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NASA Finds 4-5" Crack in Shuttle Insulation 193

Posted by Hemos
from the debilating-or-not dept.
PresidentKang writes "Spaceflight Now is reporting that a large crack has been found in an external tank foam of Space Shuttle Discovery on the launch pad. According to the article: "Engineers inspecting the shuttle Discovery's external tank following Sunday's launch scrub found a crack in the tank's foam insulation near a bracket holding a 17-inch oxygen feed line in place. Some engineers believe the crack must be repaired but senior managers say a variety of options are on the table, from fly as is to making repairs.""
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NASA Finds 4-5" Crack in Shuttle Insulation

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  • by DHalcyon (804389) <lorenzd AT gmail DOT com> on Monday July 03, 2006 @10:02AM (#15650068)
    "...but senior managers say a variety of options are on the table, from fly as is to making repairs."

    I wonder what those managers would say if they had to fly the shuttle.
    • by `Sean (15328) <sean@ubuntu.com> on Monday July 03, 2006 @10:09AM (#15650112) Homepage Journal
      I wonder what those managers would say if they had to fly the shuttle.
      "Hello, ISS, yes, we'd like to make reservations arriving July 4th. Departure date? Uhm...we're not sure...how quickly can Russia get a lifeboat up here?"
    • by jonnythan (79727) on Monday July 03, 2006 @10:50AM (#15650431) Homepage
      From what I hear, the actual astronauts are much, much more accepting of risk than the engineers or management.

      So, I don't think you'd hear the astronauts being the most conservative on this decision just because they're in the ship.
      • by bsartist (550317) on Monday July 03, 2006 @11:24AM (#15650661) Homepage
        From what I hear, the actual astronauts are much, much more accepting of risk than the engineers or management.
        Yes - it takes a certain daredevil mentality to go sit on top a barely-controlled bomb. Most of them also have an engineering, physics, or other technical background too, and stay closely involved with every step of the planning and preparation. They're very well informed about the exact level of risk they're taking. Actually, I think I do remember something about the astronauts being able to stop the launch on their own say-so at any time - the idea being that since they're right there on the spot, they may recognize a problem and react to it far faster than Ground Control could.
    • From senior managers, 'a variety of options are on the table' means 'we don't know yet.'

      Everything is still on the table: they haven't actually evaluated the problem yet. They've just gotten a report from one or two engeneers. Once they have a (hopefully good) evaluation, then they can make a decision.

      Until then, they haven't actually said anything.
  • Patch it (Score:5, Funny)

    by tygerstripes (832644) on Monday July 03, 2006 @10:03AM (#15650073)
    The current intention is to patch the crack. However, senior officials insist that unless the problem grows "significantly worse" over the next few days then they see no reason to issue the patch until the second Tuesday of the month.
    • Status Update (Score:3, Informative)

      by iamlucky13 (795185)

      Sorry to piggyback on a joke. This is the actual status, copied from NASA's shuttle page [nasa.gov]

      Status Update
      During a routine inspection overnight after the draining of the external fuel tank, a crack was discovered in the foam near a bracket that holds the liquid oxygen feedline in place. This piece of foam has been estimated to be 0.0057 pounds. It is believed that the rain experienced during yesterday's launch attempt caused water to run down the feedline and form ice near the top of the strut next to the

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 03, 2006 @10:05AM (#15650085)
    Did they get posession charges or was there enough crack that they got booked for traffiking?
  • by Belgarion89 (969077) on Monday July 03, 2006 @10:05AM (#15650090)
    So now the real question becomes, which will launch first, DNF, Windows Vista, or the Shuttle? I say the Shuttle, it's cracks aren't nearly as big as Vista's (an M$ product) will be.
  • by damburger (981828) on Monday July 03, 2006 @10:06AM (#15650095)

    Look at the 'Latest' news on the right [bbc.co.uk]

    Surely they should just get the thing working before they add extra features like that?

  • by DeviceDriver (962219) on Monday July 03, 2006 @10:12AM (#15650133)
    I know the shuttle is at the end of life, but the follow on will still need insulated tanks. The early Atlas had no insulation and needed to be fueled in the final minutes of the countdown. Clearly a problem. But any means of making the insulation crack free, thus flexable, and still able to withstand the launch, thus stiff, would require significent added mass. Mayby an outer shell of carbon composite.
    • The early Atlas had no insulation and needed to be fueled in the final minutes of the countdown. Clearly a problem.

