UPDATE: Here's a link to my Shuttle News Roundup, updated daily. _________________________________________________________
NASA has released photos of the large external Shuttle fuel tank after it was jettisoned. Clearly visible near the top of the tank in the image (actually the bottom of the bullet-shaped tank, since it is nearly upside down in the photo) is a rather large light-yellow area which has been stripped of insulating foam.
Extensive photographic examination of the Discovery has not revealed any visible damage to the craft so far. Another examination using a camera mounted on the crane in the Shuttle's cargo bay will take place today. If everything checks out, the crew is expected to complete their mission to the International Space Station and then return home without incident on Sunday August 7.
In my previous essay regarding the problems with insulating foam peeling off the Space Shuttle's large external fuel tank, I failed to mention the fact that the tank was originally designed to be painted. Indeed, this image from the inaugural manned launch of the Space Shuttle Columbia, STS-1 on April 12, 1981 will remind us that the tank was originally white:
After the second orbital Shuttle mission, the paint was eliminated in order to reduce the weight of the Shuttle launch assembly.
The Shuttle launch assembly consists of the Shuttle orbiter itself, two solid-fuel booster rockets, and the large external fuel tank. Morton-Thiokol manufactures the solid-fuel booster rockets, and Lockheed Martin manufactures the external fuel tank. This fuel tank holds liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen fuel for the Shuttle's three main engines. Its fuel supply is used up approximately seven minutes after launch, and the tank is jettisoned from the Shuttle orbiter. It is designed to fall back to Earth and disintegrate during atmospheric re-entry; the small amount of remaining debris falls harmlessly into the Atlantic ocean.
My previous essay provided significant evidence that the 1997 reformulation of the spray-on foam insulation used on the tank has weakened the insulation material and has made it much more likely to peel off during the flight into space. The foam was reformulated because it was originally made with freon gas.
In light of the problems associated with the new insulation foam, it seems to me that NASA has at least these options if they want to keep the Shuttle flying:
1) Return to the use of the freon-containing foam and its traditional manufacturing and application techniques and quit worrying about the negligible risk of ozone layer damage.
2) Continue using the new freon-free foam with its high associated risk of failure.
3) Continue using the new freon-free foam, but seal it again with paint. The launch assembly will be heavier, but undoubtedly safer.
4) Return to the use of the freon-containing foam, but manufacture the tank in a controlled atmosphere that would capture any freon released during the application of the foam, and modify the launch slightly in order to give the fuel tank a bit of extra momentum and propel it to a high enough altitude to prevent atmospheric re-entry and any associated atmospheric contamination risks.
The ultimate conclusion may rightly be that the Shuttle is too expensive to operate. Maybe this will be the wake-up call for more private entrepreneurs like Burt Rutan and Virgin's Sir Richard Branson, who have just announced plans to begin an enterprise that will build sub-orbital space vehicles for both public and private use.
NASA did its primary job -- winning the space race and landing a man on the moon -- exceptionally well. John Kennedy gave the agency not only a mission but a stringent timetable, and the agency had the blessings of the American people to spend whatever it took to keep the Russians from winning the technological Cold War. But the giant bureaucratic behemoth that NASA has become is certainly not the best method to ensure the quality, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness necessary for the next generation of space travel.
Air America, the "liberal" talk radio network whose pitiful ratings would automatically slot their sorry program offerings somewhere between 2:00am and 5:00am on a successful commercial talk station, is in a heap of trouble over a $500,000 "investment loan" to their network made with funds from the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Home, a Bronx charity for underprivileged and minority youth. Evan Cohen, Air America's former chairman, had also served as the Gloria Wise Home's director of development.
Blogdom's premier info-babe Michelle Malkin first covered it here, and has continued updating daily here, here, and here.
Air America's new parent company PIQUANT tried to patch things up by releasing a statement yesterday. Get a load of this:
On MAY 24, 2004 the newly formed PIQUANT LLC acquired the principal
assets of AIR AMERICA RADIO from the prior ownership entities. PIQUANT
has owned and operated AIR AMERICA RADIO since that time. The company
that had run AIR AMERICA RADIO till then no longer had anything to do
with the network.
PIQUANT had no involvement whatsoever with funds from GLORIA WISE
BOYS &GIRLS CLUB. PIQUANT neither received nor expended any of the
sums that are the subject of the City's investigation of the CLUB.
PIQUANT is not being investigated by the City, which is investigating a transaction that took place before PIQUANT existed.
Well, well, well … according to PIQUANT, a corporate buyout or
takeover completely absolves an organization of any wrongdoing. How
Can you imagine the outcry from Jackson,
Sharpton, Bond, Mfume, et al if J. P. Morgan Chase Bank had tried to
use this sorry logic to excuse themselves from their impending slavery
Yet the “Black Leadership” has nothing
to say when Air America "borrows" hundreds of thousands of dollars meant for poor inner-city minority kids. Does anyone really believe that Air America, which has been on financial skids since day one, even has a prayer of being able to pay the money back?
