with standing on tables, soap boxes, and other tall things.

True. He was a passionate guy who cared about things like that. He also had startling insight and an annoying habit of being right most of the time.

Re:How big is each tile? (2, Insightful)

jridley (9305) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236353)

If they're typical tiles and they haven't drastically changed things from the demo they have down in Florida that I looked at 10 years ago, they're 3 or 4 inches on a side. The NPR story this morning said the gouge was 3" long.

It looks borderline to me. I think they've successfully landed with much bigger gouges or missing tiles in the past, but it probably depends on WHERE the gouge is. If it's in a flat part of the belly, it's probably not a problem. If it's near a leading edge, more of a problem.

Re:How big is each tile? (1)

wytcld (179112) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236785)

it probably depends on WHERE the gouge is

Where, and what the turbulence pattern will be there, and how much heat will be directed right to that small spot of bare metal skin. Then there's the question of whether they have good enough computer models to predict that to any accuracy; or whether minute changes in angle-of-approach and so forth render the chances essentially random. Since they have a patch kit, they'll be fools not to use it - unless the patch could itself deform into a funnel channeling the fire of re-entry to that spot.

Direct link to the images. (4, Informative)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236005)


Image 1 [blogsforcompanies.com]
Thermal Image [blogsforcompanies.com]
Image 2 [blogsforcompanies.com]
Image 3 [blogsforcompanies.com]
Image extracted from a video made by Neptec LCS [blogsforcompanies.com]

Re:Direct link to the images. (1)

pragma_x (644215) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236647)

The thermal images you linked have to be the scariest of the the set. The center of the gash is clearly not insulated as it's a dramatically different temperature than the exposed tile material around it. IMO, it illustrates how bad the situation is better than the optical images we've all become familiar with thus far.

I'm convinced. Attempting to land this orbiter without repair would be like attempting the same with the windows open.

NRA (0, Offtopic)

rubberbandball (1076739) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236023)

Charleton Heston had this to say when he learned about the tiles:

"You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God...damn you all to hell!"

Re:NRA (1)

cbreaker (561297) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236275)

We finally really did it.

The solution. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20236039)

They should get Xzibit and Chamillionaire into space ASAP so that beat-up ride can be pimped.

Re:The solution. (4, Funny)

east coast (590680) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236455)

We'z gonna fix yo bucket! What we haz right here is a crack in da tile instead of crack in da vile.

Word! Pass dat pipe, homie.

must be expensive images (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20236051)


judging by the amount of space on that site dedicated to advertising
sad.

Yikes. (1)

noSignal (997337) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236087)

It seems like every launch in recent memory has resulted in some sort of damage to the shuttle. I wonder if this is a new development (maybe ageing fleet?) or if it used to happen on every launch but nasa pays a whole lot more attention to "minor" damage now after Columbia. NASA seems to think that this is not a big deal. From nasa.gov:

Mission Management Team Update
Mission managers have determined that damage to a small section of Endeavour's heat shield poses no threat to crew safety or mission operations. However, they are discussing options for possible repair work that would ensure preparations on the ground for Endeavour's next flight will go more smoothly. The damage occurred during the climb to orbit on Aug. 8.
I hope so.

THIS IS INSANITY! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20236327)

Anyone can see that this damage is all the way to the bottom of the tile! The tile is effectively gone! There is NO WAY that is going to withstand re-entry! Anyone with half of a brain can plainly see that this is FATAL DAMAGE! The same go-fever that has killed crews on Apollo, Columbia, AND Challenger is now going to kill Endeavor. This is infuriating! It's stupid! It's misguided! It's plainly insane!

This will be the last flight. It's over, NASA is insane and no longer qualified to fly to space. If this is not the final nail in the coffin of the shuttle program, then our government as a whole has failed us. We need to immediately ground the shuttle, defund NASA entirely, scrap the whole thing, and give control to private industry. Leave the launching to the Europeans, they're the only ones who seem to be able to get it right.

Re:[AC]THIS IS INSANITY! (2, Informative)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236465)

Leave the launching to the Europeans, they're the only ones who seem to be able to get it right.

Whens the last time the Europeans have launched humans into space? *crickets* ...

