About the last thing NASA needs right now is a new problem
to solve, but that’s exactly what landed on its plate following Wednesday’s
launch of Endeavour on a space station construction mission.
It’s a new twist on an old nemesis -- the insulating foam on
the shuttle fuel tank. NASA redesigned the tanks after losing shuttle Columbia
and its seven-member crew in 2003 due to a heat shield breach triggered by a
piece of foam debris that fell off the fuel tank and hit the ship’s wing during
Endeavour’s launch was marred by the loss of several pieces
of foam from a new area of the tank, a part that had not previously been a
“We have a bit of a mystery on the foam loss,” shuttle
program manager John Shannon told reporters on Thursday. "It's from an
area that we typically don’t expect foam to be lost."
During Endeavour’s climb to orbit on Wednesday, several
pieces of foam were seen peeling off the inter-tank area, a section between the
hydrogen and the oxygen tanks. Shannon said the foam in that area is thin,
machine-sprayed and not subject to
the intense cold affecting other parts of the ...