Discovery in the Fog

compiled by Dee Finney



Scheduled Launch Time: 3:51PM ET Wednesday
Tiles Damaged: Window cover fell and hit tiles near tail


The second attempt to launch the Space Shuttle Discovery took place, July 26th, at 10:39 a.m.

 Here are the chart details:

July 26, 2005
10:39 a.m.
Cape Canaveral, Florida (FL) USA
Timezone:  5
DST:  1
Virgo Rising Sign, 00:21 degrees.





Ed Dames, on the Art Bell shows  ( )  on 4-9-2005 predicted that the shuttle would be brought down by a meteor shower during November or December 2005 and that dire consequences would occur shortly thereafter. 

See what has happened in the past.

The Aztec emperor Montezuma was terrorized by the arrival of a comet. The focus of this fear is significant because it was shared by emperors and kings and tribal chiefs the world over. The comet means the death of great leaders.


Discovery (OV-103)

Mission: STS-114 - 17th ISS Flight (LF1)
Payload: Multi-Purpose Logistics Module
Location: Launch Pad 39B
Launch Date: July 13, 2005, 3:51 p.m. EDT
Launch Pad: 39B
Crew: Collins, Kelly, Noguchi, Robinson, Thomas, Lawrence and Camarda
Inclination/Orbit Altitude: 51.6 degrees/122 nautical miles

At Launch Pad 39B, final preparations for the launch of Discovery's Return to Flight mission to the International Space Station continue.Launch countdown preparations have begun in firing room 3 of the Launch Control Center in anticipation of the countdown beginning on Sunday at 6 p.m. at the T-43 hour mark.

Stowing of the flight crew equipment lockers into the orbiter mid-deck is underway and will continue tomorrow. Mid-deck flight seats will be installed on Monday. Ordnance installation is complete. Aft closeouts continue and are scheduled to be complete tomorrow. Drag chute instrumentation checkout is complete.

Loading of hypergolic propellants is complete. This process includes loading the propellants monomethyl hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide into the Orbiter Maneuvering System and the Forward Reaction Control System. Today, the hypergolic pressurization of the propellant systems was completed.

Friday, the pad structure and surface will be washed down in preparation for flight. Also tomorrow, the new wing leading edge sensors that will monitor impacts or temperature changes will be programmed for flight.

NASA weather officers are tracking Hurricane Dennis and its possible impact at Kennedy Space Center. The current forecast shows only a slight chance of more than 40 knot winds effecting KSC on Saturday. A decision will be made this evening if preparations should begin for a possible rollback of Space Shuttle Discovery. A decision on rollback
would not be made until tomorrow. At this point, none of the preparations will impact the July 13 launch date.

The STS-114 crew arrived at 6:30 p.m. today at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center aboard a Gulf Stream aircraft from Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Final preparations for the launch of Discovery's Return to Flight mission to the International Space Station continue at Launch Pad 39B. The ordnance reconnections are complete and the vehicle was powered up. The ordnance was previously disconnected in preparation for any possible concerns associated with Hurricane Dennis. Closeout of the aft compartment is complete.

Launch countdown preparations are nearing completion in firing room 3 of the Launch Control Center. The STS-114 launch countdown begins tomorrow evening at 6 p.m. at the T-43 hour mark.

The Solid Rocket Booster retrieval ships Liberty Star and Freedom Star will depart from KSC at noon on Tuesday and travel to their location for launch, about 140 nautical miles downrange of the launch pad.

The launch countdown clock began at 6 p.m. EDT at the T-43 hour mark counting down toward a launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on mission STS-114 on Wednesday at 3:51 p.m. The launch control team members are in firing room 3 of the Launch Control Center at NASA's Kennedy Space Center and will be monitoring their system consoles.

The STS-114 crew spent the day in various reviews including a briefing with the Astronaut Support Personnel and the Vehicle Integration Test Office and a bench review of the items in the tile repair kit and the new Cure in Place Ablator Applicator for use in on-orbit tile repair.

Today, the L-3 day weather forecast shows that probability of weather prohibiting the launch of Discovery is 30 percent, with the probability of weather prohibiting tanking at only five percent. Temperature at launch is forecast at 86 degrees and a relative
humidity of 70 percent.

The Solid Rocket Booster retrieval ships Liberty Star and Freedom Star will depart from KSC at noon on Tuesday and travel to their location for launch, about 140 nautical miles downrange of the launch pad.

Shuttle Snapshots: Orbital Photography Safeguards Astronauts Tariq
Staff Writer

When the space shuttle Discovery arrives at the International Space Station (ISS) this month, two astronauts will have the photo opportunity of a lifetime.

Armed with digital high-resolution cameras, ISS Expedition commander Sergei Krikalev and flight engineer John Phillips will take what flight controllers and trainers hope will be a comprehensive survey of the protective thermal tiles that line Discovery's belly.

"They will be doing some test imagery in the next week and charging camera batteries," said astronaut trainer Steven Berenzweig, a shuttle and ISS photography trained at     NASA's Johnson Space Center, in a telephone interview. "We want them to get some practice with their focus and mapping techniques."

The space shuttle Discovery - NASA's first space shuttle to fly since the Columbia disaster - is poised to launch as early as July 13 and could reach the space station on July 15, according to its mission timeline.

The tile survey images taken by the ISS crew will be relayed back to engineers on Earth, where they will be studied for signs of any damage. They represent only one of two critical photography session during Discovery's STS-114 flight. The other, to be conducted just after launch by the STS-114 crew, will document how Discovery's modified external tank weathered the spaceflight.

"This is going to be the most photographed shuttle mission that's ever launched," veteran astronaut Eileen Collins, commander of Discovery's STS-114 flight, said in a preflight mission briefing.

Columbia's thermal protective skin was damaged by foam debris from its external tank during launch, which punctured a wing panel and allowed hot gases to breach the shuttle's skin during reentry. The orbiter broke apart over Texas on Feb. 1, 2003, killing its seven-astronaut crew.

Serious snapshots

The docking of any space vehicle - manned or otherwise - at the ISS is just cause for crewmembers to grab their cameras. But for STS-114, it is more than a matter of pretty pictures.

"Other images of the orbiter [docking] in the past have been almost more of a public affairs type of thing," Berenzweig said.

But shuttle engineers will scrutinize the Expedition 11 crew's images to determine whether Discovery's thermal protection system is sound enough for the return trip through the Earth's atmosphere, which is currently scheduled for July 25. If everything checks out, the crew can return safely. If extensive damage is found, though flight
controllers believe it's unlikely, the shuttle crew could seek refuge aboard the space station and await a rescue orbiter.

Krikalev and Phillips are outfitted with Kodak CDCS 660 digital cameras, one with a 400 mm lens to resolve tile features down to 2.5 inches (6.3 centimeters), and the other with an 800 mm equivalent for photographs down to one inch (2.5 centimeter) in  resolution.

"The space shuttle will stop directly below the space station and Sergei and I will be looking out two different windows looking straight down at the space shuttle," Phillips said in a pre-flight NASA interview, adding that he expects Discovery's docking to be a
mission highlight. "Unfortunately, it's not just a sight-seeing kind of thing. We can't say, 'Well there's the Shuttle silhouetted against the Great Barrier Reef.' We're going to be busy taking exactly the pictures that we're programmed to take."

The astronauts will use the 800 mm lens to image Discovery's sensitive tile regions, such as its wheel well doors, while the 400 mm camera will document the overall condition of orbiter tiles, NASA officials said.

Time crunch

Krikalev and Phillips have about 93 seconds to sweep their camera lenses across overlapping swatches of Discovery's tile-covered belly.

"Each one of their shots has about 40 to 50 percent overlap from the one before it," Berenzweig said. "We're hoping they will get two to three complete mapping passes during the time."

During Discovery's docking approach, Collins will park Discovery about 600 feet (182meters) from the ISS and perform a "rendezvous pitch maneuver," which flips the orbiter to present its underside toward the space station, then complete the circle. The entire maneuver takes about nine minutes.

"It's not an easy task," Krikalev said of the tile survey during a NASA interview. "It's very time-critical because the shuttle cannot stay for a long time near, near station."

Tank watch

Discovery's ISS docking time has been scheduled to provide optimum lighting conditions for the Expedition 11 crew's photographs, and the same goes for the shuttle's external tank separation.

