Thursday, October 12, 2006

Space Shuttle meteorite damage

Space Shuttle missions don't get much press these days, but last month's launch was significant in that it was the first mission following the loss of Columbia to get back to the job of constructing the International Space Station (the two other missions since the disaster were focused on testing shuttle safety systems and the ability to perform repairs to the orbiter's heat shield). There is some extraordinary footage on the NASA website of the crew unfurling a huge solar array which will provide one third of the power for the station when it is completed. Post-mission maintenance discovered a hole in the cargo bay (pictured here) which was probably caused by a meteorite. The impact was not noticed during the mission and caused no danger to the crew nor the safe return of the shuttle to earth.