Experts are baffled by the cracks that were found on the shuttles external fuel tank, with there being no obvious explanation as to their cause. Thus, a more detailed examination is being conducted, resulting in launch date being put back to 3rd February 2011, at the earliest.
The ‘safety first’ policy certainly has my backing as nobody would want to see a repetition of the disasters that befell the shuttles Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003. Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight after an O-ring seal on a solid rocket booster failed at lift-off, whilst Columbia disintegrated during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere due to damage to the thermal protection system – accidents that resulted in the deaths of 14 crew members.
The 11 day mission of Discovery with an all American crew, including long time friend Michael Barratt, will deliver a new pressurized module to the ISS to provide extra storage space, more spare parts, and also Robonaut2, the first human-like robotic assistant in Space.
Every cloud has a silver lining, so the expression goes, and for the 6 strong Discovery crew of the STS-133 mission, that silver lining must be the certainty of spending the holiday period with their families. So may I wish a very Happy Christmas to the crew of STS-133, and a special festive hug to Mike and his family.