Foam-Shedding Fix

What if the shuttle’s foam shedding problem simply can’t be fixed? It is a real possibility. Fortunately, there is a work around that can get the international space station (ISS) built even if the foam-shedding problem is unsolvable.

Here’s how it works:

1. Preposition an extra Soyuz at the ISS.

2. Fly the orbiter with a crew of two.

3. Inspect the thermal protection system at the ISS.

4. If there is no damage, fine. Return as usual.

5. If there is unacceptable damage, dump the unmanned orbiter into the Indian Ocean. This will require undocking from the station and a deorbit burn with no crew on board. This shouldn’t be too hard.

6. Fly the orbiter’s crew down with the extra Soyuz piloted by one of the ISS crew members.

Since there are three orbiters, and foam shedding has only destroyed one in over 100 flights, it is extremely likely that 15-20 flights to the ISS can be completed before all the orbiters must be dropped into the ocean.

This approach requires automating relatively simple orbiter operations, purchase and launch of at least one additional Soyuz capsule, and no more than four people on the ISS, two of which must be Russian Soyuz pilots. It also provides only a small crew to unload the orbiter and install equipment, but it doesn’t require fixing the foam-shedding problem.

Al Globus

Capitola, Calif.

Back to the Moon

Excellent article. [“Discovery Opens Last Chapter for Space Shuttle Born of Compromise,” Aug. 15, pg. 1] This is exactly what needs to be continually repeated so that NASA administration and lawmakers do not put the United States in a position without options, as we have been in since the Space Transportation System (STS) conception. NASA should be leading the way for the privatization of space travel and then take a behind-the-scenes research and development role as they do in other aeronautical areas.

The new Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) is our chance to stay in the lead and to keep Americans, and our space partners, flying and moving beyond low Earth orbit.

China is developing their manned space program with speculative intentions of going to the Moon. The president’s vision to challenge this, albeit indirectly, is brilliant and underemphasized by the media.

This back-to-the-basics approach should be an easy task for the many engineers needed to bring this new program to flight. Additionally, I believe with Mike Griffin in charge of NASA we finally have the right person to lead us to the Moon.

Matt Mitchell

Commending Griffin

Thank you for the exceptionally well written and accurate account of Mike Griffin’s first 60 days [“An Agency In Transition” July 11, 2005, page 1]. I noticed the very astute articles several months ago and have anxiously looked forward to the next installment as the weeks and articles have continued. You are helping make Mike’s job easier and making him more effective as he wastes no time or energy “correcting the record.” We in NASA have suffered for years with very poor administrators; Mike is indeed, “probably the best prepared” and is our nation’s right man, in the right job, at the right time! Keep up the good work and again, thank you.

Richard Tyson

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.