"The launch will be scheduled in a way that we still have sunlight when we separate from the external tank," Collins said.

STS-114 astronauts will photograph Discovery's external tank departure earlier than in past shuttle missions to ensure a good look at the tank's condition. A new digital camera has replaced the 35 mm film camera inside Discovery's right umbilical well for additional external tank imagery. Standard film cameras in the orbiter's left umbilical well will also record the external tank separation.

Meanwhile, the tank too bears a television camera to broadcast images of itself and Discovery's underside to flight controllers.

"It's a huge wealth of data coming down, and we have a lot of people who are set to receive that data," said STS-114 mission specialist Andrew Thomas.

Damage may delay shuttle's return to space

Richard Luscombe at Cape Canaveral, Florida
Wednesday July 13, 2005
The Guardian

Nasa's long-awaited return to manned spaceflight looked in jeopardy last night after technicians accidentally chipped part of the space shuttle Discovery less than 24 hours before today's scheduled liftoff.

The space agency worked frantically overnight to assess the damage. It announced early this morning it had made the necessary repairs and the launch would go ahead, weather permitting.

Engineers who had been making final preparations appeared to have dropped a window cover from its position close to the crew cabin, sending it crashing 15 metres (50ft) down the launchpad and on to the shuttle's left-side orbital manoeuvring system.

The news came as a blow to the space agency's hopes of re-establishing its reputation two and a half years after the shuttle fleet was grounded following the Columbia disaster, which killed seven astronauts.

Nasa said Discovery was still on track to take off today. But there were doubts about how many knock-on safety problems the accident might have caused.

More than 100 safety improvements have been made to the shuttle fleet since Columbia blew up on re-entry over Texas. They include a complete redesign of the external fuel tank and extra-strength windows to minimise the risk of impact from space debris.

Half a million spectators were expected to make their way to Cape Canaveral for today's launch. Such massive interest was last seen in September 1988 when Discovery put Americans back in space after the January 1986 Challenger disaster, in which seven astronauts also died.

A Gallup poll during the run-up to today's launch indicated that 77% of Americans support Nasa's plans to complete the construction of the international space station before the ageing shuttle fleet is retired in 2010, and to develop a replacement spacecraft able to project humans beyond Earth's lower orbit for the first time.

The study also showed that, despite a national debt of $7.85 trillion, 73% of adults in the US believe that the government is right to give 0.7% of the federal budget, or $58 (£33) for every US citizen, to Nasa each year.

The Nasa team was also watching the weather last night,with the space agency acknowledging that thunderstorms, including the formation of tropical storm Emily in the eastern Caribbean, coulddelay the launch.

"For our launch forecast, we did get a little more pessimistic on this today," said Kathy Winters, the shuttle's weather officer.

Today's liftoff is scheduled for 3.51pm local time (8.51pm BST).

If no launch is possible, mission controllers could launch tomorrow afternoon or Friday.

But if they fail to launch by July 31 the entire 12-day mission will be put back until September.

Wayne Hale, the deputy manager of the space shuttle programme, said that was the worst-case scenario.

Shuttle launch 'a go' after tiles repaired
Tue Jul 12, 2005 8:18 PM ET
Related Pictures

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - NASA will go ahead with the first space shuttle mission since the 2003 Columbia disaster after replacing two damaged heat-resistant tiles on the shuttle Discovery, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

"The issue has been resolved. Launch is a go," said NASA spokesman Mike Rein.

The two tiles were damaged when a plastic window cover weighing less than 2 pounds (1 kilogram) fell off Discovery as the spacecraft sat on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral in Florida, during the countdown to Wednesday's scheduled launch at 3:51 p.m. (1951 GMT).

The damage caused by falling debris rang alarm bells because that was precisely the problem that doomed Columbia.

In that case, Columbia's left wing was damaged by a chunk of foam insulation that weighed 1.67 pounds (0.76 kilogram). The damage opened a hole in Columbia's skin that let in superheated gas during re-entry, tearing the ship apart and killing all seven astronauts.

"This is a minor repair for us," Stephanie Stilson, Discovery's manager, told reporters after a panel that contained the two damaged tiles was replaced. "They have given us a go for launch."

The shuttle's window covers are removed before launch.

The damage repair came just hours after NASA's administrator, Michael Griffin, had said all issues except possible bad weather had been settled and Discovery was ready for launch.

"Everything is at rest today. Yesterday we were working a couple of ... issues and those were amply put to bed, so we're in good shape," Griffin said, adding that he hoped "the weather gods are kind for tomorrow."

"Can there be something that we don't know about that can bite us? Yeah, this is a tough business, it's a very tough business but everything that we know about has been covered."

NASA has not flown a shuttle mission since Columbia disintegrated over Texas on Feb. 1, 2003.


Discovery's mission will test improvements made to the shuttle to reduce falling debris at liftoff and experimental procedures for repairing damaged heat resistant tiles.

The shuttle, under the command of veteran astronaut Eileen Collins, will also deliver much-needed supplies and equipment to the International Space Station. The station's construction -- a 16-country project -- has been on hold since the remaining three-shuttle fleet was grounded.

NASA weather forecasters said the outlook for launch was good, but they increased the risk of thunderstorms.

"For our launch forecast, we did get a little more pessimistic on this today," weather officer Kathy Winters said as the countdown clock ticked toward the scheduled liftoff.

"There's a 40 percent chance of weather prohibiting launch," she told a briefing.

Any thunderstorm must be at least 20 nautical miles from the shuttle to allow a launch. A network of 112 cameras set up to monitor Discovery's surface as it soars will need clear skies to get good images.

The families of the seven astronauts killed in Columbia's fatal break-up offered their support. "We have had 2 1/2 years to reflect daily on the loss of our loved ones as the shuttle Columbia broke apart over Texas on Feb. 1, 2003," the families said in a statement.

"... We have every confidence that the sacrifice of our loved ones and those that preceded them will be realized for the benefit of mankind. Godspeed Discovery."

If Discovery's launch is delayed, NASA can attempt it twice more before having to break for a few days to refuel the craft's onboard power generators.

The current launch window runs from July 13 through July 31. The next one opens Sept. 9.

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005 - Page updated at 11:55 AM

Discovery's launch is called off

Space Shuttle Discovery astronauts walk from the crew area 
to the astronaut van to be driven to the launch pad 
at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The Associated Press

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A faulty fuel gauge on Discovery's external tank forced NASA to call off today's launch of the first shuttle flight since the Columbia disaster 2 1/2 years ago. The space agency did not immediately set a new launch date.

The decision came with less than 2 1/2 hours to go before launch, as the seven astronauts were almost done boarding the spacecraft. Up until then, rain and thunder over the launch site appeared to be the only obstacle to an on-time liftoff.

The same baffling problem cropped up during a launch pad test back in April, and NASA has been struggling ever since to figure out the source of the trouble. But the topic came up repeatedly at meetings of top-level NASA managers this week, and the space agency said that it believed it had worked around the problem by replacing cables and other electronics aboard the shuttle.

As recently as Monday, NASA deputy shuttle program manager Wayne Hale described the sensor problem seen in April as simply an "unexplained anomaly."

The back-to-back failures suggest the possibility of a wider problem than one or two bad pieces of equipment.

A launch control commentator said that it was unlikely the problem could be solved quickly and that another launch attempt on Thursday was all but impossible. NASA officials refused to speculate on whether the shuttle would have to be rolled back to the hangar for repairs.

NASA has until the end of July to launch Discovery, after which it will have to wait until September — a schedule dictated by both the position of the international space station and NASA's desire to hold a daylight liftoff in order to photograph the shuttle during its climb to orbit.

The problem was with one of the four engine cut-off sensors, which are responsible for making sure the spacecraft's main engines shut down at the proper point during the ascent. A launch could end in tragedy if faulty sensors caused the engines to cut out too early or too late.

NASA said it appeared that the sensor was showing a low fuel level, even though the tank was full with 535,000 gallons of super-cold liquid hydrogen and oxygen.

The sensors "for some reason did not behave today and so we're going to have to scrub this launch attempt," launch director Mike Leinbach told his team. "So appreciate all we've been through together, but this one is not going to result in a launch attempt today."

