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NASA Decides No Fix Needed for Endeavor's Tiles

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the damn-the-tiles-full-speed-ahead dept.

NASA 209

bhmit1 writes "It looks like NASA is reporting that no repairs are needed for Endeavor. 'After meeting for five hours, mission managers opted Thursday night against any risky spacewalk repairs, after receiving the results of one final thermal test. The massive amount of data indicated Endeavor would suffer no serious structural damage during next week's re-entry. Their worry was not that Endeavor might be destroyed and its seven astronauts killed in a replay of the Columbia disaster — the gouge is too small to be catastrophic. They were concerned that the heat of re-entry could weaken the shuttle's aluminum frame at the damaged spot and result in lengthy post-flight repairs.'"

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209 comments

I'm glad I don't have to make these calls (4, Insightful)

ExE122 (954104) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260583)

Their worry was not that Endeavor might be destroyed and its seven astronauts killed in a replay of the Columbia disaster -- the gouge is too small to be catastrophic. They were concerned that the heat of re-entry could weaken the shuttle's aluminum frame at the damaged spot and result in lengthy post-flight repairs
And I'm sure thats the only thing the astronauts were worried about as well... the precious shuttle.

It reminds me of a while back when a friend of mine called his mother to tell her he had a few drinks and was gonna stay the night at a friend's house. Her response was, "Yeah, I wouldn't want anything to happen to the car."

Regardless, I admire their fortitude given the history of the Columbia and all that has happened. I hope everything goes well and they get home safely.

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

Re:I'm glad I don't have to make these calls (0)

BigBadBus (653823) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260617)

I've seen pictures of the gouge on previous missions, and they were of a comparable size to this new one. So, thankfully, NASA haven't panicked and issued all kinds of worrying proclamations when it wasn't worried in the past: why start now?

Re:I'm glad I don't have to make these calls (4, Insightful)

ExE122 (954104) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260933)

NASA haven't panicked and issued all kinds of worrying proclamations when it wasn't worried in the past: why start now?
Because they weren't all that worried about Columbia either. Seven astronauts died because of that.

Don't get me wrong, I see what you're saying. The damage may indeed be comparable to previous missions that went off without a hitch. And it is true, all of the lab tests show no cause for concern. But as another poster mentioned below, all the lab tests in the world can't make up for a real world scenario. The real world always has another trick up it's sleeve.

And you also need to realize that NASA needs to be extra cautious. A repeat of the Columbia disaster would raise some serious concerns about their credibility and may be detrimental to the future of space exploration in general.

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

Re:I'm glad I don't have to make these calls (4, Insightful)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261633)

>>Because they weren't all that worried about Columbia either. Seven astronauts died because of that.

In all fairness, nobody at NASA knew the extent of the damage to Columbia prior to reentry. There were engineers who suspected that there might be some, and wanted photography to be sure, which NASA disallowed. If the existence of a large hole in the leading edge of the wing was known, some type of rescue operation could possibly have been put into place, as there was no repair possibility at that time.

In this case, NASA had detailed imagery of the damaged area several days before the return. That allowed for detailed analysis and laboratory testing, which have apparently convinced NASA that the extent of damage is limited enough that no repairs are required prior to reentry.

I would like to know what assumptions were used in making the "no repair" decision, nonetheless. It would seem to me that even if the damage was not severe enough to REQUIRE the repair, this situation provided a chance to test out the newly developed repair techniques and materials in a "real world" setting, allowing engineers and future crews to gain more confidence in the repairs if and when they are required on a future mission. Is the risk of an EVA/repair causing further damage really high enough to justify throwing away what could be a very valuable "learning experience"?

Re:I'm glad I don't have to make these calls (0, Redundant)

emotionus (657937) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261749)

Ya, but by not fixing it, they've set the grounds for one really good TV Show.

Re:I'm glad I don't have to make these calls (2, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261947)

"And you also need to realize that NASA needs to be extra cautious. A repeat of the Columbia disaster would raise some serious concerns about their credibility and may be detrimental to the future of space exploration in general."

They don't care enough about space exploration to halt the use of old systems like the Shuttle, continue exploration with unmanned systems, then send meat into space with more mature technology.
This isn't 1492, and we are under no pressure to send crews off in the modern equivalent of a wooden ship. We can learn and observe and manipulate with unmanned systems that have a much more rapid rate of evolution than that of man-constrained systems. If we want humans to see the process we can record it.
If an unmanned system is lost we don't have to deal with the hysteria that the public expectation of zero casualties engenders. (Good thing we didn't expect zero casualties in the era of test pilots, or aviation would not have gotten very far.)

Re:I'm glad I don't have to make these calls (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 6 years ago | (#20262143)

And you also need to realize that NASA needs to be extra cautious. A repeat of the Columbia disaster would raise some serious concerns about their credibility and may be detrimental to the future of space exploration in general.

Which is why, even after having collected and analyzed all the data that they do now in response to the Columbia disaster which even from the beginning seemed to show that this was a fairly minor issue, they still spent five hours discussing it before finally deciding that they should go with what that data said.

They are being extra cautious, okay? They don't need you to remind them that another disaster could ruin our space program. It's why they've taken so many steps to try to prevent it, steps they never took before Columbia and hence should be fairly obvious indicators of their caution.

Could they be wrong, and could we lose Endeavor? Yes, like you say reality can always throw a curve ball. But as best can be determined there won't be a problem, and whatever that curve ball may be they have no way of knowing. So for them to be extra cautious, as in more cautious than they already are, the only thing they could do would be to go out and fix the tiles before returning.

But a space walk is far from safe. Especially one that's never been done before. If you're being cautious instead of hysterical then you need to consider the dangers inherent to your solution in comparison to the problem you are fixing.

NASA looked at the danger both measured and hypothetical and decided the space walk was too risky. Given the amount of scrutiny they are under, the pressure to fix the problem so everyone could calm down, this means they see the dangers of the damaged tile as minimal, and the dangers of the space walk to be quite significant.

I don't know what more you want from them. Would you still have them conduct the repairs in orbit, knowing how dangerous that will be, just to satisfy your fear of the unknown?

IANAAE (3, Insightful)

Stanistani (808333) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260753)

Here's where we get to watch a lot of folks decide whether to comment on the effects of something outside of their experience and expertise.

