Reporter's Notebook: Bird Droppings on the Shuttle

It is nice to know that even rocket scientists have potty mouths.

Today, shuttle flight director Tony Caccacci notified reporters that some white splotches on the space shuttle's wing were most probably "bird droppings." Never fear, the mission was not going down the toilet!

I mustered the courage to ask whether this slightly soiled wing was reason for concern, but Caccacci assured me that the um, er, "stuff" on the wing would burn up during re-entry.

Frankly, I am impressed that it survived the launch. Maybe birds have a superpower that should be harnessed? After a billion-dollar refurbishment, foam still falls off the shuttle's fuel tank during liftoff, but bird ick does not? Fascinating.

Much has been made of the fact that the shuttle is a bit of an old vehicle.

It was designed in the 1970s and first launched in 1981. Even shuttle program manager Wayne Hale said, "We are flying with 1970 vintage electronics. Now think about that for a minute. What do you have in your house that is electronic that is unchanged from the late 1970s?"

Except for my Atari -- and ABC's entire internal computer network -- I can't think of anything. But heck, my Atari works fine.

There are many here at NASA headquarters who seem a little blue today, not because birds are relieving themselves on their multibillion-dollar spaceship, but because the shuttle story is getting a little overshadowed.

In Houston, Ken Lay's death led all the local newscasts. In terms of launches, the North Koreans are making bigger news than NASA. Of course the North Koreans launched a bunch of things; NASA only launched one. Maybe U.S. missile defense should include some birds?

Is bird excrement covered in the ABM -- Anti-Ballistic Missile -- treaty?

Every morning the shuttle crew is awakened by a song. This morning: "Lift Every Voice and Sing."

Each crew member gets to request a wake-up song. I think they should take requests from Planet Houston.

My personal requests would be "Pump Up the Jam," by Technotronic, and then "Hello," by Lionel Richie.

I think after Richie's wild success in the Middle East, he is ready to go galactic. [VIDEO] Or maybe they could play a song from the roughly 756 country music stations in the Houston area.

Finally, it has not gone unnoticed that the Red Sox have not done well during my stay here.

After winning about 100 games in a row, they have lost their last two. It is my fault, at least according to an old friend:

"You must get back now. … Apparently the Red Sox were OK with you being in harm's way in Iraq, but they must sense your disloyalty in Houston. … I am sure they can sense that you are trying to get tickets to see [pitcher Roger] Clemens pitch while you are there. …"

"Abort your assignment and return to N.Y. -- or Iraq -- immediately!!!"

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