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. sphornets

    Dudes and Dudettes:
    we cannot buy anything that lasts anymore. Washers, dryers, refrigerators, tv's, dehumidifiers, dishwashers, lawn mowers, chainsaws, computers, printers, cameras, etc are all crap. designed to minimum spec and made with the cheapest materials they can find. i currently have a 5 year old tv that is toast. 5 YEARS! can someone please get the manufacturers to produce a product that is not designed to only last 5 years. Can i get an AMEN!

    November 11, 2010 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
    • spacefan

      AMEN! My Dad called it "planned obsolesence". I have a feeling that's what NASA thought about the space shuttle, but I doubt they planned on killing 14 people.

      November 11, 2010 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • A CNN Reader

      Spacefan, From the sounds of your postings, I seriously doubt you were around to watch Armstrong (Neil, not Lance) walk on the moon. Or remember the first three to die on the pad in Apollo 1. ALL Astronauts are folks who KNOWINGLY strap into one of the largest BOMBS on the planet in hopes that the resulting consumption of combustible materials reacts as it should, and not scatter their bodies to the four winds. Whether they are from the US, China, Canada, Russia, Germany or anywhere else, they are putting their lives on the line for the sake of all Mankind and its exploration and learning and knowledge of space.

      Humans are consuming the extremely limited resources of planet earth. Its the plain and simple truth. We take more from this planet than we return to it in usable form. At the rate in only the last century that the population has exponentially expanded, we are going to run out of land, food, fuel, and other resources in probably your grandchildrens lifetime. If we don't begin to look for other ways to produce viable medicines and technologies that are more efficient and renewable, short of a world wide disaster, time is running out for mankind on this rock.

      These folks are helping better our lives, and they do so selflessly, knowing full well that they may, in the end, pay the ultimate sacrifice. I dare YOU to do better!

      November 11, 2010 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  2. spilex

    Wow, you are a mental giant, I'm so happy you were the first one to respond! Yes I have Tang on my desk. It is pretty good! When did it become okay to start a sentence with a conjunction? "Or". Have you ever used a comma? Maybe your sentence/question should have looked like this "Did you have that on "you" breakfast table, or on "you" desk? Thanks for doing my spell check, and grammer work. The world needs people like you!

    November 11, 2010 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • spacefan

      "........throw not your slings and arrows" Shakespeare. But (oooops!) my spelling is a lot better than yours,,,,,,,,,it's called proof reading. Are you one of the engineers that was let go at NASA because no one had any use for you?

      November 11, 2010 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  3. Drin King Water

    Is this the first time NASA launches a space shuttle? Is this the first time they prepare a space shuttle for launch? Come on people! When will you get ANYTHING right? We need to run NASA like a business. Mistakes can no longer be shrugged off because they are costing tax payers billions of dollars. NASA needs to clean house and can all their incompetent lazy employees and contractors. Mistakes should not be happening! Lives should have never been lost! There are no excuses!

    November 11, 2010 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
    • jayman419

      The seafloor is littered with the payment humans made to master moving across the ocean. Expecting mastery of another void to be any less expensive is what has kept us locked in LEO for the past 30 years.

      November 11, 2010 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
  4. Johnnie Walker

    Maybe we should cancel the shuttle program and let the ISS drift to the earth. Oh yes, the former has been done. The latter will occur sooner rather than later. So, what did we accomplish? We coulda paid for TARP if the ISS never existed. I say ground the fleet now.

    November 11, 2010 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
    • jayman419

      I don't know about you, but there's still potholes on the street in front of my house, even after TARP and all the talk about shovel-ready projects.

      The government paid off a bunch of bad loans, and a lot of people lost their houses. That's what you'd rather spend our tax money on?

      November 11, 2010 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  5. alumette

    Poor quality control at Nasa? Who makes these fuel tanks? someone is cutting corners. Made in China maybe?