I've seen photos and 3D imaging of the bashed tiles. I know very little of the forces involved. I have seen no structural analysis of the materials that are beneath the deepest part of the gouge.

To a limited extent, I can compare this damage to the past damaged tiles. There seem to have been a number of similar damaged tiles in the past, and those flights landed safely.

The astronauts could slap some of that goop on the gouge, but risk damaging the tiles by accident, or changing the aerodynamics of the craft.

There are many unknowns. I really don't know what will happen when Endeavour reenters.

I wish them well, and hope that NASA can complete the remaining shuttle flights without mishap.

Hey, NASA, here's an idea... (4, Interesting)

WED Fan (911325) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260793)

As a former USAF avionics specialist and later crew chief, one thing was always true:

The decision about air-worthiness, mission-worthiness was the pilot's, the aircraft commander.

It didn't matter if I told him that sure, the plane will fly, if he didn't like it, the plane didn't fly.

So, NASA, provide all the information to the commander, pilot, and crew, and let THEM make the call. If you don't like what they decide, it can be taken up AFTER the mission.

Re:Hey, NASA, here's an idea... (5, Informative)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261111)

But that's the difference between an aircraft and a spacecraft -- an aircraft pilot can look his plane over, read up on the maintenance, talk to his ground crew and then decide to fly or not. In NASA, it works differently. A Space Shuttle commander has command of the spacecraft, but Mission Control in Houston has command of the mission. You have to remember: the crew of the Shuttle can't just go bombing around in Earth orbit like they are flying the Millennium Falcon. Every move has to be choreographed and planned out months and even years in advance. When unexpected problems crop up, the technicians on the ground certainly know more about the workings of the machine than the crew, as they have all the data at the fingertips, they are experts in their systems, and they can draw on contractor resources to get more information. Decisions like this cannot be left to the spacecraft commander; his/her job is hard enough without having to keep in their head the compendious amount of information regarding their spacecraft.

It has been this way since Mercury; it was Chris Kraft who outlined the need for the ground to have the skills required to manage the mission and deal with problems in real time, so that the crew could concentrate on their activities in space. The system has worked extremely well over all these years, with the exception of the Columbia accident. I for one am confident that NASA knows what it is doing and will take all the precautions it can before Endeavour is allowed to land.

Re:Hey, NASA, here's an idea... (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 6 years ago | (#20262075)

"As a former USAF avionics specialist and later crew chief"

Egads, there's another one???
"328Xwhatevers x-trained to Nosepickers" represent!
I did it to escape Moody in the F-4 days, but it sure made promotion testing easier.

Memo to all NASA employees: (4, Funny)

Ed_1024 (744566) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260827)

Subj: Space Shuttle

However tempting it may be, given the considerable savings, please don't source any more tiles from "Home Depot".

NASA Mgmt.

Why not? (0, Flamebait)

BlackCobra43 (596714) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260841)

Why wouldn't you want to make the calls?

As a mission manager you'd have next to no reprimand if anything goes wrong (see: columbia aftermath), even as a direct result of policies you've implemented and the decisions you make.

The astronauts are trained not to worry about these because they have t ooperate a highly complicated SPACEFARING VEHICLE, so they won'nt be the wiser until shit starts breaking off.

Frankly, I would make the call with a big, shit-eating grin on my face. THAT'll teach those nasa flyboys not to trust a bunch of PHBs on the ground.

Re:Why not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20261085)

And I bet you would've handed a gun to Seung-Hui Cho with a "big shit-eating grin" on your face knowing that you'd have "next to no reprimand" if he guns down 32 people. However, I'd like to think that most of us are human and have a conscience.

Re:I'm glad I don't have to make these calls (1)

Shinatosh (1143969) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260867)

IMHO if something happens during a space walk, You still can bring the astronaut back on board, and still can try an unrepaired re-entry. But even if the repairing astronaut dies (which is very unlikely), the others are still alive.
I'm not a space expert though, so my opinion doesn't count at NASA. I just hope for them to return safely in one piece.

Shinatosh

Re:I'm glad I don't have to make these calls (4, Informative)

vought (160908) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261097)

IMHO if something happens during a space walk, You still can bring the astronaut back on board, and still can try an unrepaired re-entry. But even if the repairing astronaut dies (which is very unlikely), the others are still alive.
And what if the astronaut perched at the end of a 100-foot boom crashes into the tiles he's repairing, damaging them more extensively, or even beyond repair? After all, the arm is very heavy and the EVA suit is 300 pounds, along with the 200lb astronaut inside of it. That's a lot of mass to be swinging around next to all the other, undamaged tiles.

Or what if the 'goop', applied unevenly, causes a hot spot on another tile? Right now, the damaged tiles are located over a wing spar - the thickest structural part of the wing, and a section that can take more heating. Since the depth of the gouge indicates that the plasma flow over it will 'eddy' over the deepest area, keeping it from the greatest heat of reentry, models indicate that the aluminum structure of the shuttle won't fail, and that temperatures won't exceed 350f.

The problem with speculating on NASA decisions, as so many coffee urn quarterbacks are doing this morning, is that they really have no idea how complex the shuttle and its mission really are. The items I've outlined here, available in almost no major news stories about the decision, were easily obtained at NASA Tv and Aviation week - and they're a small sample of the factors in this decision.

Re:I'm glad I don't have to make these calls (4, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260949)

And I'm sure thats the only thing the astronauts were worried about as well... the precious shuttle.
If the only thing mission control was worried about was "the precious shuttle", then they would have just sent them out right away to fix the gouge.

Spacewalks are potentially dangerous. Micro-meteorites could tear right through a spacesuit and instantly kill an astronaut. They aren't taken lightly and are always judged whether the benefits justify the risks. In this case, they didn't.

Re:I'm glad I don't have to make these calls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20261223)

Couldn't they just create some type of shield such as teflon or some other strong material to be placed a short distance from them covering their backs? I would assume that the spacecraft covers their front.

Meteroid speed (2, Interesting)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 6 years ago | (#20262037)

Couldn't they just create some type of shield such as teflon or some other strong material to be placed a short distance from them covering their backs? I would assume that the spacecraft covers their front.
The faster meteoroids might be travelling at roughly 30-40 km/sec. (*) [anl.gov] In comparison, here on Earth the fastest bullets cruise at around 1.2 km/sec, with slower bullets loping about in the neighborhood of 0.3 to 0.6 km/sec. (*) [hypertextbook.com]

All the strong layers of whatever you want to strap onto an astronaut in addition to all the crap s/he's already got to wear and maneuver through won't help all that much against a small particle moving at that speed.