      I ain't quite a rocket scientist, so maybe the answer is obvious to others, but why is that a problem?
      • by wowbagger (69688) on Monday July 03, 2006 @10:31AM (#15650273) Homepage Journal

        The early Atlas had no insulation and needed to be fueled in the final minutes of the countdown. Clearly a problem.


        I ain't quite a rocket scientist, so maybe the answer is obvious to others, but why is that a problem?

        Because of the volume of fuel that would have be transferred to the shuttle - compare filling a moped (the Atlas) and a Peterbuilt tractor unit (the Shuttle). It is not hard to fill a moped in a few minutes, filling the Peterbuilt takes quite a bit longer. Meanwhile, fuel is evaporating, leaking, and filling the launch area with a flammable mix of hydrogen and oxygen, AND water is condensing on the fuel tanks, freezing, and turning into nice hard chunks suitable for breaking things, like, say, fragile heat-resistant tiles.
        • by Nimey (114278) on Monday July 03, 2006 @10:37AM (#15650319) Homepage Journal
          But if NASA does the sensible thing and mounts the Shuttle's replacement on top of the stack like they did for Apollo, you don't have to worry about ice falling and hitting heat-resistant tiles, because all that's mounted above the fuel tank.

          I wouldn't be suprised if the external tank is insulated just because of how the shuttle is mounted on the assembly.
          • by 0123456 (636235) on Monday July 03, 2006 @10:42AM (#15650360)
            "I wouldn't be suprised if the external tank is insulated just because of how the shuttle is mounted on the assembly."

            It's more complicated than that. It is needed to stop ice forming that would trash the shuttle, but it also reduces fuel boiloff, protects the tank from aerodynamic heating, and keeps the metal cold... the metal in the tank gets stronger as it cools down, and that means they've been able to cut back on the amount they use. Since the tank goes most of the way to orbit, saving a pound of mass in the tank gives you close to a pound of extra payload in the shuttle.
    • by sparky555 (986576) on Monday July 03, 2006 @10:27AM (#15650243)
      The only reason why the foam is a problem is because the orbiter hangs from the side of the tank and can be hit by the foam when it falls off. In future generations of manned spacecraft, the crew vehicle will be on the top again, like in Apollo, Gemini and Mercury. In that case, it really doesn't matter what falls off.
    • by Zinnian (958511) on Monday July 03, 2006 @10:30AM (#15650260)
      The way I understood the replacement is that the module will be sitting on top of the tank instead of piggybacking as the current shuttle is. If it does, do we really care if insulation falls off during launch? It won't hit the part that comes back into the atmosphere anyways. I remember those old Apollo films where the chunks of ice were just dropping off in huge chunks.
      • I still don't get this. Space shuttles launch igniting a large amount of fuel. What is cold enough to produce ice? Isn't the whole thing an example in "professor... lava...hot!"
        • by Mirlas (760973) *
          The space shuttle runs on cryogenic fuel and oxidizer (liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen) in the main tank. If the tank were not insulated, water vapor in the air would condense forming a think layer of ice which would fall off during the vibrations of launch. If foam striking the orbiter caused a loss of vehicle on reentry, just think what ice could do. If I remember correctly liquid oxygen boils at between 70 and 80 Kelvins. Liquid Hydrogen is even colder, so cold that the nitrogen and oxygen in the a
          • Oh, that makes sense. Thanks for explaining it to me.
            • GP makes sense, but is not right. Note: I'm not an authority on the Shuttle program by any means, but this is just basic science. What I'm saying below is even more true for the hydrogen, but I used the oxygen as an example. There are two basic reasons it would be quite cold.

              1. To make Liquid Oxygen at room temperature does require extremely low temperatures. But they aren't keeping it THAT cold, because it would be prohibitively difficult.

              It doesn't need to be that cold, because under pressure the te
        • The fuels are _liquid_ hydrogen and _liquid_ oxygen. Last time I looked they were only liquid at well below freezing point of water.