    November 11, 2010 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  6. spilex

    spacefan, you actually think you have the ability to proof read someone's work. Good for you, again, the world needs people like you! I am glad that I get to share breathable air with you! Not a NASA engineer, but I am a Mechanical Engineer. I am one of the guys who created every single thing you use, regardless of how great or not so great you think the design is. Without engineers you would not have the abiltiy to type this message, drive to work, make a call on your cell phone, drink you coffee in the morning, sit on a chair, and I don't know, just pick something in your life, you will probably find that an engineer had something to do with it. Without us you have nothing! I am arrogant, but only when proof readers such as yourself show me that there is a lesser path I could have taken in life. I hope this message is full of mispelled words, grammatical errors, and so forth, so that "Proof Readers" such as yourself have something to do! Have a good one I have to go do something constuctive, you can have the last word. Just curious, why "spacefan" if you hate NASA?

    November 11, 2010 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
    • A CNN Reader

      "Just curious, why "spacefan" if you hate NASA?"... Ummm... Cause maybe they are a Spacecadet?? Just plain spacey?? Suffers from an astronomical void that sucks all life and intelligence between their ears?? (continue on as you see fit)

      November 11, 2010 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  7. CaptainObvious

    To be perfectly honest the US does throw money away on people who just lay around collecting welfare. I'm not talking about people who lose their jobs and need a helping hand, but I'm referring to the ones who have no aspirations in life. I don't know why our government doesn't make people on welfare go to school or something. A college graduate will pay more into the system than they ever took and hopefully be able to pay for their own children for once. I love how people want to cut things like science and exploration in order to keep lazy people and their illegitimate children fed.

    November 11, 2010 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  8. CaptainObvious

    Spilex- Yes many errors. Go back to school. Haha

    November 11, 2010 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  9. Dave

    Anyone else think that maybe another Winter launch of this thing is a bad idea? Too many problems keep cropping up. I would think it might be more prudent to spend the money to prep Atlantis or Endeavor – or at the very least delay this launch until warm weather. Cold launches have not been kind to the shuttles.

    November 11, 2010 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  10. trixen

    Um yeah, I don't think I'd want to be on that crew.

    November 11, 2010 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  11. spilex

    CaptainObvious – I was kind of hoping "Spacefan" would catch all the things I did wrong. I wanted to tell him or her how proud I was. I guess they left the conversation. I couldn't agree more with your other comments. FYI, there is a special word in my last post for spacefan. It is the word that started our whole conversation. I wish I could go back to school. Now those were the good old days! See ya!

    November 11, 2010 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • jayman419

      Yeah but you messed up with "your coffee". Though I think if you'd have said "youself" it would have been too obvious.

      November 11, 2010 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  12. rocketmom

    As someone who just returned from their second trip to not see a shuttle launch I would recommend that anyone thinking of attending a "maybe-launch" buy refundable/changable tickets or a back-up activity plan and have a VERY flexible schedule. We are several thousand dollars poorer and haven't seen it launch yet (except on TV)...

    November 11, 2010 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  13. wellreadone

    When I first heard there was a problem they were going to launch it. I emailed them asking then to reinspect a few more times and they did, probably for reasons other that people such as myself that asked for reinspection. Good thing they did. I told them the last thing we need right now is another loss and DO NOT send up yet another bomb, whatever you do.

    We cannot afford to operate that beast anyway, with economic conditions in the toilet and our govt trying to make everything even worse.

    November 11, 2010 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
  14. A CNN Reader

    Shuttle Commander: It's 106 miles to Orbit, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses.

    Launch Control: Hit it!

    November 11, 2010 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  15. gr8tp8ntr

    After reading all of the comments posted here.....I have one single thought that will not escape me. What do you think the astronauts that are waiting to be launched are thinking? Delayed because of these quality issues, NASA pushing this to happen inside of the weather window....I guess I would start to question the efficacy of this launch and the decision to continue to patch the spacecraft together to get it successfully off the ground! Wouldnt you?

    November 11, 2010 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
    • jim armstrong

      They are thinking what EVERY astronaut has thought since our manned space program has thought since the beginning of the American space program: "EVERYTHING BELOW ME WAS PRODUCED BY THE LOWEST BIDDER"

      November 11, 2010 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
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