No repair of Shuttle tiles

Just communicated up to the astronauts less than a minute ago: No repair to the TPS (Thermal Protection System).

The Mission Management Team meeting just ended. An evening press conference will begin shortly.


  1. Sure, we here down on terra firma find no pressing need to fix that pesky, problematic TPS. Have a safe trip and call us when you land, Houston out.

  2. Yup, probably consulted with the same crew of idiot managers that cleared Challenger to launch. NASA has an absolutely perfect opportunity to try out the shuttle repair system and decides not to do it. Now if they lose this one on reentry, it will be the death blow to NASA and set back manned space flight in the USA for decades, if not forever. Although, come to think of it, that would certainly clear the way for commercial space flight to ramp up and take over the job. Personally, that should’ve happened 20 years ago. The government has no business being in the space industry anymore, except for missions of a military or national defense nature. Respects,

  3. I assume that everyone’s rear has been sufficiently covered so that if something does go wrong, some poor engineer in Tulsa will be broiled. I fully support the right of any astronaut upon landing to bitch slap mission control.

  4. I caught part of the press conference, and it now seems that engineers now don’t even think this damage will have a real impact on turnaround. That’s good, and I’m sure it was a factor in the decision. Still, with this not being a risk to crew, vehicle, or turnaround on a mission that’s been very very successful with experienced spacewalkers I just don’t see why not practice a bit and see how the stuff works in the real world (or in orbit above it…you know what I mean). It seems clear that this problem is not going away and odds can’t be too bad that a real risk will arise on a future mission. Do we really want the very first ever repair attempt to be with the vehicle and crew on the line? I realize that there are risks, and I’m being a bit cavalier with the spacewalkers. I really trust that NASA feels sure that everyone’s safe, and I even really trust that they’re almost certainly right. I just think the risks are outweighed by the benefits of practice and a real-world test of the repair methods.

  5. Oh, and they said, in essence, that if there was a risk to the crew or vehicle that they’d have no problem with repairing. Well, duh. So they’re saying that if there’s no other decision to be made, they’ll decide to repair? So what would it take for a real decision to repair, where there are actual options, to be made? Are they saying, in effect, that they will not repair unless they feel there’s no other option? That’s fair, I guess, but then they should be clear about it.

  6. I second the bitch slap. No wonder there are rumors of drinking before a space flight… Anyone remeber that line from Armageddon? ‘You know we’re sitting on four million pounds of fuel, one nuclear weapon and a thing that has 270,000 moving parts built by the lowest bidder. Makes you feel good, doesn’t it?’ -Rockhound Yah…I’m sure they are really feelin good at the moment.

  7. The thing to remember is that the repair option has some significant risk of making things much worse. Maneuvering astronauts in 300 lb spacesuits in the vicinity of the belly tiles, out of direct line of sight of the mid-deck, on the end of some 100 feet of (somewhat) flexible remote manipulator arm is not something to buy into lightly. Bump those tiles and you could turn a small ding which analysis and ground testing showed didn’t actually need to be repaired into damage which is so significant that it is irreparable. NASA developed the repair techniques to give them an option when repairs were deemed necessary, but in this case the repair option has been deemed riskier than the non-repair option. That is how these decisions get made.

  8. Not at all. The Kobayashi Maru scenario is a no-win scenario which this is certainly not. To approach that kind of problem the damage to the tiles would, first of all, need to be of such an extent as to clearly represent a hazard to the shuttle and crew. Secondly, the only repair option would have to almost inevitably result in damage just as bad (I said it entailed some risk, not that it was futile – and I mean risks in the <1% range). Lastly there would have to be no other option. In this case, there is an option of remaining at the ISS until another spacecraft could be launched on a rescue mission. No, we are a far, far cry from Kobayashi Maru!

  9. Funny how they didn’t have any problem maneuvering an astronaut into position to pull a piece of felt from between two tiles, but now suddenly positioning them to use a calk gun full of goop to repair that hole is asking too much? Why the hell even have astronauts on board? As to whether or not that is a Kobayashi Maru scenario, they jury is still out last I checked.

  10. Kobayashi Maru scenario? most definitely – Skeptic I think you may be looking at this from the wrong view point. You are looking at it from Huston’s standpoint. From the viewpoint of the astronaut’s – they are screwed six ways from Sunday. 1st off, they have the teacher’s jinx – Shuttle’s with teachers do not have a good track record. 2nd – The engineers are saying basically – the heat shield is not needed in the location that is damaged, so you are ok to land. Now of course the shuttle would not of been cleared to take off with this damage. One might ask why go to the trouble to put the heat shield where its not needed…. 3rd – The engineers are saying basically – If we send you Astronaut’s out there, most likely you’ll screw up the heat shield even more then it already is, so sit back and enjoy the ride. 4th – To matters even more fun there is Hurricane Dean. Did this guys roll snake eyes or what? This is a classic Kobayashi Maru scenario from the Astronauts point of view. Nothing you can do can alter the situation – this is a true test of their character.