          Things only get hot when these two are mixed together - in the engine. Getting them hot (and mixed) in the tank is a bad idea - think Challenger.
        • I still don't get this. Space shuttles launch igniting a large amount of fuel. What is cold enough to produce ice?
          Liquid oxygen for one thing. The ice chunks form prior to ignition, and the heat and violence of liftoff is the reason they fall off.
      • The insulation is only there to stop ice forming, there was no insulation on the Apollo series boosters, you can quite plainly see massive chunks of ice falling off on launch. This wasnt a problem because the manned capsule was ontop, well away from potential danger zones.
    • Why do you think the external insulation must be stiff enough to withstand launch? AFAICT it is totally useless at T-0. If I designed the thing, I would make foam so soft atthat it could barely lift its own weight when it is sufficiently cold, say a few degrees above freezing point of water. The launch would quickly heat the foam, transforming it into harmless goo.
  • Not an engineering project or a business enterprise.
    This type of thing is to be expected in political endeavors. Their purpose is never to satisfy the stated goals but to advance constituencies political agendas. For a political project failure is not only an option but often the most desirable one.
    • This type of thing is to be expected in political endeavors. Their purpose is never to satisfy the stated goals but to advance constituencies political agendas. For a political project failure is not only an option but often the most desirable one.

      Perhaps we can use the Hubble, which was carried and serviced by this vehicle, to peer down with great resolution and find the part of your comment that's not a troll? Or, just point out the controlling political entity that actually has a vested interest in th
      • The controlling entity that wants the shuttle to fail ?

        In the 70's it was the democratic party. The Shuttle was a nixon administration project and they were deriving political capitol with the whole "Money should be spent here on earth" mantra. I always enjoyed the counter that there were no malls on the moon.

        In the 80's you had fiscal conservatives on the republican side against it.

        In the 90's you had the clinton administration which cared less about space than about being spacey. To be fair Al go
        • Moot point (Score:3, Insightful)

          by StarKruzr (74642)
          Either way, the STS needs to go. It's 30-year-old technology, is not truly reusable, and can't do anything at all out of LEO.

          We can do far, far better [wikipedia.org]. End the Shuttle program, put the orbiters into museums, and put its operating budget into R&D for a new spacecraft.
    • Exactly so. Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo were no exceptions. They were essentially ballistic missile development programs with a very thin layer of space exploration paint applied over them. The moon landing itself was a demonstration of aeronautics and missile technology, and the political message was crystal clear: "We can specify a small target a bajillion miles away, and hit it with a missile." The implication being, of course, that hitting a city-sized target that's only a few thousand miles away would
      • The shuttle was part of Reagan's gambit to goad the Soviets into bankrupting themselves trying to keep up with our military spending in the 80s.

        From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:

        The program started in the late 1960s and has dominated NASA's manned operations since the mid-1970s.

        While I don't disagree that driving the Soviets bankrupt with envy is a plausible political goal of the shuttle program, you won't win anyone over by blaming or praising (depending on your POV on the situation) Reagan for the whole thing.

      • The shuttle was part of Reagan's gambit to goad the Soviets into bankrupting themselves trying to keep up with our military spending in the 80s. That's why high-tech and expensive was chosen over cheap and reliable.

        The problem with this theory is that shuttle studies started twenty years before Reagan took office and the Shuttle program was created nine years before he took office.

        Problem is, the war it was designed to fight has been over for a couple of decades, so we should have went b

  • Quick Fix (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Plocmstart (718110)
    Fix it later? Aren't they running out of time before the July 4th launch? Wrap it in duct tape... that seems to work well for other insulated pipes installed at public institutions (at least from my observations).
    • Duct tape has problems with the adhesive melting when it's applied to ducts. The adhesive weakens under the large amounts of heat in the ducts. Because of that, California has recently banned the use of duct tape on ducts. Imagine that on the space shuttle...

  • by wowbagger (69688) on Monday July 03, 2006 @10:23AM (#15650215) Homepage Journal
    Does anybody at NASA have a working memory? Don't they remember the results of the Challenger inquest, wherein plenty of evidence of engineers saying "DON'T LAUNCH! BAAAAD!" was ignored?