Re:I'm glad I don't have to make these calls (1)

SomeGuyTyping (751195) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261019)

That's the media answer. That message conveys that NASA is sure that the astronauts are in no danger to keep the reporters from going ape shit.

who crawled up your backside today? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20261773)

"The chairman of the mission management team, John Shannon, said Johnson Space Center's engineering group in Houston wanted to proceed with the repairs. But everyone else, including safety officials, voted to skip them.

The spacewalk would have had added risk, so much so that mission managers did not want to attempt it unless absolutely necessary. Wednesday's spacewalk, cut short by an astronaut's ripped glove, showed how hazardous even a relatively routine spacewalk can be."

So not sending crews out on a potentially risky and unnecessary spacewalk to fix a problem that had been characterized as only effecting shuttle maintenance is showing no concern for the astronauts?

Jeez, how does the parent get modded insightful, for not being able to determine context?
You're the kind to bitch if they did send them out there to fix it.

Re:I'm glad I don't have to make these calls (1)

Eponymous Bastard (1143615) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261779)

Nice job quoting out of context.

The whole point is that they had already ruled out catastrophic scenarios and are therefore no longer worried about losing the crew and orbiter.

The only concern left is that the aluminum frame will be weakened and need to be replaced once on the ground. The mission managers decided that it's not worth risking the astronauts during a spacewalk (which can further damage the tiles) and during landing because of a sloppy repair job. Not to mention creating more work for the next mission because of the wasted time during the repair.

Sorry for feeding the troll.

NASA (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20260623)

need another seven asronauts

I'm going to be ready to hunt of shuttle pieces and ebay them when they get back.

first (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20260655)

"space shuttle is a death trap" post

Disaster waiting to happen (-1, Troll)

Late-Eight (1026794) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260661)

If they are that concerned with cutting costs than saving life's, they should stop sending people in to space.

Re:Disaster waiting to happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20260683)

and stop driving cars

Re:Disaster waiting to happen (1)

grommit (97148) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260689)

They've already determined that the gouge will not endanger the astronauts lives if left alone. The question they just answered was do they risk more damage to the heat shield by attempting a repair in space or not. It sounds like they'd rather be safe and leave it alone and spend more money on repairs on the ground than risk killing the astronauts.

Bullshit on NASA. (0)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260863)

Bullshit. They should attemt a repair, if only to get data on how efective and practical repairs are. They'll need this information for future missions, when they might have to deal with larger gouges. They ow have a chance to analyse the effectiveness of the patch procedure, and make any necessary changes. They also probably have a "motivated crew", if you know what I mean ...

Or is the possibility of repair just the NASA equivalent of "security theatre"?

Re:Bullshit on NASA. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20261025)

BullS**t on you for having no understanding of risk mitigation. You always do the least risky thing that is safe. In this case, you do nothing. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. It ain't broke, its just dinged (and quite overhyped by the media).

Re:Bullshit on NASA. (1)

_bug_ (112702) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261551)

You always do the least risky thing that is safe.

Then don't launch space shuttles. Send supplies up in unmanned craft like the Soyuz. Use robotic arms to install new equipment and design the fittings in such a way that humans need not spacewalk to finalize connections.

Furthermore, this isn't just media overhype. The engineers at the Johnson Space Center have asked for the repairs to be made. They were overruled. Sound familiar?

And yet even furthermore, as has already been pointed out, such a repair would provide very valuable data on the effectiveness of the as yet untested repair methods NASA has developed for such situations. That data would be put to good use in the continuing development of procedures for repairing the shuttle in flight, thus decreasing the risk involved in future repairs and increasing chance of mission success.

And why wouldn't NASA want to perform steps that only increase the chance of a successful landing?

There's every reason to perform this repair.

Re:Bullshit on NASA. (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261553)

I take it you're the type that pushes out service packs day one throughout a corporate network too.

What if the astronaut crashes into the tiles? What if the arm locks up? What if the repairs cause more damage to the tiles? NASA's a very conservative organization. They already take risks that'd make most people white, they're not keen to take on more than they have to.

If a shuttle gets damaged to the point where repairs are required, it won't matter if the situation is made worse because it's already destined to be a flaming comet. But to take a structurally sound machine and risk making it worse is a height of folly.

Why do we send people into space? (2, Interesting)

Leuf (918654) | more than 6 years ago | (#20262409)

Isn't the whole justification for manned missions that people can react and do a lot more than robots, at least at this point in time? And yet we're afraid to let them out the door to actually do anything. Time and again when people are given the chance to perform they rise to the occasion and exceed expectations.

Remind me, how many astronauts have we lost on spacewalks?

Re:Bullshit on NASA. (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261979)

The problem with that is that the lives of the crew are riding on the potential repair. Without knowing the effect in advance, the risk in making the repair is increased, beyond the risk the crew undergoes in suiting up and spacewalking in the first place. Remember, they have already had a partial glove failure. The repair itself is not without considerable risk. They have had similar gouges before and the Shuttle has landed perfectly fine. Now is not the time to experiment. They can certainly perform experiments of this type using unmanned vehicles and gain the information they need that way. That is how they tested heat shield materials in the olden, golden days.

Re:Bullshit on NASA. (1)

joshuac (53492) | more than 6 years ago | (#20262071)

After a certain point (long down the road, which will never happen in the remaining lifetime of the shuttle program) it might be worth it to experiment on a "production" system with human lives onboard. But at this stage of the game, leave the data gathering to simulations. You can get lots of good data (probably BETTER data, since you can monitor more closely) from a test environment than from the actual shuttle coming through the atmosphere.

At _some point_, the returns off of simulations will become less and less, and then it would finally make sense to take the next step and see what happens with the real thing. But that would be _way_ out there. Heck, looking at the guns/butter curve it probably doesn't even make sense for them to test the repair system on the ground even halfway to that point...the number of remaining missions and the odds of that same type of failure make it uneconomical, better to invest the section of your time and money budgeted for "cargo protection" into other things that will yield a higher likely return.

Re:Disaster waiting to happen (4, Insightful)

TheMeuge (645043) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260813)

Life has a cost too.

