Sunday, August 19, 2007

Endeavor's Headed Home

Now comes the scary part. The space shuttle Endeavor is headed home.

The voyage home was once the good part. We were accustomed to dangers in the liftoff from Earth, because of what happened to the Challenger. But the fate of Columbia changed that false sense of security, and now we know can happen when the shuttle comes back to Earth.

Lots of unsettling factors in this return voyage. NASA scientists concluded that the deep gouge on the underside of Endeavor should not get in the way of a safe re-entry. Are they right?

Hurricane Dean is about chew up the Gulf, Houston could be hit hard, so NASA's bringing Endeavor home a day early. The home of Earth is by no means safe and sound.

The basic design of the shuttle is so old that, were it a computer or a car, it would likely not be used or driven except at a show or convention. The technology still works, but we've got to take it off the leading edge of our efforts in space.

We'll have new space vehicles soon. Meanwhile, we're trying to eke out what we can with the old shuttles. We're in a race against time as well as for space, as teacher Barbara Morgan and her brave astronaut colleagues make their way back from the International Space Station above, on behalf of the whole human race and our yearnings for worlds beyond this home planet.

They'll be home on Tuesday.

See also Barbara Morgan Resumes Christa McAuliffe's Journey

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