Space Shuttle Program Grounded

Rich Tehrani : Communications and Technology Blog -
Rich Tehrani
| Communications and Technology Blog - Latest news in IP communications, telecom, VoIP, call center & CRM space

Space Shuttle Program Grounded

How depressing a thought is this? One of the most inspirational space programs NASA has ever put forth is now grounded. After analyzing the effects of debris falling from Discovery during blastoff the agency decided to put a hold on future launches. It is not clear whether any debris actually hit Discovery or the extent of any impact.

From a CNN article:

NASA was analyzing data from video and from the robotic arm, the launch and elsewhere to decide what steps -- if any -- to take next.

"We should start seeing the jury coming in on those decisions by the end of the crew's day tomorrow," Hill said. "My guess is we're not going to have a problem."

At a Tuesday news conference, NASA flight operations manager John Shannon predicted that the space agency would have enough information by Sunday to decide whether any repairs are needed and, if so, whether such repairs would be possible.

Shannon said the initial estimate of the debris showed it was about 1.5 inches long. He said it might be the tile covering rather than the tile itself.
Footage of Discovery's launch also showed a piece of debris falling from the external fuel tank at the time it separated from the orbiter, Shannon said. However, it did not strike the orbiter, he said.

Footage also showed that the external fuel tank's nose cone hit a bird about 2.5 seconds after liftoff -- when Discovery was probably traveling too slowly to sustain any damage, he said.

Hill said it has not been lost on controllers that this is the first mission after the Columbia disaster.

"We have seven folks living on this space shuttle and counting on us to do the right thing and keep them safe and not to get all giddy and high-fiving each other," he said.

"There's a certain amount of almost shock that we really are here, we really are doing these things that so many folks ... thought that we couldn't do."

As the orbiter approaches the international space station for a scheduled Thursday 7:18 a.m. ET docking, the station's crew will photograph Discovery to look further for any damage.

Shuttle crew members plan to test repair techniques during three scheduled space walks by astronauts Steve Robinson and Soichi Noguchi of Japan. During their space walks, Robinson and Noguchi also plan to service the space station.

As part of the safety changes instituted after Columbia, NASA developed contingency plans for astronauts to try to repair damaged shuttles so they can return to Earth. In the event a spacecraft cannot be repaired, plans call for the crew to take refuge in the space station until a rescue mission can be launched.

Featured Events