[FPSPACE] latest from the New York Times...

Peter Pesavento eagles267@wwainc.com
Sat, 28 Jun 2003 12:14:12 -0400


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Two important sentences in this report, as far as I am concerned...

"The accident board also said today, without making a formal =
recommendation, that NASA should work on replacing the tiles, panels and =
possibly other parts in the three remaining shuttles with less brittle =
materials." =20

and

"The board issued its first two recommendations on April 17: that NASA =
develop better ways to inspect shuttles between flights for damage that =
may not be apparent..."



June 28, 2003
NASA's New Charge: Shuttle Repair in Space
By MATTHEW L. WALD

    =20
WASHINGTON, June 27 - The board investigating the loss of the space =
shuttle Columbia gave NASA its hardest recommendation yet today: to =
develop a way to repair the shuttle while it is in space.=20

NASA wants to resume spaceflight by early next year, and perhaps as soon =
as December, and it was not immediately clear how this recommendation =
would fit with that schedule. As with previous recommendations, the =
independent panel said what it wanted but not how to do the job.=20

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration says it has begun =
studying how to meet the recommendation but it does not know how it will =
carry it out. Melissa Motichek, a spokeswoman for the agency, said today =
that "we've been working on this for a couple of months already" and =
that the problem was "not insurmountable." And the NASA administrator, =
Sean O'Keefe, said on Thursday that NASA would meet or exceed all =
recommendations and do everything "humanly possible" to prevent a third =
shuttle disaster.

The recommendation is in two parts, with only the less difficult one =
required before the first few flights. That is to develop a practical =
way to inspect and make emergency repairs "to the widest possible range =
of damage" to the shuttle's heat-protection system while it is docked at =
or near the International Space Station.

Months ago, astronauts at the Johnson Space Center in Houston began =
putting a simulated shuttle through back flips as it approached the =
station, to expose all its parts to cameras on the station. And the =
station has an arm that could be useful in reaching parts of the =
underside of the shuttle for repair.

The second, more difficult part of the recommendation is to develop a =
repair plan for missions that do not go to the station. NASA intends to =
send a shuttle to service the Hubble Space Telescope, for example, but =
not until after a few missions to the space station.

"The ultimate objective should be a fully autonomous capability for all =
missions," the board said.

The board said the inability to repair a shuttle in orbit might have =
been a factor in NASA's decision not to get spy satellite images of the =
Columbia during its 16-day mission. After the shuttle broke apart on =
Feb. 1, the accident board asked NASA what the agency could have done if =
it had known of the damage to the shuttle's left wing from foam that =
struck it shortly after liftoff.

NASA told the panel that astronauts could have stuffed heat-resistant =
materials into the hole, and perhaps a water bag, which would have =
frozen solid. They then could have covered the gap with "some Teflon =
tape or something like that," said Adm. Harold W. Gehman Jr., chairman =
of the investigation board, in a briefing with reporters on May 23.=20

Investigators recently concluded that the left wing came apart where it =
was damaged by the foam.

The idea of a repair was reminiscent of the one for Apollo 13 devised by =
engineers on the ground in 1971. It included using adhesive tape and =
pages from manuals rolled into tubes as air conduits. But it was not =
clear whether any materials available on the Columbia would have saved =
the ship.=20

The heat-resistant tiles are probably not replaceable in orbit because =
they are not standard sizes, and the same may be true of the reinforced =
carbon-carbon panels that make up the leading edges of the wings and the =
nose. As a result, any repair is likely to involve a patch, experts say. =


"The difficulty with patches is being able to find a material that's =
suitable," said Ms. Motichek, the NASA spokeswoman. "How are you going =
to shape it, to make it adhere and to do all this on orbit?"

The accident board also said today, without making a formal =
recommendation, that NASA should work on replacing the tiles, panels and =
possibly other parts in the three remaining shuttles with less brittle =
materials. NASA chose materials for the shuttle with a balance of =
thermal protection, durability and weight, and materials that are more =
resistant to damage would probably be heavier.=20

The board issued its first two recommendations on April 17: that NASA =
develop better ways to inspect shuttles between flights for damage that =
may not be apparent, and that it develop a better system for obtaining =
images of the shuttle while it is in orbit. Those two were also =
discussed with NASA long before the recommendations were actually =
issued.=20

