STS-134 Mission Specialists Greg Chamitoff and Mike Fincke visited Michoud Assembly Facility July 19 to thank workers for a great external tank, ET-122. The astronauts also took time to sit down with two 11-year-old Zachary students from Copper Mill Elementary. Fifth graders Alexis Albert and Leanne Sorrel were part of teacher Circe Bridges’ team whose science experiment was chosen last year by a national space education group for a place on the Space Shuttle Endeavor’s final flight. The students’ experiment asked, “How does microgravity affect the development of murine myoblasts?” The other fifth-grade team members, who were not able to attend the event, were Grace Dry, Madison Russell, Tyler Jackson and Jake O’Brien.
Picturedleft to right: Astronaut Greg Chamitoff, students Leanne Sorrel andAlexis Albert, and Astronaut Mike Fincke. (Jacobs)
Spaceflight is among the most demanding of all human endeavors. It is intolerant of mistakes and errors. In order for a rocket to get into low Earth orbit, in slightly more than 500 seconds, it must go from a standing stop… bolted to a launch pad on the ground… to 17,500 mph (25 times the speed of sound), over 100 miles high. Acceleration like this requires the controlled release of huge amounts of energy… rates of energy release that would make a top fuel dragster look like a kiddie car!
And that’s where the danger and the challenges lie. Even the tiniest of mistakes can have huge consequences: a slightly contaminated bonding surface; a barely visible part misalignment; even the smallest “off-ratio” mixture of a two-part material can directly lead to catastrophic consequences.
There has seldom been a time of greater uncertainty in NASA’s history: Will shuttle really end as planned? Will the next launch vehicle really be canceled? What does the future hold for human spaceflight ? All great questions… but all are huge sources of distraction.
In these turbulent times, we’ve ALL got to stay completely focused on our assigned tasks and not lose our concentration. Now, perhaps more than ever, we’ve ALL got to keep our eyes on the ball!
Our astronauts and our nation expect nothing less.
NASA External Tank Project Manager
Marshall Space Flight Center