And can you imagine the press swarm that would envelope this story if it involved the EIB Network or Fox News? But as of today, nothing about this investigation has appeared in the mainstream media.
Apparently Air America feels no shame in taking anyone's dollars -- even though they have trouble actually earning any of their own -- because they are doing America a favor by keeping Janeane Garofalo and Randi Rhodes on the air.
Via Michelle Malkin I learned of a recent incident where personnel at Tinker Air Force Base (located in Midwest City, Oklahoma -- just outside of Oklahoma City -- and home to the B-1 bomber command, among other things) spotted three men watching airplanes departing and landing, and one of the men may have been carrying a shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missle (MANPAD). Both the military and the FBI deemed the threat to be credible.
Tinker AFB is about 30 miles from where I live. Needless to say, I'm alarmed. And Jane's.com says that there are thousands of MANPADS that are unaccounted for.
The Air Force released a Battle Staff Directive describing the event and urging personnel to be on the lookout for suspicious persons in the vicinity of air bases.
As far as I can tell, there was no word about this in any of the local Oklahoma City news media.
... reminded me of this grisly WorldNet Daily article from 2002, Survivors Face Agony In Suicide Attacks. This article describes the grievous wounds suffered by survivors of Palestinian terror bombers in Israel. Nails, screws, and other shrapnel are sometimes buried so deeply in victims that they can never be removed, leaving them in chronic pain for the rest of their lives. Some bombers coat their shrapnel in rat poison, which inhibits blood clotting.
If you think that a bomb filled with nails looks grisly, then you might not want to look at this:
The New York Times reports that NASA has officially announced that the Space Shuttle will be grounded indefinitely - until they figure out how to keep the exterior foam insulation from peeling off the gigantic fuel tank that is the main piece of the Shuttle's launch assembly.
The Columbia and its crew were lost because a 1.67-pound piece of
insulating foam that had fallen off the external tank during liftoff
crashed through the leading edge of the shuttle's left wing. The
resulting hole admitted superheated gases during the shuttle's fiery
re-entry into the atmosphere on Feb. 1, 2003.
That chunk fell from an area of hand-applied foam called the bipod
arm ramp. The ramp's insulating foam surrounded the struts connecting
the tank to the orbiter, and were originally designed to prevent ice
from forming and becoming a debris hazard. But NASA had noticed that
the bipod arm ramp tended to shed foam and decided to redesign it. They
planned to replace it after the Columbia flight.
... In the incident described here on Wednesday, the new piece of foam - a
hat-shaped chunk as much as 33 inches across at the widest part and 14
inches at the narrow part - sheared off another ramp on the external
tank. It is known as the protuberance air load ramp, which NASA
abbreviates as the PAL ramp, and was designed to minimize crosswise
airflow and turbulence around cable trays and lines used to pressurize
the external tank. The new piece is slightly smaller than the
briefcase-size piece that hit the Columbia, Mr. Hale said.
... Mr. Parsons and Mr. Hale said there were other surprising examples of
lost foam - including divots several inches long that popped out of
"acreage foam," which is applied robotically and had been considered to
be free of shedding problems.
But here is what no one seems to be talking about - the problems with foam peeling and breaking off the main fuel tank are relatively new. In 1997, NASA bent to pressure from environmental groups and began using a new type of foam on the main fuel tank.
Why all the fuss? Because the traditional foam insulation, the product that had been specified in the 1970 Shuttle designs, the product that was used up until 1997, was made by injecting polymer with chlorofluorocarbons -- "freon" -- compounds whose use was severely limited under the 1991 Montreal Protocol. With the adoption of this protocol by the U. S., the Environmental Protection Agency set target dates for major industries to phase out the use of freon.
After the new foam was used on Columbia mission STS-87 in November 1997, post-flight examination of the craft found that 308 of the special heat-absorbent ceramic tiles that cover the Shuttle's outer skin were damaged. The average number of damaged tiles for previous missions was 40. NASA engineers immediately suspected that the new insulating foam was breaking loose, but NASA supervisors were apparently more interested in impressive, successfully-completed missions than in adequate mission safety. The peeling foam was written off as a negligible risk.
The irony of this is that in 2001, the EPA exempted NASA from enforcement of its freon regulations because an audit determined that the amount of freon used by NASA was minuscule. But apparently NASA was more concerned with public relations and with making sure that their policies received a nod of approval from environmental groups. NASA's official report on the Columbia disaster cited a change in the foam application process -- and not the change in the foam itself -- as the most sensible reason for the foam to start peeling off.
