Shuttle Update

Dec 15, 2005 3:37pm

Thursday, 5:40pm

NASA called a quick teleconference to say they have a fix, for now, for the problem of that insulating foam that fell off the Space Shuttle’s fuel tank last summer–they’ll give up on it.

The problem was one small spot near the top of the big rust-colored tank–a cover over some pipes and cables, known as the PAL ramp.  Apparently, small cracks formed in the foam on the PAL ramp when the tank was filled with supercold fuel…which perhaps caused foam to fall off…which perhaps could hit the shuttle orbiter…which perhaps could lear to a repeat of the Columbia tragedy.

So on the next flight, says NASA’s Bill Gerstenmeier, "we’ll probably not fly the PAL ramp, just take it off."  They’ll figure out some other way to cover the cabling underneath, while they look for a permanent answer.

The reason this matters is that this one component was threatening to keep the entire shuttle program on hold, well past the May 2006 target date for the next launch.  Get rid of the problem, and "May is still very viable."  But Gerstenmeier adds that they don’t want to be bound to a target date; much more important, he says, to find a workable solution that will last until the shuttles can be retired–by 2010 if possible.

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Keep Your Hands on the Wheel, Ma’am

We’re talking too much.  NHTSA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has done a survey and found that at any given moment, 10% of them are on a cell phone.  6% are holding the cell phone up to their ear, driving one-handed.  Only 0.8% are using an earbud, headset, or speakerphone.

The numbers are higher for women, for westerners–and highest for drivers under age 25. 

Take a look at their summary HERE.

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