November 10th, 2010
10:40 PM ET

NASA to repair cracks on shuttle's external tank

A technician examines the area of the external tank where foam was removed Wednesday.

Engineers will need to repair two newly discovered cracks on part of Space Shuttle Discovery's external fuel tank before the next launch attempt at Cape Canaveral, Florida, NASA said Wednesday.

The roughly 9-inch-long cracks were found on the tank's exterior stringers Wednesday, days after a 20-inch crack formed in the tank's foam insulation as workers were draining the tank following Friday's scrubbed launch attempt. Technicians found the cracks on the stringers as they were removing the insulation, NASA said.

Stringers are vertical, composite aluminum ribs on the tank's exterior.

Engineers were reviewing pictures of the stringer's cracks to determine how to repair them. After the cracks are repaired, workers will reapply foam to the tank. No repair schedule was announced.

NASA previously said the next launch attempt would happen no sooner than November 30. It's not clear whether the repairs will again push back the launch, which was scrubbed several times last week because of bad weather, gas leaks and electrical glitches.

The voyage is expected to be the last for Discovery as NASA prepares to retire the shuttle fleet.

Discovery's six crew members are scheduled to deliver a pressured logistics module to the International Space Station. The module will give the station more storage space.

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Filed under: Shuttle • Space
soundoff (140 Responses)
  1. skeptical

    BOOM! Ah yes, its so fun to have a defective bomb between your legs.

    November 11, 2010 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
  2. spacefan

    I hold my breath and pray everytime one of these "controlled explosions" takes off. The whole thing was a miracle when I was little (watching a man walk on the moon in the middle of the night) and now it just seems like a crap shoot with every launch. These astronauts truly have nerves of steel and deserve technology that is up to the minute and not 30 to 40 years out of date.

    November 11, 2010 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
  3. John B

    The astronauts must be scared to death to get in these things at this point. I would be. Fuel leaks...gas leaks....cracks. They should rename this one "The US Infrastructure".

    November 11, 2010 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
  4. Rick

    Yeah, retire the fleet and disclose some of the vehicles the trillions of dollars in black project money have been making. You don't really think all those UFO sightings are really unidentified do you?

    November 11, 2010 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
  5. Prophet of Doom

    Definitely employees trying to keep their jobs for as long as possible. They may be able to string the tax payer on for another 2 yrs at this rate. We should out-sorce to China, they would get the rocket up on time and it would be cheaper + not care too much if a couple blew up. Would save money to pay for the war in Afganistan and unemployment checks for millions.

    November 11, 2010 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
  6. Fric

    The shuttle program was slated to be scrapped years ago. At 1.3 billion a launch, can this country afford the shuttle program, the space station program and not to mention numerous development projects currently under way? America, the shuttle has served it's purpose. I know the loss of jobs suck, but we can't keep this money pit around just so people don't have to look for another job. There are more important thing's on this country's plate right now. I'm all for the space program. I think we have much to learn and discover. I just think we need to wait until we can afford. it.

    November 11, 2010 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
    • dave

      According to Republicans that claim that Obama's trip to Asia, ( why is it that when he goes on diplomatic trips they call it vacations?) is costing the US taxpayers $2 Billion and a trip into space is only $1.2?

      November 11, 2010 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
    • jayman419

      We can't afford not to go. In order for every human to live like Americans do, we need 6 planets. We need natural resources, which are quite abundant in our local neighborhood. Things that are precious here, like gold, like the rare metals we use in our electronics, like tritium, like clean water, like energy... these are all things that are out there just waiting for us to go get them.

      And that's just the real, physical commercial aspects of spaceflight. Then there's the intangibles, the things we can only learn by pursuing difficult challenges, the science we can only accomplish away from Earth and it's constant gravity well, and the inspiration for future scientists and explorers to follow.

      Britain is a relatively small island. Yet they imported resources from around the world to build an empire. They did it with war, slavery, and oppression. There are no natives in our way on the Moon. There are no aborigines in the asteroids. There's just wealth.

      November 11, 2010 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
  7. dgonsoulin

    I'd get on that shuttle in a second!

    November 11, 2010 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
    • spacefan

      So would I as long as I knew it was not lifting off.................

      November 11, 2010 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
  8. spacefan

    How could we be so full of ourselves as to think we could pull this program off so soon after Apollo. We met John Kennedy's challenge and seemed to continue the "hurry up and do it" mentality. Retire this fleet and slow down. The money for the manufacture of these repairs alone certainly can be better spent domestically. Let me say that again DOMESTICALLY. New Orleans? I'm not saying abandon the space program just slow down and get it right.

    November 11, 2010 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
  9. chuck

    It's a good thing they are grounding these over expensive turkeys soon. Not quite the bargain that they sols us on is it.

    November 11, 2010 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
  10. cranberry

    Your tax dollars for the space program are going a lot further for the future advancement of your society. It's a better investment than funding deadbeats with housing their entire life.

    November 11, 2010 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
  11. Michael Superczynski, Columbus, OH

    "We launched the Saturn V with humans onboard a mere dozen times in 6 years before we scrapped the program. Ever wonder why it wasn't continued? The Saturn V had its own problems, starting with the fire on the ground during the Apollo 1 test that killed 3 men."