    I fear we may very well get a "fourth to remember", and NOT in a good way! It is all very well for a bottlerocket to explode in flight, NOT A MANNED SHIP!

    I fear that NASA is going to launch, come hell or high water, and damned be the consequences.
    • "I fear we may very well get a "fourth to remember", and NOT in a good way! It is all very well for a bottlerocket to explode in flight, NOT A MANNED SHIP!"

      Perhaps sending up a rocket on a day when Americans traditionally launch fireworks is tempting fate a little.

      Oh, that and the engineer thing as well. Well said.

    • On my way to work today I was reading Edward Tufte's The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint, [edwardtufte.com] in which he presents an interesting breakdown of the communication structure at NASA. [edwardtufte.com] Basically, it seems that many of the technical reports within NASA are now being given as PowerPoint presentations, with formal write-ups being supplanted by lists of bullet points. Needless to say, this means that very important technical information is being distilled to easily-consumable fragments that don't contain much informatio
      • Give it a rest.

        Take a look at "What Do You Care What Other People Think" by Richard Feynman and read what he had to say about the first shuttle disaster. NASA has had problems facing reality long before PowerPoint was available.
      • This is different from other organizations how?

        Honestly, senior managers don't have time to review every minor detail of every project. This kind of structure works as long as people at the lower levels are competent to know what information is relevant to pass along, how much information their superiors can handle at once, and what makes a critical bullet point. If you watch the interviews and press conferences, you'll notice Griffin and the other top NASA officials have a pretty good handle on what's g
    • With something as complex as the shuttle, something can ALWAYS go wrong. Last time was insulation. Next time will most likely be something else completely. You can't make something like the shuttle completely fail safe. The engineers will always find something that might be wrong, but fixing it might even be worse.
    • Does anybody at NASA have a working memory? Don't they remember the results of the Challenger inquest, wherein plenty of evidence of engineers saying "DON'T LAUNCH! BAAAAD!" was ignored?

      Even if they do have a working memory - they won't remember that, as there was no such evidence. There was a small number of engineers who tried to say "Don't launch" at the eleventh hour - but they weren't trusted because a) this represented a near complete reversal of their previous stance and b) they could not offer a

      • So your claim is that no engineers at NASA had ever expressed concern about the O-rings except a few days before launch. What is your documentation for this claim?
        • So your claim is that no engineers at NASA had ever expressed concern about the O-rings except a few days before launch.

          No, my claim is that they elevated the level of concern from "this is not right but acceptably safe to fly" to "this is unsafe and we should not fly" until a few days before launch - without any new data that could (to managements eyes) justify the new conclusion.
      • >they could not offer a coherent case for changing their stance.

        Didn't Boisjoly say that the seals weren't qualified for the temperature on launch day?

        "Qualified" is a specialized term related to the adage "Test what you fly, fly what you test". It means that a part has proven itself for a particular use and environment. It's kind of like "rated", but with radically more testing and traceability.

        By aerospace standards, as soon as the seals were outside the conditions for which they were tested, they shou
      • There was a small number of engineers who tried to say "Don't launch" at the eleventh hour

        You mean the standardly organized preflight meeting?

        this represented a near complete reversal of their previous stance

        The one formed before the shuttle had been cold soaking in 28 degree weather?

        they could not offer a coherent case for changing their stance

        Besides the clear evidence that blow-by increased at lower temperatures within the range that they were familiar, that there was one shuttle flight already that had
        • they could not offer a coherent case for changing their stance

          Besides the clear evidence that blow-by increased at lower temperatures within the range that they were familiar, that there was one shuttle flight already that had come dangerously close to having the ring burned entirely away, and the 28 degree point being well outside the area they knew about?

          The problem is the engineers had supported the position that "even though the primary o-ring is burning - the secondary is holding, so were are OK

          • The problem is the engineers had supported the position that "even though the primary o-ring is burning - the secondary is holding, so were are OK to fly". (Despite the fact that the spec said "there shall be no blow by, period".) It wasn't until the eleventh hour that they changed their stance and became concerned about the secondary O-ring - without being able to (in managements eyes) justify and articulate that concern.

            Okay, I see what you're saying.

