Engineers Count More Than 100 Dings On Orbiter -- That's About
As the STS-114 astronauts were getting a big "welcome home!" at
the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX, engineers in the Mojave
Desert were counting the dents and dings on Discovery. It's not
that there were any more than usual -- 101, 20 of which measured
more than an inch in either length or diameter -- it's just that,
in the wake of the Columbia tragedy, everybody's counting.
Still, efforts to reduce the amount of launch-related debris
didn't necessarily reduce the number of visible impact sites on the
"It's as clean a vehicle as I've seen after landing," Dean
Schaaf, landing support convoy commander, told the Associated
"In the last two-and-a-half years, we have been through the very
worst that manned space flight can bring us, and, over the past two
weeks, we have seen the very best," NASA Administrator Michael
Griffin told the astronauts and their families, along with about
700 others who turned out to welcome the crew home to Houston
What's next for the space program? The shuttles are again
grounded, this time because of renewed concern over foam falling
from the orbiter's external fuel tank.
The engineering teams already have begun work to understand the
causes behind the foam loss, which was identified in imagery taken
during Discovery's launch July 26," NASA officials said in a
statement quoted by South Africa's SA news service.
Griffin said after the shuttle landed at Edwards AFB, CA, he
hoped the shuttles would be back in space by the end of the year --
but refused to guarantee it.