We seem to have forgotten that in the U.S. lately. Granted, the integrity of the shuttle frame is not worth human life, but the panicked semi-troll responses to this crisis made me realize yet again how far we've fallen as a society.

The same people are "concerned" now, as the ones who were calling for ending the space program after Columbia.

We are so fat and content that we seem to think that anything that interferes with our blissful lives must be a curse. We have forgotten the drive and determination of scientists, engineers, and many others, which made the world we're living in possible. Make no mistake about it - without self-sacrifice, many of the technological and scientific developments that shaped the latter half of the 20th century would not have been possible.

Yet the population, spurred on by the scaremongering media, seem to think that we've now magically gotten to a point at which we can make everything safe. Well... we almost can... if we all just stay home. But if we want another revolution in the development of our species, like the one that spanned 1850-1975, we will have to accept that some things are worth it. Yes, it's important to minimize risk... but sometimes you have to accept a reasonable amount of risk, take a deep breath, and just go.

Anyway, sorry about the rant...

No offense, but... (0, Troll)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261715)

No offense, but I'm inherently... weary... of people waving the banner that someone _else_ should sacrifice everything for the general progress.

If you think a life is that disposable, why don't you go risk _your_ life on some endeavour that benefits everyone? _Then_ you'll have the moral high ground to preach that kind of thing. Until then, way I see it, you're safely in a chair at a computer, preaching that someone _else_ should take unnecessary risks to further your standard of living.

And that's a... sociopathic attitude, to say the least.

You want to talk about the scientific developments that shaped the 20'th century? How about the fact that most of them were driven by the need for safety and/or comfort, and a lot of the rest were driven by consumerism?

If we just wanted to live hard and risky, then we wouldn't have needed all that science and technology anyway. What we actually wanted was stuff like:

- travelling cheaper, safer and more comfortable, hence the automobile instead of riding a buggy like the Amish. A lot of the research that went into the automobile was precisely so it wouldn't be a deathtrap that throws a wheel if you even take a too tight curve.

- some cheap and comfortable way to stay in touch: hence, telegraph and then telephone

- entertainment. Hence technologies like the movies, or TV

- some _safe_ lighting (lighting itself being a quality of life issue): most cities had already invested heavily in gas lighting when Edison proposed electric lighting

- to not die of the first disease that drops by: hence, antibiotics

- even in military applications, to _not_ lose more soldiers than strictly unavoidable: the main use of machineguns in WW1 was _defensive_, and that's why it ended up a stalemate

Etc, etc, etc.

So bemoaning safety and concern for human life as some brake on progress, doesn't strike me as just disingenuous, but also as outright mis-informed and mis-leading. That's not brakes, that's what drove most of progress.

Re:Disaster waiting to happen (1)

emotionus (657937) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261877)

We need more rants like this. Life is to easy and we take it for granted. (In the global north). To paraphrase The Libertine - "Life's most interesting experiments will come at one's own expense"

Re:Disaster waiting to happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20261967)

Anyway, sorry about the rant...


Not at all. You're Saint and we all admire your wisdom. Please teach us, master.

They weren't (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261355)

If they are that concerned with cutting costs than saving life's, they should stop sending people in to space.


Actually, the whole point is that they weren't.

The problem is that so far in a relatively short interval they had two cuts in two spacesuits' gloves during spacewalks. The last one was a two inch gash, and prompted an immediate abort of the spacewalk. Precisely because noone wants to vaccuum an astronaut.

Now they weren't all the way through the glove. At least the latest one had only cut the top two layers out of five.

But essentially noone wants to find out what happens when you cut all 5 layers.

And the problem is that they don't know _what_ cut two different spacesuits. Exactly where is the sharp edge there, and how big is it? Is it only big enough to do those two layer cuts? Or are we talking about something that could cut all the way through, and we got luck the last two times?

That's, in a nutshell, why they'd rather not risk a spacewalk to fix the tiles, if they can avoid it.

same moron with mod points again (-1, Troll)

unity100 (970058) | more than 6 years ago | (#20262225)

it seems unfortunately some idiot that have no capability of establishing correlations among real world concepts have got ahold of some mod points or s/he is a fundamentalist nasa fanboi/girl. I bet s/he is the same person who modded this comment offtopic too : http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=272623&cid=202 60853 [slashdot.org]

such people should be prevented from mod points. they are harming the community

Re:Disaster waiting to happen (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 6 years ago | (#20262313)

You know, I know nobody RTFAs anymore, but even TFS made it clear that they determined major risk and the only reason to do a spacewalk would be to prevent the shuttle's aluminum frame from sustaining damage that would be costly to repair.

They decided it was not worth risking an astronaut's life to repair the shuttle just to potentially save on repair costs.

In other words THEY ARE MORE CONCERNED WITH LIVES THAN COSTS YOU ASSHOLE.

Famous Last Words (-1, Troll)

drsquare (530038) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260673)

Let's bookmark this article for when the shuttle disintegrates upon re-entry.

Re:Famous Last Words (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20261029)

I PRAY TO ALLAH IT WILL, I LOL WHEN USIANS DIE
9/11 WAS THE BEST DAY EVAR

Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page)

A chance for testing lost (3, Interesting)

Chairboy (88841) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260693)

It's unfortunate, this could have been a good test case to see how the repair materials/procedures work under realistic conditions.

Having firm, experimental data about:

* The process of applying the patch
* How well the patch stands up to re-entry
* How well the patch protects underlying systems

and more. Better to get this data on a 'non-critical' bit of damage than waiting until something is REALLY busted before finding the inadequecy.

They've done extensive testing on the ground, I'm sure, but a real-world test scenario can trump ten lab extrapolations. That's why we do external betas of software, the real world always has something up it's sleeve.

Re:A chance for testing lost (1)

grommit (97148) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260731)

There's much safer ways to do tests like that in space. It would be trivial to create a small section of tiles attached to one of the robot arms and pre-gouge it. Astronauts could practice working on it. Why NASA hasn't done that, I don't know. I do think it'd be a good idea to have some sort of real-world test for these repairs.

Re:A chance for testing lost (2, Interesting)

RoverDaddy (869116) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260835)

The Astronauts -have- practiced patching tiles in the cargo bay. But those tiles can't be on the outside of the shuttle during reentry.
While I was writing my previous response I thought about the idea of 'pre-patching' some tiles near the rear of the shuttle before launch, in order to see how well those tiles did on reentry. Can you imagine the outcry if NASA suggested purposely -damaging- a few 'unimportant tiles' before the mission even begins? And I doubt you can easily add a few spare tiles to the airframe of the shuttle - just ain't gonna happen.