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<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>Two important sentences in this report, =
as far as I=20
am concerned...</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>"The accident board also said today, without making a formal=20
recommendation, that NASA should work on replacing the tiles, panels and =

possibly other parts in the three remaining shuttles with less brittle=20
materials."&nbsp; </DIV>
<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>and</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>"<FONT face=3D"Times New Roman" =
size=3D3>The board=20
issued its first two recommendations on April 17: that NASA develop =
better ways=20
to inspect shuttles between flights for damage that may not be=20
apparent..."</FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>June 28, 2003<NYT_HEADLINE type=3D" " =
version=3D"1.0"></NYT_HEADLINE></DIV>
<DIV>
<H2>NASA's New Charge: Shuttle Repair in Space</H2><NYT_BYLINE type=3D" =
"=20
version=3D"1.0"><FONT size=3D-1><STRONG>By MATTHEW L.=20
WALD</STRONG></FONT><BR><BR></NYT_BYLINE>
<TABLE cellSpacing=3D0 cellPadding=3D0 align=3Dright border=3D0>
  <TBODY>
  <TR>
    <TD></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE><NYT_TEXT></NYT_TEXT>
<P><IMG alt=3DW =
src=3D"http://graphics7.nytimes.com/images/dropcap/w.gif" align=3Dleft=20
border=3D0>WASHINGTON, June 27 =97 The board investigating the loss of =
the space=20
shuttle Columbia gave NASA its hardest recommendation yet today: to =
develop a=20
way to repair the shuttle while it is in space. </P>
<P>NASA wants to resume spaceflight by early next year, and perhaps as =
soon as=20
December, and it was not immediately clear how this recommendation would =
fit=20
with that schedule. As with previous recommendations, the independent =
panel said=20
what it wanted but not how to do the job. </P>
<P>The National Aeronautics and Space Administration says it has begun =
studying=20
how to meet the recommendation but it does not know how it will carry it =
out.=20
Melissa Motichek, a spokeswoman for the agency, said today that "we've =
been=20
working on this for a couple of months already" and that the problem was =
"not=20
insurmountable." And the NASA administrator, Sean O'Keefe, said on =
Thursday that=20
NASA would meet or exceed all recommendations and do everything "humanly =

possible" to prevent a third shuttle disaster.</P>
<P>The recommendation is in two parts, with only the less difficult one =
required=20
before the first few flights. That is to develop a practical way to =
inspect and=20
make emergency repairs "to the widest possible range of damage" to the =
shuttle's=20
heat-protection system while it is docked at or near the International =
Space=20
Station.</P>
<P>Months ago, astronauts at the Johnson Space Center in Houston began =
putting a=20
simulated shuttle through back flips as it approached the station, to =
expose all=20
its parts to cameras on the station. And the station has an arm that =
could be=20
useful in reaching parts of the underside of the shuttle for repair.</P>
<P>The second, more difficult part of the recommendation is to develop a =
repair=20
plan for missions that do not go to the station. NASA intends to send a =
shuttle=20
to service the Hubble Space Telescope, for example, but not until after =
a few=20
missions to the space station.</P>
<P>"The ultimate objective should be a fully autonomous capability for =
all=20
missions," the board said.</P>
<P>The board said the inability to repair a shuttle in orbit might have =
been a=20
factor in NASA's decision not to get spy satellite images of the =
Columbia during=20
its 16-day mission. After the shuttle broke apart on Feb. 1, the =
accident board=20
asked NASA what the agency could have done if it had known of the damage =
to the=20
shuttle's left wing from foam that struck it shortly after liftoff.</P>
<P>NASA told the panel that astronauts could have stuffed heat-resistant =

materials into the hole, and perhaps a water bag, which would have =
frozen solid.=20
They then could have covered the gap with "some Teflon tape or something =
like=20
that," said Adm. Harold W. Gehman Jr., chairman of the investigation =
board, in a=20
briefing with reporters on May 23. </P>
<P>Investigators recently concluded that the left wing came apart where =
it was=20
damaged by the foam.</P>
<P>The idea of a repair was reminiscent of the one for Apollo 13 devised =
by=20
engineers on the ground in 1971. It included using adhesive tape and =
pages from=20
manuals rolled into tubes as air conduits. But it was not clear whether =
any=20
materials available on the Columbia would have saved the ship. </P>
<P>The heat-resistant tiles are probably not replaceable in orbit =
because they=20
are not standard sizes, and the same may be true of the reinforced =
carbon-carbon=20
panels that make up the leading edges of the wings and the nose. As a =
result,=20
any repair is likely to involve a patch, experts say. </P>
<P>"The difficulty with patches is being able to find a material that's=20
suitable," said Ms. Motichek, the NASA spokeswoman. "How are you going =
to shape=20
it, to make it adhere and to do all this on orbit?"</P>
<P>The accident board also said today, without making a formal =
recommendation,=20
that NASA should work on replacing the tiles, panels and possibly other =
parts in=20
the three remaining shuttles with less brittle materials. NASA chose =
materials=20
for the shuttle with a balance of thermal protection, durability and =
weight, and=20
materials that are more resistant to damage would probably be heavier. =
</P>
<P>The board issued its first two recommendations on April 17: that NASA =
develop=20
better ways to inspect shuttles between flights for damage that may not =
be=20
apparent, and that it develop a better system for obtaining images of =
the=20
shuttle while it is in orbit. Those two were also discussed with NASA =
long=20
before the recommendations were actually issued. =
</P></DIV></BODY></HTML>

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