Shuttle News: August 2005 Archives

Hurricane rattles shuttle's fuel tank factory, New Scientist

"It's still without power. We have generators providing electricity to emergency crews, but they'll need to get power back before they open the facility."

Katrina leaves millions without power in U.S. Gulf, Reuters

"The New Orleans-based energy company warned customers to expect a long and difficult restoration that could take weeks. Some government officials in Louisiana and Mississippi said it could take a month or more to restore full electric service in some of the worst-hit areas."

Editor's note: Initial rpeorts from Michoud talk of some water inside the facility - but not from flooding. The External Tanks and their associated manufacturing hardware seems to be more or less OK. More to follow.

Editorial Sloppiness

NASA's 'Cycle of Smugness', editorial, Washington Post

"According to the report, it took the personal intervention of Mr. Griffin, shortly after his appointment, to delay the shuttle's scheduled launch to deal with the issue of ice breaking off the external fuel tank."

Editor's note: A. Its 'Dr.' Griffin

B. Transcript of NASA Press Briefing With Mike Griffin and Bill Gerstenmaier 18 August 2005

"Did I have a role? Yeah, I had a role. I would hate to say that I went to an engineering review and sat there like a potted plant. On the other hand, you know, we did not emerge from that review with the direction that Mike says we're delaying the launch. I mean, that didn't happen. So I'd rather not have it categorized that way."

Shuttle Planning Update

SpaceRef/NASA Watch Reader Notes on the 19 August 2005 PCRB

"At the start of the PCRB, Wayne Hale said that this was a fact-finding discussion and that no decision would be made today. KSC presented their schedule forthe 3 March 2006 STS-121 and 3 May 2006 STS-115 launches. They estimated that ET-119 (STS-121) would be at Michoud by 28 August 2005 and then on-dock at KSC by 12 November 2005.

Transcript of NASA Press Briefing With Mike Griffin and Bill Gerstenmaier 18 August 2005

"GRIFFIN: I was asked if I wanted to have the Minority Report or Minority comments in the overall report, and I said yes, because--and I had not read them ahead of time--because, frankly, I think that as NASA we do a disservice to ourselves and to our stakeholders, and frankly, to the taxpayers by creating an appearance that we do not wish to hear what people have to say if it should be negative. I think we do--I think we do ourselves proud when we take all the comments that are given, we study them, we evaluate them, we investigate them, and we decide which ones makes sense to us and that we wish to move forward on, and which ones where we don't think the advisers got it right. I think that's the proper way to treat advice."

NY Times: Cancel Shuttle

Mismanaging the Shuttle Fixes, NY Times

"The new administrator said he was no longer aiming at a specific number of shuttle flights but was working instead toward an expeditious but orderly retirement of the shuttle over the next five years - enough time, he thinks, to finish the space station. If the minority critique is anywhere near on target, as it appears to be, he ought to move that retirement date forward considerably."

NASA's Re-Return To Flight

NASA Sets Back Date for Next Shuttle Mission, NY Times

"We are not trying to get a specific number of flights out of the shuttle system," Dr. Griffin said, adding: "Absent major problems, we believe we can essentially complete the assembly of the space station with the shuttle fleet in the time that we have remaining. And that's what we're going to try to do."

NASA delays next shuttle launch until March, SF Chronicle

"One of the reasons I was very receptive to the minority report is we can't get (our plans) done unless we're listening to all of the hard truths," Griffin said. "I want to assure everybody that we will go over, in detail, the minority report, as well as the majority report. We'll decide what we want to do (next) in as responsible a fashion as we can muster."

NASA Announces Media Update About Space Shuttle Program

"NASA announced a news conference starting at noon EDT, Thursday in the agency's Webb Auditorium, 300 E Street SW, Washington."