During a fueling test of Discovery's original tank in April, one of its sensors gave intermittent readings. NASA could not figure out the exact reason for the failure but replaced the entire tank anyway to install a heater to prevent a dangerous ice buildup.

Shuttle managers considered conducting a fueling test at the launch pad on the replacement tank, but ruled it out to save time, saying that the actual fueling on launch day would be the ultimate test.

"We are disappointed, but we'll fly again on another day," said an astronaut speaking from launch control, David Wolf.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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Several NASA acft have been coming in today. And moments ago I heard NASA 945 inbound. NASA 945 is an STA; so look for STA activity up over the Cape and on 126.65 later tonight if the wx is ok. Otherwise they will probably fly the mission tomorrow.

AL STERN Satellite Beach FL (28-11N 80-36W) monitoring
 Patrick AFB (KCOF)  NASA-KSC Shuttle Landing Fac (KX68)
 Avon Park Bombing Range (KAGR)  Cape Canaveral AFS (KXMR)
 JSTARS E-8 Acft Integration Facility, Melbourne IAP (KMLB)
 Worldwide Military HF Communications
 Life Member: Missile, Space and Range Pioneers. (My Freqs) (My Equipment)

Next week earliest possible launch date

  Tuesday, July 19, 2005

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Florida (CNN) -- Five days of meticulous detective work by NASA engineers have failed to turn up the cause of a fuel sensor malfunction on the space shuttle Discovery, which is still sitting on its launch pad as precious days tick away toward a July 31 launch deadline.

NASA officials are looking at next week as the earliest possible launch date.

"It's difficult to find a glitch that won't stay glitched," said Bill Parsons, the space shuttle program manager, at a news conference Monday evening.

To help find the malfunction, NASA has brought out of retirement an engineer who designed part of the sensor system back in the 1970s, said Wayne Hale, deputy shuttle program manager.

NASA officials will decide by Wednesday whether they need to fill the shuttle's external tanks with super-cooled hydrogen and oxygen to help isolate the problem, which would delay a launch until at least July 26, he said.

The current launch window for Discovery ends July 31, after which the launch might have to be postponed until at least September 9. NASA officials are debating whether the window could be extended to August 4, to give them more time to find and fix the sensor malfunction.

The current launch window was chosen to provide ideal lighting conditions so that Discovery's ascent can be photographed by a new network of cameras installed on the vehicle, which will help the space agency evaluate design changes made after the 2003 Columbia disaster.

In the first days of August, Discovery would be in deep shadow at the point where the external tanks separate from the orbiter. However, some NASA officials believe digital photographs taken out of the window of the orbiter by Discovery's crew could compensate for any dark pictures.

Discovery's mission would be the first space shuttle flight since its sister ship, Columbia, disintegrated over Texas on February 1, 2003, killing all seven astronauts on board.

NASA shut down the program and made numerous design changes and safety improvements to the shuttle fleet recommended by a blue-ribbon panel that investigated the disaster.

Last Wednesday, less than two and a half hours from liftoff, Discovery's mission had to be scrubbed when a pre-flight test showed a sensor in the hydrogen fuel tank was not working correctly. To test the sensor, a command was sent that should have made it show the tank as empty, when it was actually full. But the reading didn't change.

NASA engineers believe the problem lies somewhere along the path from the sensor in the fuel tank to computers on the orbiter which process the information, but they have so far been unable to isolate what they term an "intermittent anomaly."

Tests of an electronic box in the orbiter that captures data from the sensor were successful, and checks of the wiring in the orbiter and external fuel tank, as well as the connections between the two, also turned up no problems, said Ed Mango, deputy director of NASA's orbiter project office.

So far, the testing that has been done has been conducted at normal temperatures, rather than under temperature conditions at launch, when the super-cooled fuel is loaded in the tanks.

The unloaded testing should be completed by Wednesday, at which point the decision will have to be made whether to perform more tests with the tanks loaded, known in NASA parlance as a "tanking test."

Hale said the earliest a tanking test could be performed would be next Tuesday. Once the tanks are loaded, an immediate launch would be possible, although Hale said a more likely scenario would be to launch the following day.

The sensor that malfunctioned is one of four that monitor hydrogen levels in the fuel tank. Launch protocols require that all four be working at launch, to provide redundancy in case more than one sensor fails.

Hale said Monday that prior to the Challenger disaster in 1986, NASA's flight rules did allow a space shuttle to fly with just three of the four sensors working. That was changed after a post-Challenger evaluation showed that a single malfunction could knock out two sensors because of the way the system was designed, he said.

If the problem cannot be isolated, NASA officials could consider allowing Discovery to fly with just three sensors working properly, although Hale said the space agency would much prefer to find and fix the problem.

An in-flight malfunction of the sensors could lead to two different, but potentially catastrophic, outcomes.

If the sensors fail to indicate that fuel levels are running low, fuel pumps could continue to operate after the fuel is exhausted, which could cause an explosion if engines overheat or seize up. On the other hand, if the sensors indicate fuel is running low when it isn't, on-board computers could shut down the shuttle's main engines, which could force the craft to make an emergency landing if it fails to achieve orbit.

To compensate for a missing sensor, NASA might have to more rigidly time the launch so that Discovery gets to its desired orbit using a minimum of fuel.

If NASA officials decide to proceed with the tanking test, engineers are considering switching the wiring between the faulty sensor and one of its working siblings, to determine whether the problem lies with the sensor or the electronics attached to it, Parsons said.

Discovery's seven-person crew is led by retired Air Force Col. Eileen Collins, NASA's first female shuttle commander. Over the course of the 12-day mission, the crew will test a battery of new tools and techniques NASA engineers developed in the aftermath of Columbia to inspect the spacecraft's heat-resistant exterior tiles for any damage that might have occurred during liftoff.

The shuttle will also dock with the space station to deliver much-needed equipment and supplies

The panel that investigated the Columbia disaster concluded that a piece of insulating foam fell off the external fuel tank during liftoff and struck the shuttle's wing, cracking the tiles. The breach caused Columbia to disintegrate during the heat of re-entry.

CNN's Kate Tobin contributed to this report.


Shuttle launch time set
Discovery can lift off Tuesday even if a sensor fails again, NASA says.

By Robyn Shelton
Sentinel Staff Writer

July 21, 2005
NASA will try again to launch shuttle Discovery on Tuesday after engineers expressed confidence that they had pinpointed the fuel-sensor problem that scrubbed last week's liftoff.

Blaming a minor electrical issue for delaying the shuttle's return to flight, NASA managers said Wednesday that they can fly even if the sensor acts up again during final preparations for launch.

If all goes well, the countdown clocks will start ticking Saturday afternoon. Liftoff is set for 10:39 a.m. Tuesday.

"We have a great amount of work in front of us to get us through this and get us ready for this, but we all agree that this is doable," said Bill Parsons, shuttle-program manager.

Teams of NASA engineers have been working on the problem since managers called off Discovery's launch July 13. They strongly suspect that the malfunctioning sensor is being affected by an electrical-grounding problem on the shuttle, Parsons said.

Additional tests are needed, but all the evidence is pointing in that direction, said John Muratore, NASA manager of systems engineering and integration at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

"This has been a very, very thorough effort," he said. "We've used every kind of analysis and test technique we could find" to investigate the problem.

NASA is hoping to send Discovery on its 12-day mission to the international space station before the current launch window closes Aug. 4. If that happens, the agency would have to wait until September for more opportunities.

Discovery's flight will be the first since seven astronauts were killed when shuttle Columbia broke apart over Texas as it headed for a landing in Florida on Feb. 1, 2003.

Discovery was only 21/2 hours from liftoff last week when the sensor failed to respond to computer commands. An estimated 250,000 people had swarmed into Brevard County to see the historic flight.

In the days since, the cause of the sensor glitch had eluded engineers.

The faulty device is one of four so-called "engine cutoff" sensors in the bottom of the external fuel tank where liquid-hydrogen fuel is stored.

The sensors are an emergency precaution meant to trigger the shutdown of the spaceship's main engines if the hydrogen runs out too soon. In normal launches, the sensors aren't needed, and the shuttle's computers turn off the engines when the ship has picked up enough speed to reach its planned orbit.

NASA requires all four sensors to be working properly at liftoff, but that hasn't always been the case. Three sensors used to be sufficient in the program's early days, but a review after the Challenger disaster in 1986 triggered the change to four.