            The cause of the failure was joint rotation - there was
      • by Moraelin (679338) on Monday July 03, 2006 @11:53AM (#15650861) Journal
        I remember some anecdote about Gandhi. Someone asked him how come his stance on something is now the exact opposite of what it was last week. Gandhi said something like, "because this week I know better."

        Now I'm no Gandhi, but I can think of a lot of situations when learning something new made me reverse my stance on something. In fact, I consider it to be what every sane human does all the time. Only zealots have one absolute truth and stick to it for ever, no matter what. A scientist (either theoretical or engineer) should have no such things by definition. If you learn some new fact, or do another calculation, or run another simulation, or whatever, and it contradicts what you previously believed, yes, as an engineer I'd _expect_ you to be ready and willing to change your mind about it. Maybe you'll run some extra tests, do more calculations or whatever first, that's ok, but you shouldn't ever have the last week's stance as something set in stone and unchangeable for any reason.

        So, well, I won't argue a your point B for lack of enough data, but point A leaves me scratching my head in disbelief. So someone decided that those engineers aren't trustworthy... because they changed their mind? Seems like a pretty weird attitude. I definitely expected that at NASA even management would be a bit more open-minded than that. They're pretty much one continuous experiment and using experimental equipment, so it's exactly the kind of thing that should be _expected_.

        We're not talking stuff like designing a bike, where you can just do it all by the book and know the same today as you knew last week. We're talking crazy experimental stuff that noone else has done before, and a lot of it is tried for the first time. Someone calculated that this valve should be perfectly safe, or that foam can't break this time, but essentially it's the first time anyone actually put that valve or that new foam on a rocket and blast it into space. There's a lot of stuff that could act differently than in the simulation, or than in whatever lab tests were done.

        So, yes, stuff like someone doing some new calculations and deciding, "teh oops, this thing is gonna blow up" are the kind of thing I'd _expect_.
        • So, well, I won't argue a your point B for lack of enough data, but point A leaves me scratching my head in disbelief. So someone decided that those engineers aren't trustworthy... because they changed their mind? Seems like a pretty weird attitude. I definitely expected that at NASA even management would be a bit more open-minded than that. They're pretty much one continuous experiment and using experimental equipment, so it's exactly the kind of thing that should be _expected_.

          The issue is more complex

          • Even then it still seems to me like the sane thing to do is stop the launch until you can understand what _are_ they trying to say, how did this new interpretation come to pass, and maybe ask some other engineers to look at that new interpretation and get a competent opinion of it.

            Basically I don't think that any engineer worth his salt would do something like that based on "my horoscope said 'don't launch any shuttles today'" or similar. If they did change their mind or interpretation, there must be some s
    • I've always felt that the shuttle crew (the astronauts that are about to go up in the thing) should have at least 50% say in go/no-go decisions based on findings like this. If engineers find a 5" crack, it's the crew that suffer the consequences of a bad go/no-go decision. One assumes the crew are already part of the data-gathering process. If the shuttle crew say "Low risk - okay to fix on the pad and launch", then that should carry a lot of weight in the final decision. If they instead say "Too risky

      • I've always felt that the shuttle crew (the astronauts that are about to go up in the thing) should have at least 50% say in go/no-go decisions based on findings like this.

        I've heard this somewhere else, so weigh it accordingly (perhaps someone can verify or deny): the shuttle crews today do not have the engineering backgrounds of the crews of the past i.e. they are not really qualified to say whether the shuttle is safe to fly or not and NASA cannot scrap a launch just because the crew feels uneasy for

      • I've always felt that the shuttle crew (the astronauts that are about to go up in the thing) should have at least 50% say in go/no-go decisions based on findings like this.

        You don't become an astronaut having a risk-averse personality. Risk is part of the profession. There is not a single crew that is not aware of their mission presenting a very real danger. However, they still become astronauts... compete rigorously to do so. Train hard to do so. Become focused on their mission. And presented with i

      • That might not be such a good idea.

        Other than their lack of specific technical knowledge, the astronauts are also somewhat biased. They live to go into space. They have to be hypercompetitive to get where they are.

        It's like asking an injured athlete if he wants to play. The answer is going to be something like "Yes, but the doctor won't let me."