Re:A chance for testing lost (1)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261769)

Also, launching the shuttle with "pre-patched" tiles would mean that NASA still wouldn't have any data on the feasibility of applying the repair materials during the flight. Working in the cargo bay is one thing, but trying to repair tiles on the belly while attached to the end of the robotic arm is yet another.

Re:A chance for testing lost (3, Insightful)

RoverDaddy (869116) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260783)

But most betas don't run the risk of killing 7 people. There are serious risks involved in -doing- the patch too.

Re:A chance for testing lost (2, Interesting)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260787)

The tiles are extremely delicate. NASA viewed a lumbering astronaut in a suit ill designed for delicate work, with a tube of superglue and a squeege in the area around the main heat shield of the Shuttle a far greater threat then the small hole.

Re:A chance for testing lost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20261177)

It's probably the only choice given their capabilities.

But it's really sad that they don't have the ability to use it as an opportunity to learn.

After the last shuttle loss, they were supposed to come up with a way to inspect and repair on orbit.

Looks like they got caught unprepared, even after a severe warning.

We can only pray that there isn't another warning.

NASA's mission should be to make access to space no big deal.

Re:A chance for testing lost (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261665)

What's that mantra we IT folks keep repeating?... If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

I'd argue it's better to wait until the shuttle's really busted before trying out complex repair maneuvers. In that case, the shuttle's already a writeoff; if the astronaut crashes into the tiles or they're otherwise damaged, it won't matter.

infamous powerpoint presentation (2, Interesting)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260711)

Let's just hope they did't reuse their previous powerpoint presentation on the space shuttle [edwardtufte.com] as a template for this meeting.

Now that link is a bit of a read, but a very striking introduction on influencing decision-making with presentation techniques, even if this costs other people's lives.

I don't think powerpoint was to blame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20260913)

for instance, if the first line of the first presentation slide contained in a big font "astronaut's lives are at risk" then the powerpoint presentation would have conveyed a much different message.

NASA needs to get out of the media black hole (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20260747)

...or the shuttle's days will be numbered even if it is still a useful tool.

Endeavour is currently on the sixth shuttle mission since Columbia was lost. On Slashdot there's a chance that somebody could tell you what was achieved on any of those six missions. Ask an average member of the public though, and I guarantee you that less than 1% have any idea of a single piece of scientific research achieved on any of those six flights.

A large number of those members of the public will be able to tell you about the scares over foam and tiles on every single mission though - because that is the only part of shuttle missions that the media cares about.

This is only going to be fixed one way. NASA has to start giving out copious quantities of interesting video from shuttle flights to the media, and completely seal away from the media any talk of damage or problems. The damage has been of no real significance every time, but it is the only thing we're talking about.

Unless NASA can extricate itself from the media black hole, it will never again run a shuttle mission without the shuttle being called into question - and that will eventually lead to calls for funding for this "dangerous" vehicle to be withdrawn. After all, it doesn't actually do anything when it is up there, right?

Re:NASA needs to get out of the media black hole (1)

Duffy13 (1135411) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260987)

While I agree, I think the problem would be that most research is quite boring.

Re:NASA needs to get out of the media black hole (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20261281)

...or the shuttle's days will be numbered even if it is still a useful tool.
...
Unless NASA can extricate itself from the media black hole, it will never again run a shuttle mission without the shuttle being called into question - and that will eventually lead to calls for funding for this "dangerous" vehicle to be withdrawn.
The shuttle's days are numbered. The fleet will be retired in 2010, period.

That's one of the reasons ISS assembly is front and center: there are parts that can't be carried up, maneuvered, or installed by anything but the shuttle. Its cargo bay has different dimensions than any other launch vehicle, and some parts are designed to fit it. The orbiter brings a second robotic arm, which is needed for several assembly steps. Not to mention all the extra training, manpower, and supplies that shuttle missions provide.

Retirement of the entire STS program has been set in stone for ages. Where have you been?

Re:NASA needs to get out of the media black hole (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20261387)

This assumes that some 12-14 currently planned flights all happen. I don't doubt that the shuttle's days are numbered, but the way the media story is playing out I wouldn't be at all surprised to see NASA's arm twisted into cancelling the shuttle altogether a year or two ahead of schedule...

Re:NASA needs to get out of the media black hole (1)

Boilermaker84 (896573) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261821)

Not every story is about doom and gloom because of the tile damage. There has been EXTENSIVE media coverage of the fact that Barbara Morgan is a mission specialist on this mission. It was a no-brainer PR bonus since she was the backup to Christ McAuliffe. Her orbital classroom lesson was highlighted not two days ago.

Re:NASA needs to get out of the media black hole (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261835)

Who cared about the space program after Apollo 11 other than nerds?

Spirit and Opportunity have entered year three, well past their 90 day expected life span, yet I'd wager the lost Polar Lander and crashed Climate Orbiter got more press than the little rovers that could ever will.

Re:NASA needs to get out of the media black hole (1)

ks*nut (985334) | more than 6 years ago | (#20262231)

I believe that all of the flights have been to add parts/change out crew on the ISS. The only "research" flight in the current shuttle schedule is a visit to the Hubble Space Telescope to change out gyro(s) and other electronics systems. There are pretty tight schedule parameters built into the HST flight; if the ISS flights don't fly according to schedule the HST flight never happens. So the concept of the Shuttle as a vehicle for space research is another in its list of "can't do" missions. IMOHO the shuttle would never have flown if the military hadn't backed it as a way to launch "sensitive" cargo. After Challenger the military seemed to lose interest.

If I were one of the shuttle astronauts (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260769)

"We're good to return without repairs? Ummm...tell you what, just drop me off at the ISS and I'll wait for the next shuttle, ok?"

Re:If I were one of the shuttle astronauts (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20261707)

Actually if you were one of the shuttle astronauts, you'd probably have enough confidence in the engineers on the ground to make the call correctly.

You don't make something as complex as a shuttle mission work correctly by second guessing everybody.

Re:If I were one of the shuttle astronauts (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20261745)

It's called a joke son.