A good public debate (4, Insightful)

cryfreedomlove (929828) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236135)

I like the fact that our society is open enough that this information and this debate is public. There are many governments in this world today who would not allow this information to be released and would make the decision based on cloaked objectives and goals. The USA has its problems (e.g. the stupidity of Iraq) but it sets us apart that this is happening in the open. Nobody is going to get arrested for debating or questioning this intense and sensitive topic.

Re:A good public debate (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20236227)

Thank you for your comment. It has been analyzed and approved by the NSA and the CIA. A copy of your comment (and your voting record) will be kept on backup indefinately at our Langley VA storage facility.

Cloaked objectives and goals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20236341)

Speaking of which, why don't you come out in the open and state specifically which Asian communist space-race competitor you are making a jab at?

Re:A good public debate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20236877)

Thank you for informing us that the USA is the best country in the world. You may now continue singing the national anthem. God bless.

bad tiles? (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236201)

This had to have been happening the past 30 years if they have gone with the same materials and it didn't become a problem until 2003 when Columbia disintegrated on re-entry. What changed between 1977 and 2003? Did they change manufacturers of the tiles? Or is this series of gaping holes after each liftoff a fluke?

I've never heard of the Russians having problems like this. Of course their Soyuz workhorse is a totally different and more efficient design.

Re:bad tiles? (1)

icebrain (944107) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236347)

More efficient by what standards? Price? For just bringing up a couple of crewmembers, Soyuz probably is. But if your mission involves delivering lots of cargo, it might not be.

Re:bad tiles? (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236731)

I think the Russians are making more cargo deliveries [space.com] also. Without a pilot, besides. At this point, I would also consider their way of doing it more efficient, and reliable. Their space truck is a Chevy. Ours is a Ford. For people, they use a compact. If it wasn't for them, we probably would have had to abandon the space station a long time ago.

Re:bad tiles? (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236501)

Never heard of tiles coming off the Mercury, Gemini or Apollo capsules either.

There's something to be said for that whole 'protecting the heat shield on launch' design. Don't get me wrong, I love the shuttle, and I'm sure they meant very well when it was designed (hell, I'd've gone for it) but now that they've been stuck with it the flaws really start to stand out. Clipper ship in space is right; beautiful lines...but who uses clipper ships anymore?

Re:bad tiles? (1)

Robonaut (1134343) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236739)

Mercury*, Gemini, Apollo, and Soyuz all use(d) ablative heatshields that burn off as they reenter. The ceramic tiles (and carbon-carbon) are the most common material used in reusable heat shields like those on the shuttle (also a number of next gen spacecraft (X-Series and the Kistler K-1). There were numerous concerns with the heatsheilds on previous spacecraft including concerns over John Glenn's Mercury flight (they kept the orbital maneuvering unit connected to the craft to hold the heatshield on) and Apollo 13, where there were concerns that the cold temperatures (the heaters were turned off after the explosion) may have cracked the heat shield. *The first two Mercury flights were suborbital and did not require the same type of heatshield because of lower temperatures.

Re:bad tiles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20236899)

Never heard of tiles coming off the Mercury, Gemini or Apollo capsules either.

Maybe that would be because those didn't use tiles? Mercury, Gemini and Apollo used ablative heat shields. The space shuttle uses an almost pure thermal soak heat sheild. They are two totally different mechanisms, and comparing the two is just stupid.

nothing changed (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236515)

Probability of a critical hit doomed Columbia, and it has been protocol to check for damage before re-entry ever since. The media then keeps tabs on Nasa TV and the press conferences and blows it into a huge deal, regardless of severity.

Its like Jim Lovell's wife said in Apollo 13 (rough, sorry, its been awhile): "No one was interested in his transmission, but now that they are up there and in trouble the world is interested?" ... "Get off my lawn! If they have a problem with it they can take it up with Jim when he gets back!"

Without a scale... (3, Interesting)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236225)

Without a scale to compare to, the gouge looks HUGE and devastating.

I've heard on the radio that they are discussing a roughly 3" scrape....which, if scaled to the longest axis, is objectively pretty small, but when considered against the turbulence, heat, and pressure that those belly tiles are faced with? It looks huge and devastating again.

Those astronauts have balls of steel if they ride that thing down again.

