Micrometeroid Strikes Window, Damage Minor
NASA's Mission Management Team has determined a gouge on the
underside of the space shuttle Endeavour will not need to be
repaired before the orbiter returns to Earth next week.
As ANN reported, NASA
engineers spent an extra day deliberating whether or not to repair
a gouge in the heat resistant tiles on Endeavour's belly, which was
caused by foam insulation striking the orbiter. The MMT previously
said the damage likely wouldn't require repair to ensure the safety
of the astronauts, although there was some question whether the
damaged tiles would allow the shuttle's exposed aluminum skin to
heat up enough to cause non-catastrophic damage to Endeavour.
There's still some question whether the decision to fly
Endeavour home as-is will cause delays in prepping the orbiter for
its next mission... but when weighed against the probability of
risk in adding another extravehicular activity to the STS-118
crew's list of duties, in order to attempt an unproven repair, NASA
decided to take the chance.
Meanwhile, on Thursday the hits just kept coming for
Endeavour... literally. NASASpaceflight.com reports the STS-118
crew recorded images this week of a MMOD (micrometeoroid/orbiting
debris) strike to the thermal pane of forward window 2, located on
the port side of the orbiter. The strike was classified as minor,
and does not pose a threat to astronauts onboard the shuttle.
On Thursday morning, Mission Specialists Barbara Morgan and
Alvin Drew (above) participated in an education event with students
at the Challenger Center for Space Science Education in Alexandria,
VA. The center is honoring Morgan with the President George H.W.
Bush Leadership Award, its top award.
Morgan, an educator who became an astronaut, was first selected
by NASA in 1985 as the backup to original Teacher in Space Christa
McAuliffe. Following the loss of the shuttle Challenger in 1986,
Morgan continued to work with NASA on educational activities and
returned to teaching elementary school in Idaho. She was selected
as an astronaut by NASA in 1998, as family members of the
Challenger crew looked on.
Morgan and Drew also talked with several television reporters.
Just before 1300 EDT, Morgan used a HAM radio to talk with students
in McCall, ID.
The STS-118 and Expedition 15 crews are continuing cargo
transfers that began shortly after Endeavour docked August 10.
Endeavour delivered supplies and equipment to the station, most of
which were located in the pressurized Spacehab module in the
payload bay. Spacehab will carry items, including science
experiments, back to Earth.
Both crews were able to take Thursday afternoon off, to take in
the scenery... or get some needed rest.
Mission managers did decide to move the flight’s fourth
spacewalk from Friday to Saturday. If the repair isn’t done,
that spacewalk will see installation of two antennas and removal of
one, installation of a stowage stand for the shuttle’s
orbiter boom sensor system and other tasks.
With the final decision now made on the tile repair, the MMT
will next turn its attention to a small tear in astronaut Rick
Mastracchio's glove, which occurred during Wednesday's spacewalk.
Engineers will weight options on how this will affect the mission's
fourth spacewalk, now set for Saturday.