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Shuttle Fleet Grounded over foam shedding problems

Discussion in 'Tech, Science, and Space' started by Tim, Jul 27, 2005.

  1. Tim

    Tim Creative Writer

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2005
    Location:
    England
    latest news

    shuttle fleet grounded till situation with foam falling off shuttles is resolved. current shuttle appears to be okay to land although there is a backup to retrieve astronauts from the ISS if they decide to take refuge there


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    NASA Probes Shuttle Debris Damage



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    Zero hour: Discovery lifts off from Launch Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center



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    Discovery's seven astronauts will check the shuttle's wings and nose for damage, after a piece of debris appeared to damage a heat shield tile during yesterday's launch.

    The carefully orchestrated manoeuvres, using a camera attached to the spacecraft's arm, are expected to take about seven hours.

    NASA officials said an object that may have been a 1.5in (3.8cm) piece of thermal tile appeared to break off from the Discovery's belly during lift-off. It came off from around a particularly vulnerable spot, near the doors to the compartment containing the nose landing gear.

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    Also, a large object - perhaps a piece of foam insulation - seemed to fly off from the giant external fuel tank but did not hit the shuttle itself, NASA flight operations manager John Shannon said.

    "The big question is, what is that?'' Shannon said.

    He said it was too early to say whether the two incidents posed any danger to the shuttle. Among other things, it is not yet known how deep the tile gouge is.

    Shannon said the cameras had provided the space agency with more detailed images than it had seen before, and it was not clear whether the debris represented anything out of the ordinary.

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    Moment of impact: A television image shows Discovery striking a bird during lift-off



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    Also, the tiles on NASA's shuttle fleet have sustained thousands of dings over the years. Shannon disclosed that the nose cone of the fuel tank hit a bird just seconds after lift-off.

    NASA promptly notified Discovery commander Eileen Collins of the debris sightings and said the Agency's image-analysis experts were looking at the pictures frame by frame and would have more information later today.

    The astronauts will use a new 15m-long boom to inspect their ship and the crew of the International Space Station will photograph all sides of Discovery before tomorrow's link-up between the two.

    National pride and the future of space exploration itself hung in the balance yesterday, as Discovery and its crew of seven rose from the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 10.39am local time (3.39pm BST) into a hazy blue sky and headed out over the ocean in the most scrutinised launch in NASA history and the first shuttle flight since the Columbia disaster.

    NASA administrator Michael Griffin urged everyone "to take note of what you saw here today: the power and the majesty of the launch, of course, but also the competence and the professionalism, the sheer gall, the pluckiness, the grittiness of this team that pulled this programme out of the depths of despair two and a half years ago and made it fly''.

    Nevertheless, Griffin and other NASA officials said they would not celebrate until Discovery came home safely. Columbia, after all, seemed to be home free until it fell to pieces on its return to Earth in February 2003.

    The baffling fuel gauge problem that thwarted a launch attempt two weeks ago did not recur this time, and the countdown was remarkably smooth. If the sensor had acted up during the countdown, NASA had been prepared to bend its safety rules to get the shuttle flying.

    Space programme employees and relatives of both the Discovery and Columbia crews looked on nervously as the shuttle lifted off.

    "On behalf of the many millions of people who believe so deeply in what we do, good luck, Godspeed - and have a little fun up there,'' launch director Mike Leinbach told Collins and her crew just before lift-off.

    Across the country, Americans watched the lift-off, cheering and applauding in New York's Times Square as the Discovery roared away from the launch pad. In the hometown of Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, the pop of firecrackers and congratulatory cheers of "Banzai!'' rang out.

    At the Kennedy Space Center, nearly 2,500 guests of NASA, including first lady Laura Bush and brother-in-law Florida governor Jeb Bush, cheered, whistled and clapped as the shuttle lifted off, watching through sunglasses as it soared out over the Atlantic.

    The spectators included members of Congress, as well as relatives of the 14 fallen Columbia and Challenger astronauts. From Washington, President Bush wished the crew a safe and successful mission.

    Hours after Discovery had settled into orbit, Collins saluted "the great ship Columbia and her inspiring crew'' and said of the fallen astronauts: "We miss them and we are continuing their mission. God bless them tonight and God bless their families.''

    During the 12-day mission, Collins and her crew will deliver supplies to the space station and test new techniques for inspecting and patching the shuttle in orbit.

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