640 tiles is enough for everyone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20260779)

640 tiles is enough for everyone

One final test (4, Funny)

ubrgeek (679399) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260795)

> after receiving the results of one final thermal test

While playing Stairway to Heaven, bic lighters were waved back and forth over the affected area.

To err on the side of caution... (1, Insightful)

gihan_ripper (785510) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260799)

...why don't they replace the tiles anyway, just to be sure? The article suggests that a spacewalk would create added risk, but we know that spacewalks occur all the time routinely. Perhaps there is a financial motivation for not carrying out the repair? I don't know. What I'd like to see is an actual breakdown of the possible positive and negative consequences of each course of action and the probabilities that NASA has assigned to the outcomes. I'm really hoping that they've put some serious statistical analysis into this decision and aren't just flying by the seat of their pants. Certainly, the article quotes a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Douglas Osheroff, as saying that the repairs "can only increase their chances of making it down."

Re:To err on the side of caution... (1)

SQL Error (16383) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260883)

They can't replace the tiles - the tiles are fitted to the shape of the Shuttle; every tile is different.

They have a patch kit, but in applying the patch they could weaken the tiles that they're patching. So it's a tradeoff. If they perform the repair and all goes well, then they're probably better off than before. But if something goes wrong during the repair, things could get a lot worse.

Re:To err on the side of caution... (1)

tzhuge (1031302) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260897)

What I heard in an interview with some NASA guy is that the foam bottom of the shuttle is extremely delicate (according to him, you can poke a finger into it.) So it's not so much that the space walk is especially dangerous for the astronaut but that the risk of causing more serious damage is very real. Wouldn't want to accidentally knock off a tile...

Re:To err on the side of caution... (0, Redundant)

Spirilis (3338) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260899)

Unless, during a spacewalk, one of the astronauts accidentally bumps some of the adjacent tiles and break them... (IIRC, they are EXTREMELY fragile, a mere tap is all that is required to snap 'em). That's the kind of risk they're probably worried about.

Re:To err on the side of caution... (1)

BlackSnake112 (912158) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261415)

You do realize that those tiles are put under a lot more fore then a tap during lift off and re-entry. A simple tap will not break them. Have ever actually seen these tiles? They are like 6 inches by 6 inches and vary in thickness from 1 to 5 inches thick (depending on location). The exact shape differs to contour to the shape of the shuttle and if that area has a door/hatch. Even the 1 inch thick tiles will not break from a simple tap. Hitting it with a hammer, yea they will break. A tap of the finger no way.

You can see one that is in a museum. There is a space shuttle in the air and space museum. Enterprise(?) it never was in space though.

Re:To err on the side of caution... (1)

fataugie (89032) | more than 6 years ago | (#20262017)

Thank you....finally someone stating the obvious.

Delicate tiles? What? Are they made out of...sugar? Snapping them with a touch of the finger? WTF? Are you HIGH?

What I want to know is.... who the hell designed this tile shield? A pack of retarded monkeys? Why in hell would you spec a tile that when patched, becomes more likely to fail?

I'm old enough to remember the first shuttle landing when a half dozen of the little bastards fell off. I remember thinking it was a fluke, since it was the first flight and all. Ha! They can get them to stick on, but now they can't seem to keep ice and foam from damanging things.

Honestly, why do I feel like this thing is made from leftover spare Yugo parts?

No, I'm not a rocket scientist, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night.

Re:To err on the side of caution... (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 6 years ago | (#20262365)

Do you also ask why they can't make planes out of the materials the black boxes are made of?

Re:To err on the side of caution... (2, Insightful)

bev_tech_rob (313485) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260943)

It would be problematic to replace the affected tiles.....if I remember from old articles (don't have links, sorry), each tile is unique and not the same size as its neighbor (although they visually appear to be). You would have to grind it or somehow alter the shape to make it fit the hole precisely as it should.

If they used the caulk, I would worry about the goop bubbling out or not being flush with the surrounding surface, thereby creating drag which may pull the whole tile out, which would leave a BIGGER opening with sharp edges causing more tiles to be torn off...I would think the black paint they were discussing wouldn't hurt.....just my .02 cents...

Re:To err on the side of caution... (3, Insightful)

RoverDaddy (869116) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260959)

I read Osheroff's quote and decided he's talking out his ass (or it's a lousy quote). Perhaps successful repairs can only increase their chances, but things can and do go wrong, and it wasn't explained how Osheroff was in a better position to make the analysis than the people at NASA doing it. BTW, if you read the article carefully, it seems that financial considerations would lean toward doing the repair, not avoiding it. Leaving the gouge in place may result in more down-time and repair work for Endeavour on the ground.

If it aint [all that] broke, don't fix it. (3, Informative)

reality-bytes (119275) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261023)

They can't actually replace entire tiles on orbit. They have a 'patching' system which allows them to spread a compound into any nicks in the tiles.

Now, the compound has to be applied by an astronaut attached to a long extension arm attached to the Shuttle's robotic arm. When they tested this a few flights ago, it became readily apparent that it was at best difficult to work this way. The length of the arm caused significant 'bouncing' with every motion. At the time they only pulled a gap filler and simulated the motion of filling a tile and it wasn't easy.

The real danger is that the control issues of having a 'massive' astronaut + EVA gear swinging around on the end of that very long arm so close to the TPS could actually cause more damage to the tiles than it fixed.

Furthermore, the compound could actually cause even worse localised heating issues on re-entry depending on how well it fills the tile ie: It could cause ducting etc.

Re:To err on the side of caution... (2, Informative)

east coast (590680) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261063)

but we know that spacewalks occur all the time routinely.

What's risky about this isn't the space walk itself but the concept of damaging more tiles. It's a delicate operation and one slip can make things go from bad to worse easily.

Perhaps there is a financial motivation for not carrying out the repair?

What financial motivation? The material already exist onboard. There is no investment and the amounts by which NASA would be set back in the case of a mid-air breakup or even a safe landing with an unusable shuttle far outweighs using the patch method. If you're going to say something like this I'd think that you'd need to back it up with some logic (even if it's faulty) or fall suspect to producing FUD. Not to be a dick but I find it to be a dismissive remark that borders on trollish.

What I'd like to see is an actual breakdown of the possible positive and negative consequences of each course of action and the probabilities that NASA has assigned to the outcomes. I'm really hoping that they've put some serious statistical analysis into this decision and aren't just flying by the seat of their pants.

