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Bloviating Zeppelin: Endeavor

Bloviating Zeppelin

(in-ep-toc'-ra-cy) - a system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


I would not want to be a crew member on the shuttle Endeavor.

They have what is termed a "gouge" or a "divot" on the bottom of their shuttle.

NASA has decided that an EVA to repair the gouge is too dangerous to be warranted. First, the facts as reported from CNN via NASA:

Endeavour's bottom thermal shielding was pierced by a piece of debris that broke off the external fuel tank shortly after liftoff last week.

The debris, either foam insulation, ice or a combination of both, weighed just one-third of an ounce but packed enough punch to carve out a 3 ½-inch-long, 2-inch-wide gouge and dig all the way through the thermal tiles. Left completely exposed was a narrow 1-inch strip of the overlying felt fabric, the last barrier before the shuttle's aluminum structure.

Stop right there. Read that carefully.

"Left completely EXPOSED was a narrow 1-inch strip of the overlying felt fabric, the last barrier before the shuttle's aluminum structure."

Meaning: yes, the "divot" is small but it extends completely to the aluminum frame of the shuttle itself.

Let's review a few facts:

The shuttle Columbia broke apart on February 1st of 2003 when a piece of insulation the "size of a small briefcase" broke off the main propellant tank during launch. The debris struck the leading edge of the left wing on the number 8 reinforced carbon-carbon (RCC) tile, damaging the shuttle's thermal protection system.

Lest we forget, the Columbia astronauts literally burned up during re-entry because the massive temperatures generated whilst the BOTTOM of the shuttle contacted the increasing oxygen of earth's atmosphere created horrible jets of unimaginable heat which bypassed the thermal tiles into the frangible and delicate frame and structure beneath (oddly enough, you can purchase a tile from Russia's space shuttle, the Buran, on the internet) -- each shuttle containing more than 34,000 custom-cut separate tiles.

Note: a standard shuttle tile taken from a 2,300º F oven, for example, can be immersed in cold water without damage. Surface heat dissipates so quickly that an uncoated tile can be held by its edges with an ungloved hand seconds after removal from the oven while its interior still glows red.

Space shuttle tiles have to accommodate temperatures ranging from -250 degrees in the bitter depths of space, to 3,000+ degrees during re-entry.

I suspect at this point you can do the math or what I call the "logical extension" yourself. Tiles provide massive protection to the shuttle.

I have some major concerns for STS-118 Commander Scott Kelly and his crew.

Tiles on the space shuttle range in thickness from 1 to 5 inches.

This "gouge" proffers a route directly from the external skin of the shuttle, unimpeded to the "felt fabric" and its basic metal structure -- bypassing its mitigational tiles.

The American space shuttle system has had its tragedies, beginning with Challenger and then morphing to Columbia.

My post and my concern have nothing to do with denigrating America; it has everything to do with technology and our refusal to upgrade each and every shuttle platform.

I will willingly pay for an upgrade to our shuttle system in order to impose our will into space; in order to service and insert our satellites into space; in order to rule over this arena; in order to snatch foreign satellites from space and destroy them; in order to recover our technology or recover threatening technology or rescue our citizens.

But for God's sake, let's not sacrifice our own people simply because it is either expedient, because we are stupid, or because we have various corporate and/or government cultures in conflict.

We are better than that.

Let us abandon this shuttle system and create a NEW and a more effective and efficient platform to enable our space goals.

In my opinion, the STS program is far beyond moribund.

I can only hope we do not have another Columbia/friction/re-entry disaster.



Blogger bigwhitehat said...

And the agency still acts like their married to the damn shuttle. It is way past time to get a new means to do this space travel.

Fri Aug 17, 06:47:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Bloviating Zeppelin said...

BWH: I am completely and totally with you. It is nigh time to admit our weakness and furrow our brows in an attempt to upgrade the system with available technology.


Fri Aug 17, 07:06:00 PM PDT  
Blogger TexasFred said...

I went off on this one too this A.M. NASA Decides No Shuttle Repairs Needed and like you, my concern is for the crew, the guys on the ground can and will walk away, no matter what happens...

God Speed Endeavour, I hope NASA knows what they're doing...

Fri Aug 17, 07:15:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Bloviating Zeppelin said...


some people can walk away

that crew cannot


Fri Aug 17, 07:42:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Ranando said...

Great post BZ an I agree.

Time for an up-grade.

Come home safe Endeavour.

Sat Aug 18, 04:48:00 AM PDT  
Blogger shoprat said...

I too question the wisdom of not doing the repairs. They will probably make it back and the Astronauts themselves are confident, but I would rather err on the side of safety.

May God Himself place His hand over that gouge.

Sat Aug 18, 07:12:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Shoprat: I fear that is precisely what they shall need.


Sat Aug 18, 01:44:00 PM PDT  

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