In The Field

Faulty Wiring or no, the Shuttle is a “Go”

Mission managers made the case today for launching on Friday, despite the partial failure of a motor used to cool one of the Atlantis’s three fuel cells. The motor is still operational, but any further problem would cause it to shutdown. Astronauts would then have about ten minutes to shut off the entire cell before some presumably very bad would happen.

Shuttle programme manager Wayne Hale made his case that none of that will go down tomorrow. The data indicates some faulty wiring in the motor, but Hale says that it appears isolated, making it highly unlikely anything more will go wrong. “This is not rocket science, this is 19th century technology,” he said. “It’s very robust, it’s very reliable, and in particular, these motors are very reliable.

“What we are looking at here is a random kind of a thing,” he added.

Some other people on the launch team aren’t so sure, including the folks who manufactured the fuel cell. But nevertheless, the launch is going forward.

And assuming nothing else happens, I’ll write again early tomorrow.


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