Nonetheless, Parsons said the agency likely would accept three working sensors during Discovery's launch if the malfunction were clearly understood.

Parsons said NASA would stop short of officially changing the technical rules in place for going through with a launch. But the agency would be ready to waive the requirement for this liftoff if the same problem emerges with the sensor.

"If we see a signature that we understand, then we'd make an exception and fly with three [sensors]," he said.

Muratore said engineers still were working on plans to do extensive testing of the sensors during Discovery's countdown. If anything unusual occurred, they would call off the launch and regroup.

Once in orbit, Discovery is to dock at the international space station so its crew can drop off supplies and carry out a series of spacewalks. The excursions outside include work on the station itself as well as tests of potential repair techniques in case a shuttle ever becomes damaged again during launch.

Columbia was mortally wounded on its climb to orbit when a piece of foam fell off its external tank and struck its left wing, creating a hole that allowed superheated gases to get inside the ship and trigger its destruction after it re-entered the atmosphere.

Robyn Shelton can be reachedat rshelton@orlandosentinel.comor 407-420-5487.

According to the astrology chart of the Shuttle, here is the prediction: 
In viewing this chart, there are a number of concerns.
Mercury, ruling the chart and therefore the health and longevity of the Shuttle, is weak in old age, and is under the wide aspect of Rahu, ruling explosions and unexpected calamities.
Mercury is ruled by the Moon, which is also closely afflicted by Rahu.
The operating planet, Venus, the natural signficator for conveyances and ruling the second house of status and continuation of family life, is badly placed in the twelfth house of losses and expenses.
The ruler of the twelfth house, Sun, is closely afflicted by the functional malefic Saturn, ruling the sixth house of fire and conflicts.
(Saturn is combust and under the aspect affliction of Mars, the eighth ruler of delays, obstructions, accidents and deathlike experiences.)
Sun, representing government, and ruling the twelfth house of losses, is also weak on account of the weakness of its dispositor, the afflicted Moon.
The well placed Jupiter, ruling the fourth house of conveyances, and Mars, placed in its own mooltrikona sign, may be helpful, but it seems that overall the chart is connected with losses, explosions, accidents, obstructions, delays, etc.
Once again, I predict a cancellation of the launch, or serious problems with the mission.
Let's pray for the welfare of the crew and their families.
Best wishes,
David Hawthorne, M.S., J.B.
President, IIPA


NASA Suspending Shuttle Program Over Foam Debris

Published: July 28, 2005

HOUSTON, July 27 - NASA suspended further flights of the space shuttle fleet on Wednesday after determining that a large piece of insulating foam had broken off the external fuel tank of the Discovery shortly after liftoff Tuesday morning, the same problem that doomed the Columbia and its seven astronauts in the last mission, two and a half years ago.

NASA TV, via Reuters

A photo taken from the payload bay of the space shuttle Discovery shows the orbiter's tail and robot arm.

The Return to Space
With so much riding on the Discovery launching, critical changes have been made to the shuttle. Also, a look back at the history of the shuttle program.

The foam does not appear to have struck the Discovery, so the decision will not curtail its 12½-day mission to the International Space Station, the officials said. But further flights will be postponed indefinitely, starting with that of the Atlantis, which was to have lifted off as early as September.

"Until we fix this, we're not ready to go fly again," William W. Parsons, the manager of the shuttle program, said at a news briefing at the Johnson Space Center here on Wednesday evening.

The detection of another large breakaway piece of insulating foam is a potentially devastating setback for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and a bitter counterpoint to the elation of Monday's seemingly perfect launching of the Discovery, a return to flight that was hailed as an inspiring comeback for the space program.

The effort to fix the foam problem had consumed more than two years and hundreds of millions of dollars. NASA identified the area on the tank that shed the latest piece of foam as a risk, but put off redesigning it.

"We decided it was safe to fly as is," Mr. Parsons said. "Obviously, we were wrong."

The incident occurred two minutes into the launching, at a point where the atmosphere is so thin that the piece drifted away. The Columbia accident occurred in part because the foam fell off the tank about 82 seconds after liftoff, when the air was much thicker and slowed the foam so the climbing orbiter struck it with great force.

N. Wayne Hale, the deputy manager of the shuttle program, said that if the Discovery foam had been shed earlier, "we think that it would have been really bad."

Tense and somber, Mr. Parsons said that he was "disappointed" in the news. Mr. Hale sounded resigned. "We are in the business of flying in space - it's a very difficult business," he said, adding: "It isn't disheartening. It's just the nature of the business."

Others were more dismayed. A NASA engineer who has been involved in the return-to-flight effort said: "It's an ugly story. It's a mess." The engineer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the issues involved, added, "Everyone's really, really disappointed," but continued: "It is what it is. Physics doesn't lie."

Alex Roland, a former NASA historian who now teaches at Duke and is a frequent critic of the space program, said that in some ways the problem was "worse than an unexpected anomaly arising."

"This was the major problem that they were looking to solve," Mr. Roland said. "It must be enormously demoralizing to them."

Representative Sherwood Boehlert, a New York Republican who is chairman of the House Science Committee, said the shuttle program was "rightly grounded."

"Nothing can go forward at this juncture until there is further analysis and a remedy to the problem," Mr. Boehlert said. "It all depends on what they find. In some respects, it's back to the drawing board."

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.

After the Columbia accident, the investigators who implicated the falling foam as the physical cause demanded that NASA find ways to sharply limit the amount of foam that falls off the external tank. Just as important, the investigative board determined, a "broken safety culture" tended to play down risks.

In response, NASA extensively tested foam and the way it is applied, modified the tank so that it would be less likely to shed debris, and replaced the foam-covered ramps with a heater.

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.

With so much riding on the Discovery launching, critical changes have been made to the shuttle. Also, a look back at the history of the shuttle program.

Because of the other redesign efforts on the external tank, NASA engineers estimated that no piece of foam would come off the external tank that was larger than three-hundredths of a pound, and said they hoped to see no foam debris larger than one-hundredth of a pound.

On Wednesday, Mr. Parsons, who led the program requirements control board that considered all modifications, said, "We had enough data that showed we had had very few problems with the PAL ramp." The ramp, they found, performed a valuable protective function, he said; with no other obvious options, they decided the shuttle was safe to fly.

While the two other shuttles, Atlantis and Endeavour, are grounded, work will begin on solving the PAL ramp problem. "We'll put our best people on it," Mr. Parsons said, "and we'll figure out something to do."

"I don't know if that's a month, I don't know if that's three months," he went on. "We've got a lot of work in front of us."

But before that, the officials said, there is still a mission to complete and seven astronauts in space. Using the official numerical designation for the flight, Mr. Hale said, "Right now this team is focused on STS-114, and getting this crew home safely."

That means continuing with the work that had always been intended for the current mission: a thorough examination of the shuttle's thermal protection system for any damage, using an array of new cameras and laser systems.

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.

They also showed photos of the loss of a 1.5-inch piece of an insulating tile over a landing-gear door on the nose cone, which they suggested might have sheared because of an earlier repair. Mr. Hale said the tile would receive further examination, but was not considered a critical problem now.

"Are we concerned about this? We're treating this very seriously," he said. "Are we losing sleep over it? Not yet."

Mission managers said they briefly discussed the news of the foam chunk with the astronauts in the afternoon, and transmitted pictures to Discovery in the early evening after the astronauts' bed time.

The shuttle astronauts - the commander, Col. Eileen M. Collins; the pilot, Col. James M. Kelly; the flight engineer, Stephen K. Robinson; and the mission specialists, Soichi Noguchi, Andrew S. W. Thomas, Capt. Wendy B. Lawrence and Charles J. Camarda - spent most of their workday using the shuttle's robot arm and a 50-foot sensor-tipped boom to inspect the craft's nose and the wings' leading edges, and preparing to dock with the International Space Station.

During slow, close-up scans of the reinforced carbon structures with a high-definition television camera and laser scanners, no obvious damage was spotted. Though the preliminary results look promising, Mr. Hale said, there are problems with viewing some areas that will have to be repeated, and so "today we cannot tell you without a shadow of a doubt that we've got a clean bill of health" for those panels.

The astronauts had awakened to their first full day in space to the song "I Got You, Babe," as excerpted from the movie "Groundhog Day." The movie, about living the same day over and over, was a joking reference to the seemingly endless days in prelaunching quarantine as the crew awaited their chance to fly.

