NASA has just announced that contrary to their original assumptions, some of the insulating foam that fell off the shuttle upon launch did hit the shuttle itself.
Late Thursday, NASA officials said deeper analysis of camera footage shot during launch showed a small piece of foam may have struck the wing of Discovery's orbiter -- a scenario eerily similar to the accident that doomed its sister ship, Columbia, in February 2003...I don't know about anyone else, but I am really panic-stricken for these astronauts. I will never forget turning on the news after that Shabbos in 2003, only to bombarded with the images of the Columbia explosion and footage of the astronauts from during the mission. They were smiling in the video, as they performed their zero-gravity maneuvers with grace and humor. It was hard to believe that they were suddenly no longer with us. All of the coverage was permeated with a sense of disbelief, as I don't think this was what anyone had expected. The tension and worry that the rest of Discovery's flight will certainly be fraught with, was not in the picture during the last shuttle lauch and attempted return. I hope that NASA takes every step necessary to protect and ensure the safe return of these seven brave people, who returned to space on what was obviously a dangerous mission. I look back at this article from August 2004, where NASA announced that:
Shortly after Tuesday's launch, NASA officials said that camera footage shot of the external fuel tank showed a large piece of foam -- believed to be 24 to 33 inches long, 10 to 14 inches wide and 2.5 to 8 inches thick -- sheared away from the tank. The debris was only slightly smaller than the chunk of foam that left a crack in Columbia's wing, causing it to disintegrate during the heat of re-entry in February 2003, killing seven astronauts.
Though the piece of foam fell away into space and didn't strike the orbiter, NASA decided to suspend future shuttle missions and take another look at why foam was continuing to fall off the tank, a problem engineers thought they had solved after the Columbia disaster.
Then, Thursday evening came news that a much smaller piece of foam may have actually struck the orbiter's right wing.
NASA’s redesigned space shuttle fuel tanks should no longer shed dangerous pieces of foam when launches resume next spring, officials said Thursday.I guess they were wrong. I only hope that the next line in the article doesn't become relevant as well:
But if a shuttle wing is gouged by insulating foam or some other debris during liftoff, astronauts still will not be able to fix a hole the size of the one that brought down Columbia.I doubt I will be able to keep these seven souls out of my mind and my prayers for even a second until the safe landing of the shuttle, be'Ezrat Hashem.