When the Rogers Commission released their official report on the
Challenger disaster in 1987, there was one member of the panel who did
not sign it. That person was Noble laureate physicist Richard P.
Feynman. He released his own statement after the commission's hearings were published, which concluded,
For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public
relations, for nature cannot be fooled.
Environmentalists, maybe, but certainly not the laws of physics.
Hopefully NASA will reconsider Dr. Feynman's timeless observation
again as they try to solve the problem of peeling CFC-free Space
Shuttle fuel tank foam.
Either that, or maybe they could think about investing their time
and energy in a space vehicle that is not dependent on 30-year-old
technology, and that actually costs less to operate than an a roughly
equivalent but non-reusable payload-carrying vehicle. That would be
The NASA Space Shuttle Discovery launched this morning at 10:39 AM EDT. The shuttle's mission, STS-114, will deliver supplies to the International Space Station as well as perform maintenance on the station and test out new in-flight maintenance techniques for the shuttle.
Congratulations, NASA, and we pray for a smooth and safe flight.
It's difficult to say how serious this is, since all spacecraft launches have produced some amount of debris. But NASA scientists are on edge, because a large piece of booster tank insulation foam broke off during Columbia/STS-107's January 2003 launch, striking the wing and probably puncturing it, which caused the wing to break off and the shuttle to disintegrate upon atmospheric re-entry.
If examinations of the Discovery by her crew result in the detection of possibly serious damage to the ship, the crew can abandon their ship, safely board the International Space Station, and await the (hopefully safe) launch of another shuttle to bring them home - provided that they have enough food, water, and oxygen to endure the wait.
If that happened, it would reduce the operational shuttle fleet to only two craft - Atlantis and Endeavor - which would ultimately end the Shuttle program. A lot of people have opined that ending the Shuttle program would be a good thing. I'll have more thoughts on that subject tomorrow. ...
A sobering video by producer Chris Valentine that juxtaposes the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters can be found here.
A page of with more skillfully-produced videos exploring the Columbia shuttle disaster can be found at www.chrisvalentines.com. Valentine is an amateur astronomer and video producer who filmed the re-entry break-up of the Columbia, and subsequently created this website.
Patients 1 and 2 were long-term partners but they also liked to have a little fun on the side. They traveled to a sex club in NYC and both engaged in unprotected anal intercourse with patient 0, who lives in Connecticut.
Apparently those who frequent this NYC sex club believe that they are "safe" because they are all HIV-positive. Since they are already infected, they don't have anything to worry about. That is, until patient 0 showed up and brought a new strain of HIV with him. Three months after the sex club encounter with patient 0, patient 1 begin to show symptoms normally associated with a new HIV infection (even though he was already HIV+) and so he sought medical help.
And just to make this story more devastating, consider this: patient 1 is also a regular crystal meth user, and he apparently had sex with at least ten other "poz" men before he was diagnosed with this new virulent HIV strain.
Despite the burden that I feel for victims of HIV, stories like this one compel me to continue pointing out that the majority of homosexual HIV sufferers acquired the disease based on their own dysfunctional and foolish behavior. Heavy drug use and sexual promiscuity are virtually guaranteed to get you into trouble, whether it is HIV, hepatitis C, or the mental and physical degeneration brought about by chronic drug addiction.
Secularists and New Agers have now openly taught for forty years that religion's only function is to enslave and repress its followers. God is seen as a cosmic killjoy who delights in the misery and boredom of His followers.
But let me tell you something else - God provided the Bible and its truths to us in order for us to be restored to our original relationship with God, and to enjoy the spiritually abundant life that results from the personal relationship between God and each of us as an individual.
No amount of booze, pills, or sexual activity can restore that relationship, or fill the hole that each of us has inside when that relationship is unfulfilled. God's morality steers us clear of sexual promiscuity and drug/alcohol abuse because the danger level inherent in them far outweighs any pleasure-related benefits that we may receive from them.
It's my sincere hope that the modern church will begin to see the bleak and damaging lifestyles of those hopelessly addicted to drugs and sex as a prime opportunity for ministry and teaching the Gospel. It deeply saddens me to see churches arguing over things like doctrines and worship practices when people like patients 0, 1, and 2 are out there, self-destructing, every day.
Vardan Kushnir, notorious for sending spam to each and every citizen of
Russia who appeared to have an e-mail, was found dead in his Moscow
apartment on Sunday, Interfax reported Monday. He died after suffering
repeated blows to the head.
Kushnir, 35, headed the English
learning centers the Center for American English, the New York English
Centre and the Centre for Spoken English, all known to have aggressive
Internet advertising policies in which millions of e-mails were sent
God only knows how he would have died if his spam emails were selling Viagra.