Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Shuttle Launch!

For the first time since the Columbia mission ended tragically with the
loss of both the crew and shuttle on February 1, 2003, tomorrow on Wednesday
July 13, a shuttle mission will be launched from the Kennedy Space Center.

The Discovery will be manned by a seven person crew consisting of five Americans, one Australian and one Japanese.

Future shuttle missions will enable the completion of the International
Space Station. There are also still hopes of possible repairs to the Hubble Space
Telescope which would extend its life but NASA has not made any guarantees on this and the crucial repairs needed by the HST are not likely to take place.

Extensive repairs and improvements have been made on the Shuttle to improve its safety and undoubtedly the Discovery shuttle being launched tomorrow is safer than both the Challenger and Columbia shuttles which previously have ended in disaster.

Great efforts have been made to reduce the amount and size of foam falling off from the external tank. It was foam falling from the Columbia’s external tank that damaged the Shuttle and caused its destruction. Also, means have been added to better detect any possible damage from fallen foam and repair it.

But, although the danger has been reduced, the foam problem still exists and foam WILL fall off. The problem has not been solved and three out of fifteen recommendations by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board have not been carried out. According to N. Wayne Hale Jr., deputy manager of the shuttle program, "We have substantially reduced the hazard, but we haven't driven it to zero. No one could guarantee that."

SkyWatch is planning to provide coverage of the Discovery mission and
will be sending, if possible, information to its Lite and Extra subscribers on
shuttle passes that can be seen from their area.

Ed Ehrlich
Jerusalem, Israel
© 2005 SkyWatch

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