Kenneth Chang contributed reporting from New York for this article.

Discovery Docks at Space Station
NASA Grounds Future Shuttle Flights After Foam Incident

SPACE CENTER, Houston (July 28, 2005) - Discovery docked at the international space station Thursday after performing an unprecedented back flip to allow those aboard the outpost to photograph the shuttle's belly for signs of damage.

''Everything that we see at this point says that the orbiter is in fact a clean bird,'' NASA Administrator Michael Griffin told ABC's ''Good Morning America'' after the somersault.

Discovery was just 600 feet beneath the station when Commander Eileen Collins manually steered the shuttle's nose up and slowly flipped the spacecraft over.

Collins then repositioned the shuttle and locked onto the station just after 7 a.m.

About two hours later, following leak and pressure checks, Discovery's astronauts entered the orbital lab, where they were greeted with hugs and bread and salt - a Russian tradition thought to bring good luck when visiting another's home.

The station's crew then took Discovery's astronauts on a tour.

''We're looking forward to seeing you guys,'' Collins told station Commander Sergei Krikalev when the shuttle was a little more than 5,000 feet from the station. ''Your space station looks absolutely beautiful from the outside.''

The astronauts' greetings inside the lab weren't picked up by microphones.

The docking came after a huge setback Wednesday, when NASA decided to ground future shuttle flights because a chunk of insulating foam flew off Discovery's fuel tank during liftoff - as it did in Columbia's doomed mission. This time, the foam apparently missed the spacecraft.

Discovery was the first shuttle to return to orbit in the 2 1/2 years since Columbia broke apart over Texas as it returned to Earth on Feb. 1, 2003. All seven astronauts aboard died.

The space agency believed it had solved problems associated with the foam on the external fuel tank, but learned Wednesday that it was wrong. The foam prevents the formation of ice on the fuel tank.

''We have got to go take a look at this, and we have got to go find a solution to this problem. And we will,'' shuttle program manager Bill Parsons said.

It was the first time a shuttle hitched to the station in almost three years. A crew last visited the outpost in November 2002.

Discovery comes loaded with 15 tons of much-needed supplies, including a replacement gyroscope for one that failed in March. Gyroscopes help steer the station. The shuttle crew planned to leave with 13 tons of trash stowed aboard the station since shuttles were grounded.

Krikalev, a Russian cosmonaut, and astronaut John Phillips used two digital cameras - one with a 400 millimeter lens and another with an 800 millimeter lens - to snap 100 seconds worth of photos of the shuttle as it flipped backward, exposing its thermal tile belly. The photographs were expected to provide resolution similar to a person standing within a few inches of the shuttle's tiles.

The digital photos, downloaded after docking, are what NASA officials said they're most interested in. A team of special analysts at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston plan to examine them for any indications of damage.

In addition to the chunk of foam that broke from Discovery's external fuel tank during launch, several smaller pieces broke away as well. A thermal tile on Discovery's belly was also damaged soon after liftoff.

One tile near the doors for Discovery's landing gear - a particularly vulnerable spot - lost a 1 1/2-inch piece that was repaired before the flight.

Deputy shuttle program manager Wayne Hale said none of the tile damage looked serious and likely wouldn't require the use of untested repair techniques in orbit designed after Columbia.

''We don't really have a mechanism for knowing why a part of that tile came off,'' Hale said.

A planned inspection of Discovery's wings and nose using a new 50-foot, laser-tipped extension to the shuttle's robotic arm turned up nothing alarming, he said.

However, analysis will continue for the next four to five days.

Hale and Parsons said despite attention to the agency's decision to ground future missions, NASA's focus remains on Discovery's mission and bringing its crew home at the end of its 12-day mission.

''We have had some extremely great successes within this mission,'' Parsons said.

07-28-05 09:39EDT

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. 


Astronauts Step Out for Spacewalk to Test Repairs

SPACE CENTER, Houston (July 30) - Two spacewalking astronauts armed with caulking guns, putty knives and foam brushes practiced fixing deliberately damaged shuttle heat shields Saturday, a job they hope they won't have to do for real.

Although Discovery suffered some scrapes and chips during liftoff, none of the damage appears to warrant orbital repairs, space agency officials said.

As the two astronauts completed the mission's first spacewalk, NASA was on the verge of extending Discovery's visit at the international space station. With future shuttle flights grounded because of Discovery's fuel-tank foam loss during liftoff, the space agency would like to keep the crew there an extra day to haul over surplus supplies and chip in with some station maintenance.

In a pair of tests designed in the wake of the 2003 Columbia tragedy, astronauts Soichi Noguchi and Stephen Robinson worked on custom-made samples of thermal tile and panels that were cracked and gouged before flight. They squeezed and dabbed dark goo into the crevices as they sped around the planet.

The sticky material got on their gloves and clumped to the ends of their putty knives. But spacewalk managers had feared a much bigger mess and were pleased with the relative neatness of it all.

''It's about like pizza dough, like licorice-flavored pizza dough,'' Robinson said as the near-black filler material oozed from his high-tech caulking gun. He used a putty knife to smooth down the substance, again and again.

''The cleaner it is, the better work you do just like anything,'' Robinson said, holding out his knife for Noguchi to wipe.

The astronauts reported some bubbling in the two repair materials - a paintlike substance for the thermal tiles that cover most of a shuttle, and a thick paste for the reinforced carbon panels that line the wings and nose cap. The paste swelled up in the cracks like rising dough and, as the experiment wore on, was harder to get to stick because of colder than desired temperatures outside.

It was all valuable feedback; engineers wanted to see how their creations fared in the weightlessness of space for possible future use in an emergency. Neither the bubbling nor swelling was surprising, said Cindy Begley, the lead spacewalk officer.

Columbia's astronauts had no such tools or techniques at their disposal. Of course, neither they nor flight controllers knew Columbia had a gaping hole in the left wing, left there by a 1.67-pound chunk of fuel-tank foam insulation that broke loose at launch.

A piece of foam just over half that size came off Discovery's external fuel tank during last week's liftoff. It missed Discovery, but was enough to ground all future shuttle flights. A smaller foam fragment may have struck the right wing, but lasers and other sensors found no evidence of damage.

None of the repair kits flying on Discovery could mend a hole the size of the one responsible for Columbia's catastrophic re-entry, estimated between 6 and 10 inches across. It could be years before engineers come up with such a big patch. For now, the largest hole that any of the repair methods aboard Discovery could tackle would be 4 inches.

The astronauts will test a third repair technique, essentially a plug, inside Discovery later this week.

Once the repaired samples are back on Earth, engineers will analyze them to see how deep and how well the filler material penetrated. None will be torched, however, to simulate the searing heat of re-entry. The spacewalkers had to skip the one sample intended for laboratory test-firing because they ran out of time.

In the first of three spacewalks planned for this mission, Noguchi and Robinson also made some long-overdue space station repairs. They restored power to a gyroscope that stopped working four months ago and replaced a broken Global Positioning System antenna.

''Great job. Everything was just perfect. Extra stuff got done,'' Mission Control radioed as the seven-hour spacewalk came to a close. ''You guys get some rest.''

As soon as Robinson and Noguchi were back inside, their shuttle crewmates pulled out their 100-foot, laser-tipped inspection crane to survey Discovery's left wing one more time. Engineers wanted to make sure they didn't miss any signs of damage.

On Sunday, NASA expects to wrap up all its analysis of Discovery's thermal shielding and give the final safety clearance for the shuttle's descent in another week.

07-30-05 16:51 EDT

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.

Discovery takes first step to returning home

    August 06 2005 at 01:52PM

Cape Canaveral, Florida - The space shuttle Discovery separated from the International Space Station (ISS) early on Saturday in a first step toward its journey back to Earth.

Discovery undocked at 07h24 GMT after spending eight days attached to the space lab.

It was set to fly around the ISS at a distance of about 120m to allow the shuttle crew to photograph the orbiting outpost and check for any wear and tear.

The space shuttle and its crew of seven will then continue to orbit the Earth until early Monday, when they are scheduled to touch down at the Kennedy Space Centre on Florida's Atlantic coast.

The space shuttle mission is the first since Columbia disintegrated upon re-entering the Earth's atmosphere on February 1, 2003. It will also be the last until Nasa fixes nagging problems with the shuttle's insulation.