NASA Return to Flight Task Group Final Report: Annex A.2 Individual Member Observations

A.2 Observations by Dr. Dan L. Crippen, Dr. Charles C. Daniel, Dr. Amy K. Donahue, Col. Susan J. Helms, Ms. Susan Morrisey Livingstone, Dr. Rosemary O'Leary, and Mr. William Wegner

"NASA's leaders and managers must break this cycle of smugness substituting for knowledge. NASA must be able to quantify risk, even if imperfectly, set requirements and expectations, and hold organizations and individuals accountable, Analytical models - while valuable tools - cannot substitute for engineering judgment and conscience. Rigor must be reestablished throughout the Agency. Opinion, no matter how well informed, cannot replace objective evidence. Flight history, while critical for informed judgment, cannot substitute for it. "We've been lucky" is a statement that should never be associated with the human spaceflight programs."

Meet The Press, Transcript, 31 July 2005, NBC

"DR. GRIFFIN: Well, certainly we were lucky. If it had broken off earlier and if it had followed a different trajectory, it could have hit the orbiter, as any piece of foam could, and could have done some damage."

Shuttle Planning Update

Editor's note: As reported here last week according to NASA sources, NASA is working toward a March 2006 launch for STS-121 using Discovery. Plans are also being formulated for a May 2006 launch for STS-115 using Atlantis. Planning for missions STS-116, STS-117, and STS-118 is more or less on hold with staff told to "do no negative work." This topic will be discussed at the PRCB on Friday.

Task group panelists blast space shuttle management, SpaceflightNow

"Seven members of an independent review panel today blasted NASA's management of the post-Columbia shuttle program, blaming poor leadership for ongoing, pervasive "cultural" problems and an erosion of engineering rigor that raise questions about the agency's willingness to fly without a thorough understanding of the risks involved."

Minority Report: NASA Standards Disappoint, AP

"The minority report said poor leadership made the shuttle's return to space on July 26 more complicated, expensive and prolonged than it needed to be. So much emphasis was placed on trying to meet unrealistic launch dates that some safety improvements were skipped, said the group."

Minority Report Faults NASA as Compromising Safety, NY Times

"Seven of the 25 voting members of the group that monitored NASA's progress in making the space shuttle fleet safer after the loss of the Columbia issued a blistering minority report yesterday accusing the space agency's leadership of compromising safety to justify returning to flight."

Shuttle problems linger, NASA panel members say, Reuters

"NASA's efforts to resume shuttle flights were tainted by some of the same problems that caused the 2003 Columbia disaster, seven members of an oversight task force wrote in a minority opinion attached to the panel's final report released on Wednesday."

NASA Return to Flight Task Group Final Report (Executive Summary)

"Although the scorecard is impressive, it alone does not tell the complete story. The Task Group applauds NASA for its efforts, but urges continued vigilance is required to prevent another accident. Spaceflight is a demanding pursuit, and the President, Congress, NASA, and the American public must provide the proper resources and environment to ensure it is conducted in the safest and most efficient manner possible."

Is the Space Station Necessary?, editorial, NY Times

"The better, but more drastic option would be to retire the shuttles immediately and back out of the station. That would save some $40 billion over a decade or so, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The money could be used to accelerate a landing on the Moon by four years or bolster research programs that would otherwise be cut."

STS-121 in March 2006?

Editor's note: According to NASA sources, serious consideration is now being given to a March 2006 launch date for STS-121. The results of the Tiger Team working the foam issue will help guide that decision in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

Survivor in Space

Reassessment time, Houston Chronicle

"Some media observers commented during Discovery's 14-day flight on the morbid nature of much of the news coverage, as if viewers were hyped to rubberneck the fiery launch, the space walks and the tense re-entry to see if the crew made it back alive. After two and half years and $1.5 billion in repairs, the camera images of falling debris fueled a space spectacle akin to a NASA version of the reality show Survivor."

Atlantis unlikely to fly in September, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA says it's unlikely that it will be able to launch shuttle Atlantis on the agency's next flight opportunity in September because of recurring problems with foam coming off the ships' external tanks."

