The Gash In Endeavour's Heat Shield Runs Deep
(Or, "God, I Wish I Had A Pitcher of Martinis!")
The NASA Space Shuttle, Endeavour, suffered a gash in the protective tiles on lift-off. A chunk of insulation, which is sprayed on the liquid fuel tank* before lift-off, ripped off, slamming into the heat shield. Now, NASA, and the (presumably) sober astronauts are left with significant repairs--and serious concerns--before re-entry.
All of the astronauts are cognizant of the end suffered by Columbia's astronauts; and, are now steeling themselves for long spacewalks and tough decisions.
Astronaut-Educator (or is it Educator Astronaut?), Barbara Morgan (Christa McAuliffe's back-up for the ill-fated Challenger) is likely wondering why she gave up the safety and security of a classroom for this nonsense. Come to think of it, if she taught in an urban district, this might just be easier...and less dangerous than going into a classroom.
And, the worst part? We are powerless to do anything. The repairs proposed--other than painting the gash--have never been tried in the cold desolation of space. And, having the same engineers that built the Space Shuttle, with all its inherent flaws, telling you how to fix the problem that they (in part) created is not the least bit reassuring.
So, we all sit, and wait, and pray. Pray that the Endeavour astronauts have a safe return to Earth.
God bless, and God speed.
*Interestingly, the insulation sprayed on the fuel tank is more prone to breaking apart because NASA uses an environmentally-friendly formulation, rather than the CFC-laden mix that they used in the past.