        Take out the doctor (engineers) and what are you left with?
        "Yes"
      • Err, the astronauts get a 100% say whether they go up or not. Think about it, if you thought your life was in serious unacceptable risk getting onto the shuttle and launching, all you have to do is not get onto the shuttle! They're not gonna be chained to the cockpit while NASA go "stop being a bunch of sissies".

        If I'm wrong here please someone correct me - but I don't think anybody's ever been forced into going into space against their will.

    • Don't they remember the results of the Challenger inquest, wherein plenty of evidence of engineers saying "DON'T LAUNCH! BAAAAD!" was ignored?

      Well, in all fairness, going into space is BY DEFINITION unsafe. I'm sure that there have been engineers on every single space launch that have said, "Don't launch! BAAAAD!", just as I'm sure that there have been engineers on every software release that have said, "Don't release! BAAAAD!".

      Actually, I'm positive there are WAY more software engineers saying that than NA
    • [...] It is all very well for a bottlerocket to explode in flight, NOT A MANNED SHIP!

      Okay, let's try to get a little reality check in here.

      First, foam did not cause the Challenger accident. It has been nice and warm in Florida and there is no reason to believe that the SRBs will create a problem as they did with Challenger. Foam is a problem in that it can come off and damage the tiles which protect the Shuttle upon re-entry, which will occur in a couple of weeks. So there will be no "fourth to remember"

  • by voice_of_all_reason (926702) on Monday July 03, 2006 @10:39AM (#15650344)
    If you can't take a little bloody nose, maybe its time to go home and crawl back under your bed. It's not safe out here. The galaxy is wonderous -- with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross -- but it's not for the timid..."

    -Q, "Q Who?"
  • Now what? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother AT optonline DOT net> on Monday July 03, 2006 @10:55AM (#15650464) Journal

    On the one hand, shuttles flew forever shedding foam and it only became a real problem when a large enough piece tore off to actually damage the shuttle in flight significantly. Engineers accepted the risks with many reservations, because damage was never really that severe. Of course hindsight is 20-20 and this problem could have been rectified if the foam was located interior to the tank as opposed to externally. I think they were worried that if they tried that, there would be voids in the insulation that would allow heat to enter and cause problems, but that was a manufacturing issue which probably could have been resolved with a little ingenuity.

    On the other hand, a 4-5 inch crack is nothing to sneeze at and with the aerodynamic forces that batter a shuttle on its way into LEO, any number of things could cause that crack to widen and eventually spilt, teraing off a really large section of foam. It has to be repaired; I don't see how NASA management can ignore this. If they do, and the shuttle is damaged or heaven forbid, destroyed, that's the end of the space program. And probably rightly so. Like to many things, NASA was created due to Cold War concerns, namely that the Russians were going to grab the "high ground" of space and show us up in technical endeavors, weakening our position on the world stage. Like other Cold War relics, it too either needs to change or be dismantled.

    I'm a NASA booster (forgive the pun) -- my dream from childhood was to walk on the Moon. But I can say that I find it hard to trust the NASA I see now; it has become hamstrung by indecision, beaureaucracy, and lack of imaginative leadership (with apologies to Dan Goldin, Sean O'Keffe, and Mike Griffin). I wanted John Young to become NASA Administrator -- tough talking, smart, no-nonsense, and imaginative. He might have (and still could if he wanted the job) lit a fire under NASA and got them thinking straight. The problem is, NASA was not prepared for life after Apollo and it shows. The STS was a compromise (no engineer in the early 70's thought solid rocket boosters were a good idea) and a poor one at that.

    I think a) NASA needs to be saved from itself and b) the American people have to learn what a truly great resource they have in their space program. Barring either of those, it will be up to private industry to carry the torch.