Re:Without a scale... (5, Insightful)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236431)

Astronauts have balls of steel to begin with. Two sets. You're sitting, surrounded by just how much in explosive fuel? Blasted into one of the most uninhabitable climates for human survival. (Ranks up there with volcano caldera and bottom of ocean...) Then set on a 100 mile free fall course to the Earth, the same trip many meteors take, and burn up well before hitting the ground most of the time.

And yet I so want to do it for myself...

Re:Without a scale... (1)

cyphercell (843398) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236843)

Astronauts have balls of steel to begin with. Two sets. You're sitting, surrounded by just how much in explosive fuel?

Smart and Brave, hell the thought of sitting on two sets of steel balls both confuses me and puts fear in my heart.

Of course I'm sure when they're old their sacks hand down to their ankles.

Re:Without a scale... (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236853)

Don't forget the stomach of steel too... can you imagine what it feels like to be permanently suspended in the "barfy" state that most upside-down roller coasters do for just an instant?

Re:Without a scale... (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236789)

Those astronauts have balls of steel if they ride that thing down again.

Considering the make up the present crew, I believe "nerves of steel" would be a bit more appropriate.

More information (3, Informative)

AkumaReloaded (1139807) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236359)

More information on the size and use of the anti-heat tiles or High-temperature reusable surface insulation (HRSI) can be found in this article on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_shuttle_thermal _protection_system [wikipedia.org]

It seems they are not that big, and I do not think one or 2 damaged tiles whould have a massive effect on the safety of the shuttle. However if someone leaked that tiles were damaged (no matter how few tiles) and NASA did not act on it, the public would be outraged. So perhaps NASA thinks its best to mention this in public and fix it, even if it doesnt have to be fixed at all. Or what if the chance is 1 in a million that it has any effect, NASA doesnt act and the thing crashed, people would be outraged as well. Better safe than sorry.

*Yawn* (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20236449)

Those are some dinky little low resolution pics. Here's one of Endeavor with the Earth as backdrop [nasa.gov] , today's NASA "Image of the day". Yesterday's [nasa.gov] is spacewalking astronaut Rick Mastracchio fixing something outside the space station. Here it is [nasa.gov] taking off, and here's another liftoff pic. [nasa.gov] These are all of the present mission that's still up there inspecting tiles. Here [nasa.gov] is the "Image of the day" gallery. These are bigassed, high resolution pictures, most of them breathtaking.

-mcgrew

Delicate tiles (4, Informative)

electromaggot (597134) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236487)

What's interesting is how delicate the tiles are. I saw a presentation by a NASA guy some time ago and I was allowed to hold the tiles. They're extremely light, almost feeling like their core is some kind of foam. The black ceramic layer on top is surprisingly thin.

I asked the presenter specifically about how delicate they felt. He then "flicked"/snapped the tile with his finger/fingernail, which put a sizeable dent into the tile, easily cracking the brittle black layer, and you could see the white foam underneath.

Therefore, it's no surprise to me to see this kind of damage. It probably wasn't even impacted with what could be considered excessive force.

Makes you wonder what kind of tile damage shuttles had -- all those successfully landed shuttle missions -- before such close scrutiny.

Roland Piquepaille? (2, Insightful)

LordSnooty (853791) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236579)

Blimey, he's done well for himself. All those /. links to his blog did some good.

Portrait (1)

njfuzzy (734116) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236629)

Okay, this is a silly thing to point out, but it is driving me crazy. Why on earth does Roland P.'s portrait on ZDNet have obviously drawn-in yellow glasses???

Repair Kit? (1)

Darth Muffin (781947) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236755)

As part of reinstating the Shuttle fleet, didn't NASA put a repair kit onboard for just this type of thing? If they say it's not a big deal I'd have to believe them, it's probably a very common occurrence. However, how hard can it be to go EVA and trowel in some space-spackle just to cover their butts?

Ol' Bricks and Wings (2, Interesting)

Paulrothrock (685079) | more than 7 years ago | (#20236777)

It's sad that we have to do this on EVERY launch when we had developed a perfectly good system where the heat shield was covered for the entire time it wasn't in use.

What, precisely, was wrong with the capsule system that necessitated the development of something that can *gasp* glide to a landing? How have we saved money by building a reusable craft when it costs a billion dollars a launch?

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