    The Apollo I fire had nothing to do with the Saturn rocket. The Apollo capsule had defective wiring insulation and an escape hatch that opened inwards requiring over a minute to open (among a myriad of other design defects) and had to be completely redesigned and rebuilt before a launch could be attempted. The fire was caused by the defective wiring and the astronauts could not get out in time because the escape hatch could not be opened fast enough.

    November 11, 2010 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
    • jayman419

      I'll give you that, in the same way that the fuel tank has nothing to do with the Space Shuttle orbiter. They are both components of a larger system, and the design and implementation of one affects the other.

      November 11, 2010 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
    • You Jack-Waggon

      The problem with Apollo I was, indeed, electrical. Superficially, that is. The real problem is that, when NASA went from the 2-man Mercury capsule to the 3-man Apollo capsule, the pressures from congress and the American people to make the program more fiscally efficient resulted in awarding the Apollo capsule R&D contract to the lowest bidder. (the escape hatch was not an option as they were testing in 100% O2 environment and they were dead before they knew what was happening). All of the lessons we learned in Gemini and Mercury were scrapped and the program started again from scratch. This said, with the cancellation of the Constellation program, we are doing the same thing. At some point, we will have to go into space. If we start from scratch, we will lose more lives. Not to mention that pressing further into space is the nature of the American psyche...we are explorers and pioneers...our collective self-worth is based on going where no man has gone before.

      November 11, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  12. yaeger

    Leave it on the ground, boys. It's an omen.

    November 11, 2010 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
  13. spacefan

    By all means advance my society. Speaking as someone who was a "deadbeat" for 6 months when my husbands job was downsized, please tell me how $277.00 a week paid my mortgage and put food on the table. This "deadbeat" family paid into unemployment for 20+ years. Let's keep our eye on the ball here and quit the name calling when you clearly have no idea what you are talking about.

    November 11, 2010 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
    • cranberry

      With all due respect, "their entire life" does not equal 6 months. You used the program for what it is intended for while your husband seeked active employment. I was refering to a different situation.

      November 11, 2010 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Rupert

      Just as an FYI, you don't pay into unemployment. Your employer does through FUTA and SUTA. You have never paid a dime in.

      November 11, 2010 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
  14. mecatfish

    Time for the X-37B.
    Dont know what it is?
    Dont feel bad (seems that no one does)
    Google it.

    November 11, 2010 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
    • spacefan

      I picture Fred Ward in "The Right Stuff" getting up from his chair, pumping his fist saying "go, go, go".

      November 11, 2010 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • jayman419

      How is an unmanned reconnaissance orbiter with a 500 lb payload going to help?

      November 11, 2010 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
  15. spilex

    I love it when idiots are allowed to voice their opinion on line. What a country. You people have no idea what the NASA program has done for this nation and this world. The technology you take for granted,in your pocket and on you desk, and just about everywhere in your life is a direct result of the space program. WOW!

    November 11, 2010 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
    • spacefan

      Let's not forget TANG. Did you have that on "you" breakfast table? Or on "you" desk? Idiot is as idiot spells.....

      November 11, 2010 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
    • spacefan

      Oh yea and the ink pen that didn't require any gravity to use. The Russians beat us out on that's called a PENCIL.

      November 11, 2010 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
    • cranberry

      SPACEFAN, that is a shame when your only rebuttle is to attack someone's typo. I could have easily said in your above comment: "HUSBANDS?" Does that mean you have more than one husband?

      November 11, 2010 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
    • jayman419

      I think you're missing the point. Typos and pencils aside, NASA has always passed off marketing opportunities for non-classified materials to companies who wish to use their tech. Of course there's the obvious stuff, like the Tempur-pedic Mattress. Or Tang.

      But the tech used to make parachutes that safely put Viking on Mars are now in your tires. The road your tires run on is also safer because of NASA's research into wet runways. Small airplanes now have the de-icing technology that used to require a much larger powerplant. LEDs. Infrared thermometers. Heart pumps. Breast scanners.

      NASA weather sensors became aircraft weather sensors, which are now becoming DoD chemical weapon sensors. Tech created to help stabilize images from satellites whirling through space now makes your wedding look better, and that same tech allows frame-by-frame enhancement for the FBI and our military to detect terrorists on CCV or weapons launches from space.

      The heat shield on Apollo eventually became retardant insulation to make our planes and buildings safer, and to make firesuits for our heroes and race car drivers. As for our firefighters, let's not forget the fact that they need to breathe oxygen in a hostile environment. Know anyone with expertise in that area? Yeah, NASA set the standards for the breathing apparatus they use today, and NASA also offered major improvements to their radio systems by licensing their inductorless electronic circuit technology.

      Over 90 percent of infant formulas sold in the United States contain a nutritional enrichment ingredient developed for NASA's astronauts. Black & Decker was tasked with building a cordless drill for extracting core samples below the lunar surface. Too bad they never did anything else with it, huh? Imagine a world where vacuums or tools or anything else you wanted could just be plucked off a charger and taken to where it was needed. And since there's just no use for a system that turns wastewater into drinking water, I guess building one for the ISS was a waste of money, too.

      November 11, 2010 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
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