Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Debris problems?

NASA is reporting that,
A camera mounted on the external tank caught what appeared to be a small fragment of tile coming from Discovery's underside on or near the nose gear doors. A later image about the time of Solid Rocket Booster separation showed an unidentified piece departing from the tank and exiting away, apparently not striking the orbiter.
Although Astronauts will now will inspect the shuttle for damage in-orbit, the deluge of data now available from the new monitoring cameras and other systems will pose their own risk to the mission. How much damage is too much? Faced with another Colmbia disaster when would NASA choose to pull the plug?

The falling chunk of debris (shown above), which may have damaged heat resistant tiles on or near the shuttle's nose landing-gear. Video footage reveals that a patch of tile around 4cm across is missing. Damage to hatch enclosing the landing gear would be especially worrying post-Colmbia.