Something about this new shuttle launch has me scratching my head wondering. Seems they have made a number of design changes and operating procedures to correct problems of past flights. As I understand it, they have added any number of cameras and arranged for heavy duty external optical coverage from start to finish so that they can spot any area damaged during launch. The news said 107 external cameras. In addition I think they were going to do a close pass at the space station for that crew to take a look. Not sure if that’s going to happen routinely or only if they suspect a problem. In the event there’s a problem, they will be able to leave the shuttle to attempt a fix or go to the space station where the crew leaves the vehicle and waits for another shuttle to pick them up within 45 days.
Here’s my problem. First with all that camera coverage, suppose they spot a problem. Maybe it’s something that’s happened with all shuttles but they’ve never had the intense scrutiny before. Somebody is going to have to make a decision as to whether the damage is mission threatening, requiring corrective action or ok to land. Think about having that call to make. Can you really make the call to offload the crew onto the space station knowing that this would be the second shuttle to experience damage on launch. It would be clear that the fixes didn’t work or that other problems exist even if the original set was fixed. Does it make sense now to launch a third flawed shuttle design with virtually no time to work the problems? If you offload the crew onto the spacelab, you now have a time constraint on getting them off due to logistic limitations on the spacelab. Most importantly, you will be endangering the space lab crew and the rescue team as well as the original shuttle crew. I can’t really see a mission director making the decision to go forward with the rescue knowing that the rescue crew would be flying a flawed vehicle. So if you can’t make the decision to launch the rescue mission, why make the original decision to let the first crew transfer to the space station? You can’t. So instead you send someone from the original crew outside the vehicle to fix the problem. The guy who makes the fix says he thinks it’s ok and they go ahead with the landing attempt. I think that’s part of the operating plan. There’s been no mention at all of a possible Russian rescue so I have to assume that wouldn’t work – maybe no extra space for â€œpassengersâ€.
So my take on it is that there is no viable rescue that involves the space station and another shuttle. That has been known from the get go when concepts for an escape module totally independent of the shuttle were set aside. I’m not sure why the space station option was even mentioned unless it was for political reasons – to help justify space station funding and make that project seem to have a real purpose. In my opinion, f there’s a life threatening problem on this launch, even if the repair is effected in space and the crew returns safely, I think that kills the project. No more manned launches until a whole new craft is designed and manufactured. Personally I think this will come off without a hitch but they will slow down future events and get working hard on a new solution.
Owl update – no new sightings on our property. George took another couple of shots at one yesterday morning as he was chowing down on a Koi but missed.