Space rock stings and heated things…
May 23, 2011 2 Comments
Hey there everybody. Well, since yours truly was not Raptured this weekend, I guess I should probably post something. Here are some of the things going on in the world of NASA.
- The much anticipated final launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour finally happened last Monday, May 16. But now Commander Mark Kelly and his crew have a bit of an issue on their hands. Saturday morning the crew discovered that one of the 20,000+ tiles that cover the exterior of the shuttle and protect it from the extreme heat experienced during atmospheric reentry has been damaged. Immediately for many, this will bring back terrible memories of the 2003 Columbia tragedy, when the shuttle and its seven crew members were lost during reentry because of damage that one of the heating tiles had incurred during launch. NASA and the astronauts have and will continue to run tests to diagnose the severity of the damage, but LeRoy Cain, the deputy program manager and chairman of the mission management team, said that the tile had been cleared and that there was no danger to the shuttle from the damaged tile because the structure beneath the tile will still only reach an estimated 219 degrees Fahrenheit–below its maximum temperature capacity of 350 degrees. Let’s hope he’s right and the crew and shuttle will be safely returning on June 1. NASA also announced the date of the final shuttle launch; Atlantis is slated to make its final launch on July 8.
- At the end of a previous post, I had recapped a precarious situation where NJ officials misplaced a collection of moon rocks brought back from the lunar surface by Apollo 17. Well, just recently police arrested a California woman for attempting to sell a moon rock on eBay. Apparently the bust came after the woman made a $1.7M deal for the rock with an undercover NASA agent. The rock was taken into custody (along with the culprit) and its legitimacy will be tested by NASA officials (are they also the undercover agents or do you think that’s a separate department?). It’s for just such a situation that we need to set up an galactic branch of INTERPOL, maybe GALAPOL? Or really it would just be the solar system (SOLAPOL?) or just for the Moon (LUNAPOL?)…
- Finally, here’s a very interesting and very well-written article from Forbes magazine that talks about the risks that NASA is making by betting so much on the success of Elon Musk’s SpaceX and other start-up commercial launch companies. The extremely interesting article takes a look at SpaceX’s track record and includes an interesting look at the company’s unique business strategy that plans to drastically cut launch prices. However, as the article indicates, delays and failures at SpaceX and other private launch companies has many politicians, NASA employees, and NASA fans (like myself) worried about where the Obama Administration is steering the American space program.