Monday, August 01, 2005

Lost In Space

Monkey business

Our space program is so great. Really. We landed on the moon, we put a space station in orbit, we have two remote controlled cars driving around Mars, and we just found out there might be a tenth planet.

Yet, this kind of stuff disturbs me:

From the AP:

NASA says the protruding material on Discovery's belly could cause dangerous overheating during re-entry and lead to another Columbia-type disaster.

The agency planned to put astronaut Stephen Robinson on the end of the space station's 58-foot robotic arm Wednesday for the improvised maneuver. Astronauts inside the station will maneuver the arm so Robinson can reach the shuttle's belly.

Once there, he'll tug out the ceramic-fabric filler with his gloved hands. If that doesn't work, he'll use a makeshift hacksaw to cut away the material, which is sticking out about an inch from two spots near Discovery's nose. The saw was improvised out of a blade, plastic ties, duct tape, Velcro and other items aboard the space station.

"I am pretty comfortable with using tools very carefully," Robinson said early Tuesday during a crew news conference. "But no doubt about it, this is going to be a very delicate task. But as I say, a simple one."

The protruding bits of gap filler are small — one is about the thickness of an index card and the other is the size of three index cards bonded together.

"There won't be any yanking going on at all," Robinson said. "It will be a gentle pull with my hand. If that doesn't work, I have some forceps. I will give it a slightly more than gentle pull. If that doesn't work, I saw it off with a hacksaw."

Deputy shuttle program manager Wayne Hale says if none of the proposed methods work, there will likely be some head scratching for a day. However, he says the agency will find another method and try the repair again Thursday or Friday.
So. To recap, the plan to save the space shuttle from disaster is:

Plan A: Yank it.
Plan B: Yank it really hard.
Plan C: Cut it with a saw made out of... velcro and duct tape??
Plan D: Scratch head.

What's next? Using wads of chewing gum?

No one thought.. hmm, maybe give these guys a toolbox?

Sometimes I think NASA engineers may have watched "Apollo 13" too many times.

Sounds like there still are monkeys in the space program.

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