Going Nowhere Not So Fast

I think the old girl is trying to tell NASA something, she doesn’t want to fly.

Space shuttle Discovery’s mission delayed again

Space shuttle Discovery’s final flight keeps getting delayed.

The space station delivery mission is now off until the end of February. NASA had been aiming for an early February liftoff, but managers decided Thursday to take more time to complete repairs to Discovery’s external fuel tank.

Following a failed launch attempt in early November, cracks were found in metal struts of the massive tank. More cracks were discovered last week, after the shuttle was returned to its hangar. NASA is considering reinforcing all 108 struts on the central part of the tank for extra safety, NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said Friday.

The initial cracks were so big that the insulating foam on top of the damaged struts, or so-called stringers, split open. That’s NASA’s main concern: Cracking could cause foam to break away during liftoff and slam into Discovery. Columbia ended up being destroyed in 2003 after a slab of foam gouged a wing.

See also:
Discovery To Miss Early February Launch
Repairs Delay Discovery Launch as Shuttle Program Winds Down
Shuttle Discovery’s launch delayed for further repairs
US Shuttle Launch Delayed Again
Safety probe delays space shuttle launch until late February
NASA Pushes Space Shuttle Discovery Launch to Late February
NASA Rules Out Early February Launch for Discovery
Fuel tank woes delay space shuttle launch again
More delay for space shuttle Discovery launch
Shuttle Discovery’s launch postponed
Discovery launch delayed
Space Shuttle Discovery
Space Shuttle Discovery
STS-133 Mission Information
STS-133

Discovery is more than 25 years old and even when these space shuttles are in perfect shape they’re the most inherently unsafe manned spacecraft the U.S. has ever flown. Personally, I say pull the plug now, Discovery belongs in a museum, not on a launch pad. She obviously doesn’t want to fly, why tempt fate?

/is it really worth risking another shuttle crew to deliver some equipment to a space station that’s probably going to be abandoned within ten years anyway?

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try Five More Times

UPDATE:

NASA suspends shuttle flights pending probe

NASA will suspend flights of its space shuttle fleet until it understands why strips of insulating foam peeled off the fuel tank used by shuttle Endeavour during Wednesday’s launch, officials said.

“We’re not worried about this one, but we need to understand what’s going on for the next flight,” said shuttle program manager John Shannon said on Thursday.

/not good

After five delays for one reason or another, Endeavour, STS-127 finally got off the ground.

Endeavour, STS-127 Crew Begin Complex Mission

Space shuttle Endeavour and its crew of seven astronauts are in orbit after an on-time launch at 6:03 p.m. EDT from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Following a smooth countdown with no technical issues and weather that steadily improved throughout the afternoon, the shuttle lifted off from Launch Pad 39A and began its orbital chase of the International Space Station.

“It was a testimony for this entire launch and flight control team,” Launch Director Pete Nickolenko said of the countdown and successful liftoff, which came on the sixth launch attempt after technical issues and weather concerns prevented the first five tries. “It was an outstanding effort, and it made the complex look really easy. It really was a case of persistence.”

Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Space Operations, also commended the launch effort, but cautioned that the mission to come is “very challenging,” with five spacewalks and robotic activities scheduled. “The teams are fully prepared — they’re ready to go do what they need to go do, and we look forward to the exciting activities as we install the Exposed Facility out on the Kibo module.”

Whether it got off the ground safely or not is still under review.

Debris Strikes Endeavour During Liftoff

As the space shuttle Endeavour lifted off into orbit Wednesday evening, several pieces of debris fell off the external fuel tank, and at least one hit the orbiter.

Astronauts in space and engineers on the ground will spend the next few days examining and analyzing the damage to see if it might pose a danger to the shuttle on re-entry.

See also:
Space shuttle blasts off after month’s delay
NASA Finally Launches Endeavour Space Shuttle on 6th Try
Space Shuttle Endeavour finally lifts off
Shuttle Endeavour blasts off; debris strikes mulled
Space shuttle suffered ‘minor’ damage at launch
NASA Eyes Debris Hits to Shuttle Heat Shield
STS-127 Mission Information
International Space Station
Kibo Japanese Experiment Module
JAXA Kibo Web Site

It’s obviously not the first time this has happened, but I sure hope this debris strike turns out to be nothing and Endeavour and crew return to Earth safely. These space shuttles are inherently dangerous to fly as witnessed by the fact that we’ve already lost 40% of the entire fleet, with the loss of 14 astronauts.

And why do we keep taking the risk of flying to the ISS and continue it’s construction anyway?

NASA to De-Orbit International Space Station In 2016

Despite nearing completion after more than a decade of construction, and recently announcing some upcoming improvements to accompany its full crew of six astronauts, NASA plans to de-orbit the International Space Station in 2016. Meaning the station will have spent more time under construction than completed.

The fact that the ISS has already had $100 billion dumped into it over the years is reason for criticism over the proposed de-orbiting. Proponents of the extra-terrestrial shelter feel 2016 would be too soon to let the 700,000 pound craft crash into the Pacific Ocean. Critics against it say it wastes too much money with few tangible outcomes.

Many of the station’s research programs have already been cut and the US Space Shuttle program is ending in 2010, which leaves few big-ticket programs left on the agenda (save for the station’s yet-to-be-installed Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, which searchers for dark- and anti-matter).

See also:
International Space Station, still under construction, may be debris by 2016
Space Station Is Near Completion, Maybe the End
ISS To Go Bye-Bye in 2016?

We haven’t even finished building the damn thing yet and we’re already planning to splash it into the ocean a few years later? What’s the point of further risking lives on dangerous shuttle flights for that?

/if we can’t afford the ISS then, we can’t afford it now