Everyone Chimes In

- Workers at Michoud elated, The Advocate
- With Discovery down, it's time to move on, Rocky Mountain News
- Foam still nags NASA, keeps future in limbo, Huntsville Times
- Writing on the wall for US space shuttle, FInancial Times
- Time to rest for shuttles, Santa Maria Times
- With shuttle safe, NASA gets to work, SJ Mercury News
- NASA ponders shuttle's future, Dallas Morning News
- This one was really special, The Daily News

A happy landing, tenuous future, SF Chronicle

"Today, with the shuttle program grounded until further notice, Reagan's words have the distant ring of a more innocent era. There is nothing gallant about continuing a space shuttle program that has claimed the lives of 14 astronauts. There is nothing fainthearted about questioning our faith in a space agency that is unable to avoid repeating mistakes after spending more than $1 billion to make the aging shuttle fleet safer."

A safe return. Now move on, Chicago Tribune

"Over the decades space travel has been about courage and faith, the courage of astronauts who leave the Earth and the faith in the technology that blasts them off and returns them home. The Discovery mission showed Americans those traits endure. Yes, NASA stands for courage and faith, but it also stands for new vistas. The shuttle has served its purpose. It's time to move on."

Foam Update

Engineers to Tackle Cause of Foam Shedding, Washington Post

"June Malone, a spokeswoman for NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., which manages the external tank, said she could not speak about investigators' findings but confirmed that workers at the Michoud plant at one point performed an abrading procedure "in the general vicinity" of the eventual failure. The aim was to smooth out a divot in the tank's foam, which is extremely heat-resistant but easily gouged."

Discovery shuttle lands in California, RIA Novosti

"Several billion dollars spent to repair the shuttle after fragments of thermal foam and tile broke off during the launch have simply been wasted," a Russian space expert said.

Limbaugh promoted false theory that EPA regulations banning Freon caused space shuttle Columbia disaster, Media Matters

"Nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh repeated a debunked theory that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations banning Freon and other chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) caused the February 1, 2003, destruction of the space shuttle Columbia."

Discovery is Home

Space Shuttle Discovery Lands in California

"Space Shuttle Discovery touched down this morning at Edwards Air Force Base in California to successfully conclude NASA's Return to Flight Mission. Discovery spent two weeks in space, where the crew demonstrated new methods to inspect and repair the Shuttle in orbit. The crew also delivered supplies, outfitted and performed maintenance on the International Space Station. A number of these tasks were conducted during three spacewalks."

Safe landing, new momentum, Christian Science Monitor

"It was probably one of the most successful missions that [the shuttle progam] has ever flown," says Keith Cowing of the watchdog website Nasawatch.com. "I wouldn't be surprised if NASA tries to fly in the fall."

Podcast From Space


Discovery Astronaut Sends Podcast From Space

"On his last day in orbit, Mission Specialist Steve Robinson sent a podcast from space before the seven-member Discovery crew returns to Earth Monday. The podcast was recorded as the Shuttle flew over the southeast tip of Indonesia."

Jumping the Gun

Chinese Researcher: Success of Discovery Meaningful, CRI Online (China)

"The spaceshuttle Discovery successfully touched down at the Kennedy Space Center Monday afternoon. The astronauts have completed their 13-day mission, leaving space flight with a bright future."

STS-114 Status

Space Shuttle Discovery's Landing Waved Off for Monday

"Due to low clouds at the KSC landing site, NASA has waved off both landing opportunities for Discovery today. Commander Eileen Collins and the rest of the crew will return the orbiter to normal flight operations for another day."

- NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 7 August 2005
- NASA STS-114 Mission Status Report #25 - 7 August 2005 - noon CDT
- Landing Day Arrives For Space Shuttle Discovery

"Collins and her crewmates immediately began preparing the orbiter and themselves for landing. Their first landing opportunity is at Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 4:47 a.m. Monday. If weather prohibits landing on that orbit, they will have another opportunity about 90 minutes later."