    • Re:Now what? (Score:2, Informative)

      by jwagner95 (978497)

      On the one hand, shuttles flew forever shedding foam and it only became a real problem when a large enough piece tore off to actually damage the shuttle in flight significantly. Engineers accepted the risks with many reservations, because damage was never really that severe. Of course hindsight is 20-20 and this problem could have been rectified if the foam was located interior to the tank as opposed to externally. I think they were worried that if they tried that, there would be voids in the insulation th

    • Actually, the discussion right now is whether or not a 4-5 inch crack actually is something to sneeze at. Cracking in the foam is not a new occurance. No doubt there's a bunch of engineers running CFD analysis like mad right now trying to figure out how much extra stress the crack exposes the foam to and whether this actually does increase the likelihood of shedding or not. If the crack is on a sheltered face, it might have no effect. It is even remotely possible that the crack formed in the process of reli
  • Well they've fueled the Shuttle twice already, Tuesday will be the third. Thermal stress was indicted as a contributing factor in foam detaching. Everything probably would have been fine if they had launched the first time, I suspect their cloud distance tolerances are too tight these days compared to thermal stress from fuel cycling on the parts for later lift off.

    I'm not saying NASA should have launched the first time, but with only a 30% chance of launch due to weather, why did they even fuel the bird up? Weather should have a least an 80% chance window I would think think to decrease the likelihood of one fueled up scrub after another leading to excessive thermal stress on tank components.

    Also while many may see July 4th as a feel-good day to launch (National pride and all that) if anything goes wrong there are religious types both Christian and Muslim that will see it as a sign validating whatever their view of the world is.
    • by Aladrin (926209) on Monday July 03, 2006 @11:50AM (#15650845)
      Because in Florida (I live here) it doesn't matter what the weather report says, there's always a 50% chance of rain. I gave up listening to the weather reports long ago.

      The only time they are right is when they say 'It's raining right now' or 'It's sunny outside.' We don't even need dark clouds for rain, lightning, or both. Sunny showers are not that uncommon.

      In short, 30% is just as good as 80% here.

      Oh, and btw, if the weather report says 'in 12 hours, a hurricane will hit your town' you can safely sit at home and eat popcorn. It's not going to hit you.
    • The problem with religious fanatics (and anyone who takes Revelations seriously is a fanatic), is that they will use any evidence as a validation of their delusions. It would be pointless to worry about such people.

      Just last night there was a program broadcast on DayStar (a christian tv station) in which a preacher and his obviously strung-out-on-drugs assistant were showing clippings from newspapers, then reading passages from the bible, and crying with joy as they showed this proof that "the rapture" is n
    • My guess is that the cloud tolerances are strictly "too tight" in order to maintain a positive visual on the shuttle as it makes it's way into orbit. My guess is that the reasoning of this is that if the shuttle goes behind a cloud even for half of a second, that is long enough to have a piece of foam damage the orbiter and not get noticed by NASA's telescopic/high speed chase cameras.

      While I agree that the "cloud factor" might be a bit too constricting, I think they want the ability to keep a very close ey
  • Oooooh foam (Score:3, Interesting)

    by particle_fizax (883569) on Monday July 03, 2006 @11:19AM (#15650637)
    When I was studying at Fermilab, Osheroff [link to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_D._Osherof f [wikipedia.org]] gave a lecture about the Space Shuttle Columbia. He was selected to head up the review panel, and I'm pretty sure that I remember hearing that the foam was almost certainly the cause of the explosion.

    Seems like an unwise decision to let it run without repairing it even if it is unlikely that anything will happen, no?
  • by TheStonepedo (885845) on Monday July 03, 2006 @11:29AM (#15650702) Homepage Journal
    Mission control: "Astronaut this is mission contol. We have a problem. Over."
    Astronaut: "Mission control this is Astronaut. What is the problem. Over."
    Mission control: "Astronaut we're looking at the live biosigns from your transmitter and have come across a concern. Did your mother drop you as a child? Over."
    Astronaut: "I don't believe so. Why? Over."
    Mission control: "Because..."
    *general snickering from mission control*
    Mission control: "Because there's a big crack in your butt! Over and out."
  • Not surprising (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ClosedSource (238333) * on Monday July 03, 2006 @11:37AM (#15650763)
    NASA commited itself to solving the foam problem but when it turned out to be difficult they decided they didn't have to solve it. So they found evidence that the problem wasn't solved. How could this be in any way surprising?
  • If they fly upside down, they'll have crack up

How many Unix hacks does it take to change a light bulb? Let's see, can you use a shell script for that or does it need a C program?

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