September 20, 2006
Landing Rescheduled for Thursday
NASA has decided that the mysterious debris spotted by the crew and flight control team yesterday that postponed the landing is no threat to Atlantis. Landing has been rescheduled for 5:22 a.m. CDT at Kennedy Space Center.
We may never know what the debris was, but considering it appeared just after the re-entry dress rehearsal jet firings and flap testing, it is most likely stuff that was leftover from processing activities at the Cape. Or maybe the Vulcans were careless when they self-destructed their secret monitoring devices...
Seriously, the recent failure of the Elektron oxygen-generating system on the ISS and this debris threatening Atlantis remind us that space flight is never easy. It also shows the value of what we are learning in low-Earth orbit in terms of preparing us for trips to the Moon, Mars, and asteroids. Before we send a crew to Mars, we need to know that their critical life support systems will last for several years, what spare parts should be sent along, what back-up systems to include, and how to make in-flight repairs. We also need to know how to inspect and rempair our craft for damage from meteorites and debris that we inadvertently take with us or create while in space. Though we understand that risk is always a part of the human exploration of space, that risk is being reduced by every failure that we encounter in low-Earth orbit.
We owe a loud "Thank You!" to the crews of the ISS and Space Shuttles and Soyuz and all the members of the American and Russian flight control teams that have faced and overcome failures again and again and are making space flight safer for the rest of us in the future.
Posted by m_dyson at September 20, 2006 02:26 PM