Wednesday, August 15, 2007

"Houston, We've Had A Problem Here"


As space shuttle Endeavour was approaching the International Space Station they performed a shuttle back flip. This allowed the ISS Astronauts to take Hi-Res pictures to be analyzed by NASA to see if any damaged had occurred to the shuttle's protective tile system during take off. The picture above shows the damage they did find. A 4"x4" piece of foam about 1.8" thick, weighing only a third of an ounce fell from a fuel tank bracket, creating a 3.5"x2" gash in the protective tile system, exposing the inner felt strip next to the shuttle's aluminum frame.

There are 3 options for repair available to the shuttle crew.
1. Paint the section with heat resistant paint.
2. Screw in a protective plate.
3. Fill the hole with a protective goo.

Now, if I were an Astronaut on board the Endeavour I'd be voting to do all 3 and then look around for some Duct tape as well, better safe than sorry, right? What's confusing to me is that NASA is still thinking about not doing any repairs at all, or as John Shannon, chairman of Endeavour's mission management team stated, "We're cautiously optimistic that we can fly as is". One of the reasons they are thinking of NOT doing any repairs is they only expect temperatures of 325 degrees on the exposed felt, and the upper limit for heating on the Endeavours hull at the damaged area is 350 degrees, am I the only one doing the math? that's only 25 degrees to the good. Even though the repair itself would be relatively simple, the fact that the Astronauts would be wearing a 300 -pound spacesuit carrying 150 pounds of tools, there is the danger that their tools could bang into the shuttle and cause even more damage, I say you send 2 patch kits with the repair guys/girls instead of one, and when you think of it, just how klutzy are these people anyway? These guys/girls are trained Astronauts. Anything could happen yet, I'm sure NASA will do the right thing whatever that may be.

The shuttle has been docked at the space station since Friday August 10th. They are scheduled to leave for home August 20th, landing August 22nd at 12:48 pm EDT. at the Kennedy Space Center. I was going to link to a NASA video which explained the STS118 mission, but I literally dozed off during the viewing, and it was only 8 minutes long, so many acronyms, why can't they make this stuff interesting? I mean I woke up and I just wanted it to be over.
Oh and by the way while all this other stuff is going on, two Russian Cosmonauts are trying to repair one of the Russian ISS computer systems that has been down since June due to condensation from an air conditioning unit. I will leave you with a Youtube video of the damaged area.

8 comments:

Anna Lozyk Romeo said...

Being an engineer, you learn from mistakes, that cost me a job once (right after graduation), since then I will NEVER NEVER assume, and my safety factor is always included. I just cannot believe that some are still ignorant - did you hear about the astronout that needed to abord the space walk because hole was detected in the glove...
Bob, like always good blog reading.

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks Anna, at work we never assume anything because of liability, this actually blows me away, better safe than sorry I say, what if something although remote it may be happens, the stakes are much higher here 7 lifes. Yes I have been keeping up to date with anything to do with the shuttle, proves my point , expect the unexpected, who would have thought there would be a hole in the glove problem, you better believe the astronauts are concerened about the tile damage.

self taught artist said...

Too bad you can't get a job with NASA, I consider you a translator...decipherer....a connection to space I wouldn't have otherwise. It's informative and digestible.

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks self taught artist! first order of business, repair the shuttle tile system, after all thats what they made the repair kits for, right?

Anna Lozyk Romeo said...

Bob, the job I had, little assumption would not cost any lives, but then working with Japanese and their 'knitpicking', was a little too much, but good experience that I gained - and it is very useful later in life. But on the personal level as I matured, I don't even need liability, I just don't assume. PS I wouldn't want to be in astronauts position.

Bob Johnson said...

Thats right Anna, worse yet ,their families!

zunnur said...

Wow, a 1.8" foam causing such a damage, the speed of the shuttle must be tremendous.

Bob Johnson said...

Zunnur, they were probably at that stage, 58 seconds after launch, going about 4-6 thousand miles per hour. Its amazing how such a little piece of foam can do such damage to a ceramic tile, speed kills.