Again, not to be a dick but I'd like to give the guys at NASA some credit here and pretty much chalk this up to random speculation of a problem that has been reviewed by NASA's best engineers for hundreds, if not thousands, of man hours. A PDF with some stats is not going to convey the experience of the teams in question. I know we joke that NASA has certain problems that are rather embarrassing but I'd like to think they went the extra mile on this one.

Certainly, the article quotes a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Douglas Osheroff, as saying that the repairs "can only increase their chances of making it down."

Let's requote that: the [successful] repairs "can only increase their chances of making it down."

Again, I think it's a matter of potentially doing more harm then good. I think if NASA had a guarantee from the mouth of God that this repair would not cause more damage they'd go for it in a second. They'd be fools not to. This isn't a question of if the repairs will help but a question of pros and cons.

I'm not going to say that everything is going to work out but I certainly hope they do. If I were up there I'd be more willing to trust the ground engineers at this point. Not to say that Dr. Osheroff doesn't know what he's talking about, he's well versed on the subject but I don't know how much he really knows about this incident and what his take is on the chances of making the situation worse with a potentially botched repair job.

eBay opens "shuttle parts" category (-1, Offtopic)

athloi (1075845) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260853)

In anticipation of the forthcoming shuttle detonation over eastern Texas, eBay has resurrected its "shuttle parts" category and raised its rates. This new category joins other profit centers like impromptu religious artifacts, celebrity bodily fluids and captured jihad munitions.

some people do not deserve mod points (0, Offtopic)

unity100 (970058) | more than 6 years ago | (#20262125)

who modded the parent "offtopic" ? someone devoid of capability to establish correlations ?

Isn't there a teacher on board this time? (-1, Troll)

PortHaven (242123) | more than 6 years ago | (#20260957)

Don't they know? "Every time they send a teacher up on the shuttle - it's catastrophic!"

*sighs*

- Once again safety last, just proves NASA learns jack from it's mistakes
- Potential for a great test case in real world situations avoided.

If lives weren't involved, I'd want NASA to be wrong just so we'd get them to stop being pig-headed. For all the money involved in NASA, if it was put out as prize grants we'd probably get a lot more space presence and learning.

*sighs*

I was in 6 grade when Challenger blew up. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20261033)

I have a fixed memory of this. I will never forget sitting in reading class with my classmates watching it go up, up, up, and then kablueeee! All our mouths dropped. We had never seen anything like it at the time. Decades later, I don't think anybody is surprised by disaster anymore. In fact, I think it's expected to happen( no, thanks to Bush!).

I do hope these guys make it back. But I think there is a serious problem. We all know the space fleet is beyond it's shelf life. So why hasn't it been scraped and reinvented with more pioneering technology? I feel that if there's another catastrophic disaster; then NASA will be dismantled. Perhaps it should be. I've always dreamed about space exploration but our current state of affairs is a recipe for failure. If our planet is too succeed; then full support and focus is needed by all. I'll say a prayer our current space explorers. I truly hope they make it back in one piece.

Re:I was in 6 grade when Challenger blew up. (1)

cosinezero (833532) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261149)

"I will never forget sitting in reading class with my classmates watching it go up, up, up, and then kablueeee! All our mouths dropped."

-->I share that exact memory. And the teachers trying hard to figure out how to explain all that to the students.

Aside from finding out that Vader was Luke's Father, that may have been the biggest WTF! moment of childhood.

Re:I was in 6 grade when Challenger blew up. (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 6 years ago | (#20262211)

We all know the space fleet is beyond it's shelf life. So why hasn't it been scraped and reinvented with more pioneering technology?

Because every single solitary year, the budget for NASA is drastically reduced...it's at the point now where they are barely able to function.

Instead of investing in exploring the existance that surrounds us, we instead decide that our money is better spent destroying each other. To quote Bill Hicks:

"Here's what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, NOT ONE, and united as one race we could explore inner and outer space in peace...for EVER."

Not even Duct tape?! (3, Funny)

erroneus (253617) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261101)

Man, that pretty much fixes everything... did they forget to pack any this trip?

Crew and Shuttle are not in danger!!!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20261127)

Jeez,

The crew and shuttle are not in any danger from this. Dozens of engineers from all over the country spent many hours doing thermodynamic modeling, fluid dynamics modeling, running samples in an arc jet furnace that simulates re-entry and then some. The managers spent more than 4 hours each of the last few days discussing all of these results, not coming to a conclusion until all the results were in, just to make sure the all agreed with each other. The proved that there is no danger to anybody or anything that is going to re-enter earth, so the decided not to do a risky (and scientifically proven unnecessary) spacewalk. Stop with the post saying that NASA should do this or that - the actually DO know what they're doing.

--End rant against silly ideas and preposterous reasoning for doing a repair.

You seem very sure about this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20261259)

#Purpose: Counter Rant
#Author: Some Young Guy(kinda)

I hope you're right. Other than they fact that THEY do have teams of people who can analyze this problem; do YOU have some insider knoweledge that the damaged tiles are actually a non-issue? Probably not. Therefore you shouldn't assume or believe everything you read. People make mistakes in math, judgement, or are influenced by powers to say the opposite so as to not cast doubt on a volatile situation. Instead of ranting about trusting NASA's judgement; you've overlooked many previous incidences that say otherwise about our space exploration program.

#Done

Re:You seem very sure about this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20261649)

Well, I may have watched the NASA press conferences, where the talked about this, for the last couple days on NASA TV.

"The MMT made two significant decisions tonight," Shannon said. "The first was a unanimous recommendation that the damage we saw after reviewing all the engineering tests and analysis was not a threat to crew safety, this was not something that the astronauts are in danger about. We had thought that for several days, but we were waiting for the final analysis to be complete.

"We did all the things that we said we were going to do over the last few days. We had engineering analyses, we had computational fluid dynamics of the cavity from both Ames Research Center and the Langley Research Center, they were both in agreement. We did the thermal analysis and that continued to show good margins and we also did two arc jet tests where we put a re-entry heating profile on the damage sites.

