NASA has grounded the shuttle fleet after several pieces of insulating foam fell from the fuel tank during launch. Engineers didn’t expect it to fall from this area, according to shuttle program manager John Shannon:
We have a bit of a mystery on the foam loss. It’s from an area that we typically don’t expect foam to be lost. We’re not worried about this one [Endeavour] , but we need to understand what’s going on for the next flight. This is new. I don’t know if we have a material issue or a process issue but we’ll get to the bottom of it and clear it before the August flight.
According to Shannon, the thin foam in the section between the hydrogen and oxygen tanks is not subject to intense cold. They never thought it could peel like that.
Bottom line: Astronauts are ok and there goes my trip to the Kennedy Space centre this August. [Reuters]