Tension grows as 'Discovery' crew prepares for re-entry, The Inpdependent

"Keith Cowing, a former Nasa scientist who now runs the NasaWatch.com website, said officials were confident and Nasa hoped to use the boost of a safely completed mission to announce it had solved the problem of falling debris from the external tanks and that the next shuttle flights - scheduled for September - could go ahead."

Armwaving from the UK

Nasa and its small, sideways step for mankind, Opinion, The Times Online

"Despite this, the pressure to place this dodo in orbit again will be enormous. Nasa has plans for a new generation of rockets (ironically, much the same as the "old generation" that the shuttle was designed to replace) that would put men and equipment into space more safely."

Editor's note: Let me see - I seem to have misplaced my list of British manned spacecraft to use in my response to this uninformed gentleman who doesn't like the way we explore space in America.

NASA Chief Takes On Critics, LA Times

"[Griffin] said critics had fixated on the flight's flaws, such as insulating foam shedding from the craft's external fuel tank during liftoff and the need for a first-ever spacewalk to remove protrusions on the underside of Discovery. Not only do critics see a glass half-empty, but, to them, "there is no glass," Griffin said."

Editor's note: STS-114 is probably one of the most successful shuttle missions ever flown - yet it will be remembered for one - albeit significant (and expensive) - problem.

Discovery Is Headed Home

NASA STS-114 Mission Status Report #22 - 6 August 2005 - 12:30 am CDT

Discovery Departs Space Station

"Discovery undocked from the ISS at 3:24 a.m. EDT. Pilot Jim Kelly flew the orbiter in a loop around the Station, allowing the Shuttle crew to photograph the orbiting outpost before a final separation burn moved Discovery away from the Station."

Foam Update

Foam chunk came from repaired part of tank, Orlando Sentinel

"The same location was the site of a so-called "sand and blend" repair by foam workers. During this procedure, a dye absorbed by damaged foam is poured into the blemish. The surface then is sanded down until the dye is gone. The ramp repair can clearly be seen in "closeout" photos taken of the tank before launch as an area where the newly-exposed foam is slightly lighter in color. This type of repair is a common practice."

Fuel tank's pre-launch foam repair under scrutiny, Spaceflightnow.com

"A "tiger team" of NASA and contractor engineers is reviewing the manufacturing history of the shuttle Discovery's external fuel tank to find clues about what might have caused a chunk of foam insulation to pop off during launch July 26. NASA officials said today that foam in the area that pulled away was slightly damaged during the tank's processing, requiring a standard repair for relatively routine cracks and gouges."

Editor's note: Yesterday, the opening date for the STS-121 launch window was adjusted from 9 September until 22 September resulting in a 4 day window launch instead of one which was originally three weeks long.

Fourth EVA Not Required

NASA Says No Fourth Spacewalk Needed

"Mission control radioed the Discovery crew today with news that they will not need to make a fourth spacewalk to fix a thermal blanket near the Commander's left window. Mission Control and the crew agreed that it was "good news."

Foam Update

NASA ponders second repair in space, CNN

"I think in the old days we would not have worried about this nearly so much," The Associated Press quoted Hale as saying. "I am very hopeful that we will be able to put this issue at rest."

More falling foam puts shuttle programme in serious doubt, Nature (subscription)

"Doug Osheroff, a physicist at Stanford University in California, and a member of the CAIB, agrees that small tweaks won't help much, but major changes could take years. "We clearly don't understand all the mechanisms for foam shedding," he says. The best way for NASA to quickly reduce the risk to the shuttle crew is to fly with fewer people, Osheroff says. "There's no reason to go up with seven astronauts."

