Thursday, July 28, 2005

Shuttle "fleet" grounded...

The BBC is reporting that NASA has grounded the shuttle fleet, all two of them. With the loss of both Challenger and Columbia, and with Discovery in orbit, only Atlantis and Endeavour remain to be grounded as Enterprise has never been refitted with either a heat shield or main engines and is not currently capable of reaching orbit.

CREDIT: NASA
Handheld still image taken by Discovery's crew of the external fuel tank as it was jettisoned after launch on July 26.

In-orbit examination of Discovery by the crew didn't initially suggest cause for concern, but with more evidence emerging that the orbiter may have suffered damage to it's heat shield in a similar manner to Columbia, and the subsequent grounding of the remaining shuttles, you have to start to wonder. It can't be reassuring to the Discovery's crew to hear that NASA management now consider it unsafe to launch a second shuttle to retrieve them.

Update: For once, Slashdot injeccts some sanity. I'm sure it won't last...