[FoRK] Save the Astronauts -- Kill the Shuttle

Ian Andrew Bell FoRK fork
Fri Jul 29 13:59:02 PDT 2005

The Shuttle project has become an incredibly bloated white elephant,  
there's almost no scientific benefit to shoving men up into space to,  
effectively, watch over what a computer is (already) doing, and it's  
pretty-much the least cost-effective space delivery mechanism ever  
conceived.  The airframes are more than 20 years old and require  
complete structural refits after every mission, are exhibiting  
fatigue throughout their construction, and are killing astronauts at  
an alarming rate while sucking up cash at an epic scale.

And the continued funding of this waste of space (love this pun!) is  
preventing NASA from allocating enough funding to replace the thing,  
meaning that they'll probably continue to fly the thing until all 6  
flyable airframes are toasted.  The Russians, meanwhile, may have  
done it better.


Heaping money on a project in order to keep Nerd Farms abstract of  
the realities of market dynamics can only displace reality for so  
long, until things start exploding and cratering in violent,  
dramatic, fashion.



Mission known as STS-114
Discovery's 31st flight
17th orbiter flight to ISS
Payload: Raffaello Multi-Purpose Logistics Module
Lift-off: 1039 EDT, 26 July
Location: Kennedy Space Center, Launch Pad 39B
Discovery crew: Collins, Kelly, Noguchi, Robinson, Thomas, Lawrence  
and Camarda

A chunk of insulating foam fell off Columbia's external fuel tank and  
struck its outer skin, allowing superheated gases to get inside,  
causing the shuttle to break up as it re-entered the Earth's  
atmosphere on 1 February 2003.

All the astronauts were killed and the shuttle programme was  
suspended until Discovery's blastoff on Tuesday.

Nasa officials acknowledged that shards of foam may have hit  
Discovery's wing, but they said they were confident the shuttle was  
not at risk.

However, despite a flight suspension, the shuttle Atlantis is on  
standby to stage a rescue mission, if needed.
Close inspection

At a press conference on Friday, officials said there are six areas  
where impact could have occurred on Discovery and they would continue  
to analyse sensor and image data over the weekend.

The concern about Discovery's structural integrity stems from video  
footage of Tuesday's spectacular launch that showed foam falling  
about the vehicle a few minutes into its ride to orbit.

At least three pieces of foam came off the Discovery, including one  
about 80cm (31 inches) by 35cm (14 inches), slightly smaller than the  
piece which caused Columbia's destruction.

There are apparent signs of small damage to tiling near Discovery's  
nose landing-gear doors and to a square "chine" tile further toward  
the aft (back) end of the ship, which are causing concern.

Nasa will want to establish if these areas have been compromised in a  
way that might prohibit a safe return to Earth for Discovery.

Before arriving at the space station, Discovery performed an  
unprecedented 360-degree flip. It allowed the crew on the  
International Space Station (ISS) the chance to train long lenses on  
the vehicle's underside.

The digital images were sent down to Nasa's Johnson Space Center in  
Houston, Texas, for engineers to work over.

Discovery's docking with the ISS was completed at 0718 EDT (1218 BST;  
1118 GMT) above the South Pacific just west of Chile.

The ISS crew, American John Phillips and Russian Sergei Krikalev,  
warmly greeted Discovery's seven-member team, led by Commander Collins.

Three spacewalks are planned for the mission.

The first on Saturday will test repair kits designed to deal with  
small damage areas on the shuttle's heat shield tiles.

The two other spacewalks will repair and install critical hardware  
outside the space station.

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