The Second Version

16/06/07

Men At Work Overhead

Some 300 km above us in fact; they're the Space Shuttle and ISS crew, trying to fix some problems with their respective vehicles.

The Shuttle suffered another case of launch damage to its thermal protection layer; this tear is not thought to be dangerous, but an astronaut will have to g on a spacewalk, staple the torn protective cover together and attach it to nearby tiles.

The very Shuttle launch technique is the main culprit here, with that huge tank shedding insulation fragments. There isn't much that can be done about it short of complete re-design of the whole thing, but the project would be huge (and bloated, as governmental programs usually are); it's not a settled matter whether a re-usable orbiter is in fact better than expendable vehicles.

But the ISS was in worse shape. Besides the need to manually fold an array of solar panels, its control and navigation computers had failed. That means a truly dire situation for a space station; it had to rely on its gyroscopes and the Shuttle's thrusters to maintain attitude control. Finally, the station crew and mission control engineers managed to restart a sufficient number of machines (the system has built-in redundancy, of course). Rumor is that no, they did not have to press CTRL+ALT+DEL.

This is just to remind that things are dangerous out in space, moreso than in the air - which already is a less comforting place than our familiar planetary surface.

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