04 July 2006

Discovery flies on the 4th

It was [NASA Administrator Michael Griffin] Griffin who chose to go ahead with the mission over concerns from the space agency's safety officer and chief engineer about foam problems that have dogged the agency since Columbia was doomed by a flyaway chunk of insulation 3 1/2 years ago.

Somebody explain to me WHY in the world Griffin gave it the goahead when ignoring concerns from engineers and safety officials is what doomed both the Challenger and Columbia missions?! Gadnabbit, Griffin's a scientist, I was really expecting better from him.

There is one cool part though:

If photos during launch or the flight show serious damage to Discovery, the crew could move into the space station. Then a risky shuttle rescue — fraught with its own problems — would have to be mounted. The rescue ship, Atlantis, would face the same potential foam threat at launch. NASA also worked on a possible plan for flying Discovery back to Earth unmanned if necessary.


The Pagan Temple said...

I wonder if this wasn't all orchestrated. They schedule the launch three days or so before, very inexplicably, the Fourth of July, find a very minor problem, and then in somewhat dramatic fashion decide to go ahead with the launch, exactly on the Fourth of July. Of course, I know there were weather considerations for a couple of days as well, but why didn't they schedule the launch for the fourth to begin with?

zandperl said...

Heh. I doubt the date is anything more than coincidence. My concern is that they shouldn't've flown at all.

The Pagan Temple said...

What I would like to know is why the hell they are letting the Hubble Telescope wither and die? That program was more valuable than anything they could possibly glean from any of this other stuff they waste time and money on.

I think George Bush is afraid they'll eventually see the Big Bang, with no sign of God anywhere around.

zandperl said...

The inevitable loss of the HST will be a tragedy. It was actually originally scheduled to be de-orbitted in 2009, so the inability to send a mission to it may let it stay up longer. Besides the risk to human life to continue servicing it with an outdated fleet of Shuttles, it will be superceded with a better telescope, the JWST in 2013 or later. While two telescopes would be better than one, Hubble's achievements are already being eclipsed by the Spitzer Space Telescope's (too bad they have a crappy PR team), so the loss of Hubble will not be so great as you imagine.

Regarding seeing the Big Bang itself, sadly that is not possible. There is a universe-wide "fog" called the Cosmic Microwave Background that filled the whole universe 3 minutes after its creation, and it's not possible for us to see any further into the past than that. The good news though is that its very existance helps prove the Big Bang theory correct! :)