Editor's note: Gee, that's certainly a goofy solution: i.e., in a worst case scenario, it is better to risk killing a smaller crew instead of killing a crew of 7. This does nothing to address the threat of people being killed in the first place - which is what I understand NASA is trying to do.

ISS/Shuttle Update

NASA STS-114 Mission Status Report #18 - 3 August 2005 - 11:00 pm CDT

"After an eventful day supporting the third spacewalk of the mission, a light duty day of transfer activities, special events and time off lies ahead for the Space Shuttle Discovery crew as they begin their tenth day in space."

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 3 August 2005

"The spacewalk ended at 10:49am, for a total duration of 6h 1m. It was the 61st EVA devoted to ISS assembly operations and the 28th from the Shuttle (33 from the ISS A/L and Pirs DC-1), giving 53 astronauts and cosmonauts a cumulative total of 368h 20m of station spacewalk time."

Foam Update

2004 Report Found Faults in Use of Shuttle Foam, NY Times

"The report was provided to The New York Times by a person outside the space agency who is part of an informal network of people concerned about shuttle safety, and it did not recommend against launching the Discovery. But it delivered a harsh critique of the quality control and practices at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans."

Editor's note: Both gap fillers were easily removed by Steve Robinson in a matter of seconds. The first one was removed over Massachussetts, the other over the coast of France. In moving Robinson - still on the arm - back to the station, Robinson was told things might look "a little weird." Robinson replied "Nothing is going to look weird to me after all of this." A few minutes later he said "That was the ride of the century."

Gap Filler EVA Update

NASA orders first-ever walk to shuttle's belly, Orlando Sentinel

"In preparation for the job, NASA has called on some of its most experienced spacewalkers, including astronauts Joe Tanner and Jerry Ross, to help develop the procedures for removing the fillers. Begley said astronauts also are testing procedures in the giant NASA pool where spacewalkers practice underwater at Johnson Space Center in Houston."

Shuttle Repairs to Be Tried in Spacewalk, NY Times

"Astronauts will perform a landmark spacewalk on Wednesday morning to remove or clip two tiny strips of stiff cloth that are protruding from the belly of the shuttle Discovery and could cause dangerous heating during the craft's fiery re-entry into the atmosphere, officials said Monday."

Astronaut to make first in-flight repair, CNN

"It was prudent to take action so that we wouldn't have to worry about some of the worst consequences," said Wayne Hale, NASA's deputy shuttle program manager, at a news conference Monday evening."

NASA gives go-ahead to spacewalk repair work, SpaceflightNow

"Today at the mission management team meeting we had a very long discussion about aerodynamics," Hale said. "I went in with a very simple question: Did we have the engineering knowledge and analysis that would, without a shadow of a doubt, allow us to be 100 percent confident the vehicle could fly safely during entry?

NASA Watch on NewsHour

Editor's note: I was on PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer again Monday night [RealAudio] [Transcript]

"NASA weighed a decision Monday on trying an in-space repair to the shuttle Discovery. Ray Suarez speaks with Keith Cowing, editor of NASA Watch, about new safety concerns and whether a spacewalk is needed to repair damage to the shuttle's underside."

Editor's note: I was also on NewsHour last Thursday [Transcript]

"Well, first I would dispute -- when Professor Roland says we don't need the space station, I'd love to know who the "we" is, because the Congress is behind it; the American people are behind it, the White House is behind it."

Editor's note: And I did an interview last Tuesday evening: [Link to RealAudio file][Transcript]

Tough Choices Ahead

NASA's Leader, a Man of Logic, Faces Decisions Enmeshed in Another Realm: Politics, NY Times

"Though they have avoided discussing it in these terms, Dr. Griffin and the Bush White House that installed him are headed to a decision that can hardly be called easy: whether to invest millions more in new fixes to an accident-prone fleet of vehicles scheduled for permanent retirement in 2010, or to put the space shuttles into mothballs ahead of schedule."


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This page is an archive of entries in the Shuttle News category from August 2005.

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