"We went through all of that data and it was unanimous that we were not in a loss of crew/vehicle case," Shannon said. "The discussion then centered on whether we should use as is and return Endeavour in its current condition or if the uncertainties in the analysis could potentially cause some underlying tile damage or structural damage that we would have to deal with at the Kennedy Space Center. So we had that debate. And it was not unanimous, but it was pretty overwhelming to go with the use-as-is condition, in other words not to do the tile repair."

from http://www.spaceflightnow.com/shuttle/sts118/07081 6norepair/ [spaceflightnow.com]

That last non unanimous vote was something like 29-1 according to the press conference.

--Original poster

Re:You seem very sure about this? (1)

Walt Dismal (534799) | more than 6 years ago | (#20262221)

Here's what really happened:

NASA flunky: "Hello, is this Canaveral Auto Body?"

CAB: "Speaking."

NASA: "Yes, well, we've kind of thinking about having some body work done on the shuttle. It's in orbit right now. Do you do mobile repairs?"

CAB: "Yeah, we have Bruce Willis. Okay, what you do you need?"

NASA: "Well, we have a little shuttle gouge."

CAB: "Teenage drivers again?"

NASA: "No. What do you think it'll cost?"

CAB: "Insurance?"

NASA: "All State."

CAB: "How big's the gouge?"

NASA: "Couple inches."

CAB: "Let me see (taps calculator keys) Okay, on-site repair mission, estimate $30,000,000. We're kind of booked up right now, but we can do it for you by .. lemme see .. next opening is after Labor Day. And... you want clearcoat?"

NASA: "!!!!!! (spits coffee) B..b..b.but we have some guys waiting on this."

CAB: "Sorry. Why don't you try Wing Chang's Golden Auto Repair down the street. He's cheaper but he can do it fast. Cuts costs by not having his crew come back. Gotta tell you, that Chinese body putty doesn't hold up for too many missions."

NASA: "I gotta ask my boss... he ain't gonna like this..." (whimper)

Re:Crew and Shuttle are not in danger!!!!!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20261279)

Just like they did test on the o-rings right? Managers always listen to engineers right??? It all comes down to money and time.

Why not change the design? (1)

chud67 (690322) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261217)

After all the problems NASA has had during reentry with foam and tiles on the shuttle, I don't understand why they haven't built a new craft with a better design; something like Burt Rutan's 'feather' reentry system used on SpaceShipOne would be good. It would reduce the risk from these blazing hot reentries.

Re:Why not change the design? (2, Insightful)

ahuard (992454) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261743)

The feather reentry technique is only useful at suborbital speeds. How do you expect the spacecraft to slow down to these speeds? The only option is to use the underside of the shuttle as a heat shield as it is barreling through our atmosphere. What other options are there? You can't use a fuel burn because that would enormously increase the launch weight, and therefore the cost, of every mission. The shuttle was designed by some of the best aerospace engineers in the world. I'm sure every crazy reentry option was on the table during the design phase and they chose the one best suited for the job.

~Andrew

Re:Why not change the design? (1)

terrymr (316118) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261771)

As good as SpaceShipOne is, they're not dealing with re-entry at orbital velocities. It's a whole different ball-game.

Angry General (1)

Programmer_In_Traini (566499) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261317)

Angry General:
Son, what do you mean you've blown my multi-billion dollar shuttle ?

Pissing-in-his-pants Soldier:
Well, there was this small gouge you see, we had experts analyze it and they said it was not urgent.

Angry General:
you mean you wouldn't spend a few tens of thousand bucks to keep a multi-billion shuttle in good health ? I'll tell you what, why don't you and your experts go clean the toilets with your tongue while you think things through...

Re:Angry General (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20262069)

So when did a general become an authority in a civilian agency?

A bit of Tile prediction History: all bad (1, Informative)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261395)

Ahem, I have some doubts about NASA's ability to predict tile-related events, based on their past record:

  • The first calculations about the aerodynamic loads on the tiles were waay off.
  • So far off, many tiles fell off when the Shuttle was carried on back of the 747!
  • The calcs about the damage to tiles from loose foam were also way off.
  • So I'd be rather dubious about any heat-transfer calculations from those same folks.
  • We will see.

Re:A bit of Tile prediction History: all bad (2, Informative)

Eponymous Bastard (1143615) | more than 6 years ago | (#20262115)

Which is why they are not relying on calculations. They actually grabbed some tiles, gouged them in the exact same form from the measurements taken in orbit and then put them in a hot wind tunnel (The Arcjet facility) to check what will actually happen
see here [nasaspaceflight.com]
And:
here (with pictures). [nasaspaceflight.com]

The tests at Arc Jet used a set of tiles, with identical damage drilled on to a test article. This was then put through the heat of a simulated re-entry, to test how the damaged area performed, along with the gathering of thermal data.

'The Arc Jet test using the damaged test article was completed, initial assessment did not identify structural burn through,' noted one encouraging memo, with data showing that the heating remained 50 degrees below the baseline requirement for the underlying structure.


And those articles are from the preliminary results. They were supposed to do an additional test with the repaired tile.

how many tile defects in past? (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261505)

I'm under the impression they've had dozens of defects more extensive than this one in the hundre-plus returns. At least they did laboratory tests and computer modeling of the exact defect they discovered this time.

Nasa Repair Plan reminds me of.... (1)

JustASlashDotGuy (905444) | more than 6 years ago | (#20261949)

....NASA's in-space repair abilities that they spent gobs of money on after Columbia remind me a lot about our "Disaster Recovery" plans at my firm. Sure.. we have one; Sure.. we spend a lot of money on it;... but please.. oh please.. don't make us actually test it or put it into practice.

I hope they didn't just spend all that money so that could check the "Disaster Recovery" check box on some form and quiet the complaints.

Re:Nasa Repair Plan reminds me of.... (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 6 years ago | (#20262285)

It has been *tested.* What you're suggesting is akin to taking down the company servers. The live servers. The servers that run the company. Not backups of the servers, not test boxes, THE servers. The ones that make you piss your pants on a simple restart no matter how redundant they are.

NASA's tested applying the goop on practice tiles on the end of the arm. Here's the thing: the arm wobbles. the underbelly of the shuttle is fragile. Astronauts on an EVA don't exactly have the same forces available that we do to react instantly. Stuff floats out there, inertia, all that stuff. One wrong hiccup and that 400-500 pound weight is crashing into the shuttle and there's no way to stop it.

That's why the don't want to do a repair: the risks outweigh the benefits. And what do you think the media would say if the tiles were damaged further during a repair? I shudder to think...
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