Foam insulation fell off Discovery upon launch, but unlike the debris that doomed Columbia, Nasa says it did not damage the orbiter. - Sapa-AFP


Discovery due to land in Florida Monday
Updated: 2005-08-07 08:47

Discovery is clear to land on Monday following an "astoundingly successful" mission, NASA said as the space shuttle initiated its return journey after undocking from the orbiting space lab.

But managers of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration admitted Saturday they would not rest easy until the safe landing of the first space shuttle flight since the 2003 Columbia disaster.

During the night, Discovery's crew bid farewell to their two hosts on the International Space Station (ISS), exchanging hugs and handshakes with the Russian and US residents of the orbiting outpost.

"These are memories we'll have forever," Discovery Commander Eileen Collins said before the shuttle undocked from the ISS.

Pilot James Kelly flew the shuttle around the station to check it for any wear and tear, and then steered it away in what NASA described as "the first step on the road home to the Kennedy Space Center."

"The undocking and the flyaround went right by the book," Discovery's lead flight director, Paul Hill, said Saturday at a mission control news conference in Houston, Texas.

The crew was given the green light for its return after NASA decided that damage on the orbiter's thermal blanket should not compromise the shuttle's safety as it re-enters the atmosphere.

"We are good for landing," Wayne Hale, deputy manager for the space shuttle program, said Saturday.

"This vehicle is in extremely clean shape," he added.

Discovery is scheduled to touch down Monday at 4:46 am (0846 GMT) at the Kennedy Space Center but could try again the next day in the event of bad weather, or head to an alternate landing strip in California or New Mexico.

Forecasters were upbeat about conditions at the seashore landing strip but pointed out that weather is unpredictable in Florida at this time of year.

Hale said the landing would mark the conclusion of "an outstandingly successful mission."

But once it is back, Discovery will be grounded with the rest of the fleet until nagging problems with the shuttle's thermal insulation have been fixed, though NASA managers still hope to launch another flight on September 22.

Foam insulation fell off the shuttle's external fuel tank as the craft blasted into orbit on July 26.

The same problem doomed Columbia, as the debris hit the orbiter's left wing, causing a crack that eventually allowed superheated gases to penetrate the structure upon re-entry into the atmosphere.

A key goal of Discovery's 13-day mission was to test improvements made to the shuttle since Columbia burst into flames on February 1, 2003, killing all seven astronauts.

Discovery's crew members were "in very good spirits," said Hale, as the seven astronauts were given time to rest before they make final preparations for the nerve-racking moment when they re-enter the atmosphere.

"De-orbit is not a risk-free activity," said Hill. "We will be pretty darned happy to get to wheelstop and see this good crew step off Discovery."

The mission initially had been scheduled to last 12 days, but an extra day was added on so the crew could transfer as much material and provisions as possible to the space station, amid uncertainty over the date of the next shuttle flight.

The crew also retrieved waste and equipment to clear out space in the cramped orbiting lab.

During the mission, Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi and his US counterpart Stephen Robinson conducted three spacewalks.

On Wednesday, Robinson became the first astronaut ever to carry out a spacewalk beneath the shuttle during orbit, to extract two protruding pieces of fiber that risked overheating during the shuttle's re-entry.

In the other two spacewalks, Noguchi and Robinson tested repair techniques adopted after the Columbia tragedy and replaced one of the space station's four gyroscopes.

Discovery Lands Safely in California

By ALICIA CHANG, Associated Press Writer 26 minutes ago

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - Discovery and its crew of seven glided safely back to Earth on Tuesday, ending a riveting, at times agonizing, 14-day test of space shuttle safety that was shadowed by the ghosts of Columbia.

Discovery swooped through the darkness of the Mojave Desert and landed on the Edwards runway at 5:11 a.m. PDT, well before sunrise. It marked the conclusion of the first shuttle re-entry since Columbia's tragic return.

The detour to California came after thunderstorms in Cape Canaveral, Fla., prevented the shuttle from returning to its home base.

"Congratulations on a truly spectacular test flight," Mission Control said once Discovery came to a stop. "Welcome home, friends."

"We're happy to be back and we congratulate the whole team for a job well done," Commander Eileen Collins replied.

The inherently dangerous ride down through the atmosphere — more anxiety-ridden than normal because of what happened to Columbia 2 1/2 years ago — appeared to go smoothly. No problems were immediately reported by Mission Control.

Held up a day by bad weather in Florida, the shuttle soared across the Pacific and over Southern California, passing just north of Los Angeles on its way to Edwards.

NASA adjusted the flight path in order to skirt Los Angeles because of new public safety considerations in the wake of the Columbia disaster, which rained debris onto Texas and Louisiana.

Discovery's journey, which began with a liftoff on July 26, spanned 219 orbits of Earth and 5.8 million miles.

The switch to the opposite coast was a big disappointment for the astronauts' families, who had been waiting to greet their loved ones in Cape Canaveral. Their reunion was put on hold until Wednesday, when they all planned to meet in Houston.

NASA's top officials also had gathered at Cape Canaveral to welcome the crew home.

"There's nothing more that I would love to see than it here so everybody here could be a part of this. But it's not going to be," said shuttle program manager Bill Parsons. "I want it to be safe, wherever the safest place is to go."

NASA called it a test flight and it was — in an alarming way no one anticipated. A potentially deadly 1-pound chunk of foam insulation came off the redesigned fuel tank during liftoff, missing Discovery but demonstrating that the space agency had not resolved the very problem that doomed Columbia.

The foam loss prompted NASA to ground future shuttle flights.

Shuttle managers freely acknowledged the mistake, while stressing that the inspection, photography and other shuttle data-gathering systems put in place for this flight worked exceedingly well. What's more, no severe damage was detected on Discovery while it was in orbit.

A torn thermal blanket under a cockpit window was left as is, after engineers decided it posed little risk as re-entry shrapnel.

Two pieces of filler material dangling from Discovery's belly, however, were removed by a spacewalking astronaut last week, for fear they could lead to a repeat of the Columbia tragedy. The fabric strips slipped out of the narrow gaps between thermal tiles for reasons unknown.

NASA officials said a space shuttle will not fly again until the foam problem is solved and engineers understand why the two so-called gap fillers came loose.

Until the spacewalk to pull out the two protruding gap fillers, astronauts had never ventured beneath an orbiting shuttle or made repairs to its fragile thermal shielding.

"It's going to be a new beginning for the space shuttle program," NASA's spaceflight chief, Bill Readdy, said from the Cape Canaveral landing strip. "The approach that we've taken has to do with a very methodical series of flight tests. It's exactly the right approach.

"This was certainly the most documented flight in shuttle history," Readdy added.

The shuttle astronauts spent nine days at the international space station, restoring full steering capability to the orbiting outpost, delivering much-needed supplies and replacement parts, and hauling away a 2 1/2-year backlog of trash.

They successfully conducted three spacewalks, including one to test new tools and methods for fixing a damaged shuttle heat shield in orbit. They also pulled off some fancy new flying maneuvers, flipping Discovery end over end near the space station so its two residents could zoom in with cameras as part of the exhaustive search for shuttle damage.

Flight director LeRoy Cain said over the weekend that not only did NASA learn a lot about the shuttle with this mission, but "we've learned a lot about ourselves."

Following the Feb. 1, 2003, Columbia catastrophe, NASA revamped the way it managed a shuttle mission. The mission management team met daily while Discovery was in orbit, taking time to listen to dissenting opinions and encouraging them as well, according to its chairman, deputy shuttle program manager Wayne Hale. Every potential serious problem was analyzed by a team of engineers and, in the case of the ripped blanket, even prompted a series of wind tunnel tests.

Some accused the space agency of going too far to reach a group consensus and having "analysis paralysis." Shuttle officials denied that was so and said their intent was to put the astronauts' safety first no matter what, an assessment shared by Discovery's co-pilot, James Kelly.

"Just the fact that we're here means we don't have paralysis by analysis," Kelly said from orbit Sunday. "The folks on the ground have done an absolutely great job trying to take care of everything they possibly can."


On the Net:


Space shuttle Discovery heads back to Florida
Saturday, 20 August , 2005, 08:03

Edwards Air Force Base, California: Space Shuttle Discovery rode piggyback atop a jumbo jet headed for Florida Friday, more than a week after being diverted to the Mojave Desert for the first landing shuttle since the Columbia tragedy.
   Editor's Choice
Images: Discovery, yet another leap for mankind
Discovery repaired in historic spacewalk

The modified Boeing 747 carrying Discovery took off Friday morning and arrived in Oklahoma about three hours later -- the first leg of a 2,232-mile trip to the shuttle's home at Cape Canaveral. An Air Force KC-135 flew ahead of the shuttle to monitor weather along the route.

The plane refueled, flew to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana and is scheduled to fly to Florida Saturday. The expected cost of the trip: at least $1 million.

Discovery and its seven-member crew touched down August 9 at NASA's backup landing site at Edwards Air Force Base following a 14-day mission to the international space station. NASA diverted the landing to California after low clouds and lightning prevented the shuttle from returning to Florida during four earlier opportunities.

After landing, Discovery underwent maintenance inside a steel structure on the base two hours north of Los Angeles. Crews purged the shuttle of hazardous substances, removed fuel from the on-board tanks and attached a 10,000-pound aluminum tail cone to eliminate drag during flight.

Discovery's homecoming has been tempered by uncertainties about the shuttle program's future. The same foam problems that doomed Columbia 2 1/2 years ago showed up during Discovery's liftoff, prompting NASA to ground all shuttle flights until 2006 so engineers could find a solution.

A chunk of foam insulation broke off Discovery's redesigned external fuel tank during liftoff on July 26, but unlike in Columbia's case, the foam missed hitting Discovery. Columbia disintegrated over Texas, killing all seven astronauts on board.

NASA ground crews who inspected Discovery after its return from orbit found little damage to its exterior. Associated







The Dark Object


STS-114 lifted off from Launch Pad 39B, Kennedy Space Center, on 26 July 2005 at 14:39 GMT. The Crew has experienced some facets of Shuttle flight that are entirely new. On orbit inspection of the heat shield, manual repairs to that heat shield, and experiments with different methods of on orbit heat shield repair. In addition, Discovery carried over 15 tons of equipment and supplies to the International Space Station, where she was greeted upon arrival by the Expedition 11 Crew. Three EVAs (Extra-Vehicular Activity or spacewalk) were carried out. These involved Space Station repairs, improvements, and attending to heat shield problems. A fourth EVA to repair a flaw in the insulation below Commander Eileen Collins window was cancelled as unnecessary. Space Shuttle Discovery and her crew landed at Edwards Air Force Base (NASA's Dryden Research Center) in the California desert at 12:11 GMT on 9 August 2005. Total flight duration was 13 days 21 hours 32 minutes. The mission was highly successful, accomplishing every goal set for it.

The sad news is that in the wake of continued problems with external tank insulation breaking away during liftoff, the Shuttle fleet has been indefinately grounded until the problem is solved.

In the morning of 28 July 2005, Shuttle Discovery was making her final approach to rendezvous and docking with ISSy. A number of unusual objects appeared during this operation, but the most amazing was a dark object with a single visible light on it. At approximately 4:43 AM CDT (9:43 GMT), as the Shuttle was at about 2 miles (3.2 km) out from the station, this dark object passed BETWEEN the two spacecraft. As it crossed their paths, it momentarily blocked out part of the lights from Discovery. Before, and after, it obscured the Shuttle lights, a small light was seen approaching and leaving.

A selection of animated GIFs, and a still frame, have been prepared for your inspection. Let's look at them now, shall we?



GIF © 2005 Jeff Challender

The animated GIF above is the normal view captured from the original VHS tape recorded "live" at the time. In the interest of brevity, some of the frames showing the object passing in front of Discovery have been omitted from this GIF. They have been left in those animations to come. The mpeg segment has also been brightened a few points to allow a better look at the tiny light which accompanies the dark object as it passes in front of Discovery. Shuttle Discovery is the object which is lighted up like a Christmas tree. Watch as the light closes in, then something blocks out part of the Shuttle, and the light departs toward top screen.



GIF © 2005 Jeff Challender

Here we are looking at a 250% zoom on the image of Discovery. The approaching light is circled in yellow.



GIF © 2005 Jeff Challender

From the same 250% zoom, we have captured the light moving upward after the dark object passed across Discovery.



GIF © 2005 Jeff Challender

This full motion animated GIF (Digitally zoomed 250%) of the incident shows in the most detail attainable with my equipment. The black object can even be seen to have a shape.



GIF © 2005 Jeff Challender

The same 250% zoom animation, embossed. This technique makes the small light easier to follow.



© 2005 Jeff Challender

This frame is from approximately one hour before the dark object manifested itself. On the hunch that the dark mass MIGHT have been some piece of hardware attached to ISSy, I checked back before night set in to see if anything was in the field of view. As you can see for yourself, the scene was empty of all save Discovery.

WHAT was that black anomaly? I have no idea what it was. There certainly shouldn't have been anything larger than an ice chip in the vicinity. NASA keeps very close tabs on satellites orbiting Earth. The chance that a satellite would pass between the Space Station and Shuttle during such a critical maneuver without notice is just about zero. That any such satellite could move so SLOWLY between the two craft would prove that it was on the SAME orbit. This reduces the chances of a satellite to absolute zero. There IS NO satellite orbiting parallel to ISSy.

The only conclusion left for this writer is that the object was an unknown. The very fact that it was dark is probably the only reason it slipped past the ever vigilant censors at NASA.

At all times during this incident, the camera was under the control of the INCO in Houston Mission Control.

(INCO - INstrument & Communication Officer - The man in Houston Mission Control Center who is responsible for operating the Shuttle payload bay, and robotic arm, cameras. He also remotely operates the helmet cameras in space suits. In the case of ISS, this officer is referred to as the CATO - Communications And Tracking Officer. In both cases, these persons CONTROL everything which is PERMITTED to go out on broadcast to the public. It is a commonly believed falacy that the cameras are operated by Astronauts & Cosmonauts on the Shuttles, and Space Station. Very little camera work is done by the crews. They're way too busy for that.)


At the end of the day, it's up to YOU to draw your own conclusions.


© 2005 Jeff Challender


During the night of 27/28 July 2005, just a day and a half after liftoff, Discovery was maneuvering for a rendezvous and docking with ISSy. To accomplish this, the OMS (Orbital Maneuvering System) is used to make the necessary adjustments in order to bring the Shuttle into the exact same orbit and speed as the space station. The timing, and length of these rocket firings must be correct to the last decimal for the two spacecraft to come together as they do. This page hopes to demonstrate what these rocket firings, and their resulting debris clouds, look like. It's not often that we actually get to see this part of the docking operations. But in the case of STS-114, the use of the OMS was shown. And as an added treat, it was broadcast in color as well.

So, perhaps it's time for us to have a look at this critical portion of a Shuttle flight to the space station.


GIF © 2005 Jeff Challender

As you can see for yourself, the rocket firings are not only colorful, but light up the sky as well. One thing to note from this sequence too, is that there is none of the usual "snow" or color distortion associated with the night use of Shuttles' color CCTV cameras. Most of the time when we are shown night scenes from the color cameras, the picture is terrible. One has to wonder why this would be so. The scene above proves that the color cameras are quite capable of rendering near perfect video at night after all. At least, that is when NASA WANTS us to see near perfect video. When pointing their cameras into deep space at night, we get a much poorer quality broadcast. This is during those times when there is the chance of anomalous activity turning up.


GIF © 2005 Jeff Challender

In the next animation, please direct your attention to the area circled in yellow.


GIF © 2005 Jeff Challender

When Shuttles reach orbit, there is often seen lots of ice peeling off the main engine bells at the rear of the vehicle. This ice forms during the time of ascent to space, when super-cooled cryogenic fuels are pumped through pipes attached in a grid pattern all around these engine bells. This prevents the metal the engines are made of from melting in the fierce heat of the rocket exhaust. Using the ultra-cold fuels in this manner also warms them up, changing them from liquid to a gaseous state for more efficient combustion. In addition, there is particulate matter formed from the burning of chemical fuels in the OMS engines. These particles spew out into space when the OMS engines are fired.

In this animation, we can see the "cloud" of resulting junk rising and spreading out. When the OMS engines are fired, they frequently also shake ice chips loose from the main engine bells as well. It can make for a pretty display, and fool the uninformed into thinking they see U.F.O.s in the vicinity. So we have provided this page for your comparison to those objects we believe actually are unidentified.

At all times during this incident, the camera was under the control of the INCO in Houston Mission Control.

(INCO - INstrument & Communication Officer - The man in Houston Mission Control Center who is responsible for operating the Shuttle payload bay, and robotic arm, cameras. He also remotely operates the helmet cameras in space suits. In the case of ISS, this officer is referred to as the CATO - Communications And Tracking Officer. In both cases, these persons CONTROL everything which is PERMITTED to go out on broadcast to the public. It is a commonly believed falacy that the cameras are operated by Astronauts & Cosmonauts on the Shuttles, and Space Station. Very little camera work is done by the crews. They're way too busy for that.)

At the end of the day, it's up to YOU to draw your own conclusions.

© 2005 Jeff Challender

A "Wolf" Among The "Sheep"?


A VERY Surprised INCO!

In my e-mail inbox on the morning (PDT) of Saturday 6 August 2005, were two letters which proved important. One from a fellow in Europe, who identified himself only as "Flint", and another from my friend Oren Swearingen of Texas. These letters both referred to what the two men had seen on their television screens simultaneously at 13:54 GMT, 6 August 2005. They had been watching NASA Select TV, witnessed, and were Co-Discoverers of, something that shook them both. It inspired them to request that I review my VHS tape for the time in question. Both were anxious to know what I might find.

Undocking of Discovery from the Space Station had occured some six and a half hours earlier, and the two spacecraft were separated by many miles by this time.

What had gotten the attention of the observers was an eerie scene from the black & white low light camera in the payload bay of Space Shuttle Discovery. She was, at the time, traveling across the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California in a northwesterly direction. The camera was pointing to the southwest, and to the east the Sun had just risen for the Orbiter. The view resembled a night scene over inhabited countryside, with many lights, small and large, which looked very much like cities and towns as seen during a night pass. Most of these were seen against the dark face of the ocean, and APPEARED to be stationary with many of them flashing.

This field of objects was anything BUT stationary, however. At real-time playback speed on the VCR, they certainly appeared that way. When looked at on the computer at vastly increased speed, the field of objects revealed itself to be a cloud of Shuttle debris, with everything in motion. How such a large cloud of highly reflective debris originated is a bit of a mystery. Shuttle was flying "sideways" at the time. The OMS (Orbital Maneuvering System) engines had been used earlier to increase the distance between Discovery and ISSy. Yet, it seems unlikely that such a thick cloud so nearby, would STILL be extant after more than six hours.The RCS (Reaction Control System) jets are often cited as culprits in causing unusual looking behavior in ice flakes and debris, and as a source of ice chips on orbit...but this much?

Now, ignoring the cloud of debris for the time being, we are mainly concerned here with an object which simply put, DOES NOT BELONG! The entire "live" downlink segment lasts 3 minutes 19 seconds from onset to the INCO cutting it off quite suddenly to a pure black screen. (The segment is 3 minutes 41 seconds from "map to map") At the 2 minute 10 second point, a "Wolf" enters the flock of "Sheep". THIS is the object which might possibly be an U.F.O. Seen at normal playback speed on the VCR, this one appears to cross the field of view from right to left, come to a complete stop, and reverse itself, moving back to the right again.

"Flint" asked if it might be a comet, and in "the same breath" pointed out that comets do not stop and back up. This is true. In fact, comets are very slow moving in their naked eye course across the sky. They take days, weeks, even months to traverse the heavens.

Meteors are ONLY visible when they enter the atmosphere at their horrific speeds of 40,000 to 120,000 mph (64,000 to 192,000 kph), and proceed to burn up from the heat of friction. Other astronomical bodies appear more or less stationary in the sky for Earth based observers, with apparent motion due to the rotation of Earth. On orbit, this motion is merely exaggerated by the velocity of the spacecraft, but relatively the same.

So, this object displayed anomalous motion. It's not natural, and it doesn't look to be ice or debris. Dr. Swearingen also emphasized that this object crossed his screen, stopped and reversed.

Once the video segment was isolated, and captured into my computer, it could, with my video editing program (Ulead Video Studio 9), be speeded up or slowed down as desired. This is where the "stationary" lights were revealed to be an ice or debris cloud in the vicinity of Discovery. And the fact that it WAS a cloud of debris is most likely WHY the INCO allowed the downlink to run on. He ALLOWED the public to see this display because he KNEW what it was. Perhaps he even thought he was playing a cruel "UFO Hoax" on the uninformed. When the anomalous object became obvious, he unceremoniously cut the feed to a black screen.

But, DID this strange object stop, and reverse itself? The anomaly, when vastly speeded up in its trajectory, can be seen to not stop, but swing to the right in a long gentle turn.

So, all that said, let's now take a few moments to scrutinize the pictures and animations (using Ulead GIF Animator 5) from the event, so that we may better understand what happened, and what did not.

GIF © 2005 Jeff Challender

We begin by establishing where Discovery was at the beginning, and end of this event. As can be seen, she was sailing along above the western Pacific Ocean heading for a pass over California. The yellow circle denotes my home in the Sacramento area.

© 2005 Jeff Challender

This single still frame has a yellow arrow added to show the direction in which the camera was pointing during the incident.

GIF © 2005 Jeff Challender

In this wee animation, the crude yellow line shows where the limb of Earth is. Until almost the end of the sequence, this perspective did not change, meaning the camera was not moved. Near the end, and cut to black screen, the camera was suddenly panned down and to the left.


GIF © 2005 Jeff Challender

This animated GIF comptesses 2 minutes, 25 seconds to less than three seconds time. It covers the period before the anomaly entered from the right. NOW we can see that the "lights" are not stationary, but drifting in space, as ice chips and debris are wont to do.


GIF © 2005 Jeff Challender

This 41 frame animated GIF is centered on the final 55 seconds of the sequence containing the anomaly. In the original VHS tape, played at normal speed, this object seemed to come to a stop, and reverse itself. But here we can see that it flew though the field of view, and made a long curving swing to the right. As the Sun rose higher toward the end, the clouds over the ocean far below were illuminated. In the final frames, the arcs of milky light which moved as the camera moved, were caused by the Sun lighting up the optics in the camera.

What is it? That cannot be determined at this time.

Is it another bit of ice or space junk being turned from it's path by an RCS jet firing? Unknown for certain at this time. We don't know distance from the camera for this object, because in space there is no frame of reference for estimating such things. Therefore, it's impossible to tell the size of the anomaly. We CAN see that it appears to get smaller as it progresses. It does seem reasonable, to speculate that it's a bit far off to be diverted so smoothly by a control jet. In addition we do not see the corresponding flash of light associated with these firings at night. These flashes are often seen even in daylight as well. Another salient point is that IF there were a jet firing, WHY is it that NONE of the other objects are affected?

What remains is that we have an unexplained object whose motion does not fit convention. Our friends Dr. Oren Swearingen of Texas, and "Flint" of Europe, deserve full credit for having their eyes open, and brains engaged when this sequence of events transpired. Thank you very much gentlemen!


© 2005 Jeff Challender
The image to the left is a 500% enlargement of the anomalous object. It was then cut from the original 720x480 frame.

© 2005 Jeff Challender
This is the same enlargements as seen above, but with the colors reversed to make the object easier to see.

© 2005 Jeff Challender
The same 500% blow-up embossed


At all times during this incident, the camera was under the control of the INCO in Houston Mission Control.

(INCO - INstrument & Communication Officer - The man in Houston Mission Control Center who is responsible for operating the Shuttle payload bay, and robotic arm, cameras. He also remotely operates the helmet cameras in space suits. In the case of ISS, this officer is referred to as the CATO - Communications And Tracking Officer. In both cases, these persons CONTROL everything which is PERMITTED to go out on broadcast to the public. It is a commonly believed falacy that the cameras are operated by Astronauts & Cosmonauts on the Shuttles, and Space Station. Very little camera work is done by the crews. They're way too busy for that.)

At the end of the day, it's up to YOU to draw your own conclusions.

© 2005 Jeff Challender


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Jeff Challender

STS-114 An U.F.O. Buzzing Discovery? 08/05

Dr. Swearingen, Flint, & Jeff Challender



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