Story at Space.com here.
The foam damage etched a 3 1/2-inch by 2-inch (9-centimeter by 5-centimeter) gash across two tiles on Endeavour's belly. The damage left a tiny area of about 0.2-inch by 1-inch (0.5-centimeter by 2.5-centimeter) bare of any heat-resistant tile material, Shannon said.
In a bit of luck, the damage occurred right underneath a spot on Endeavour's wing that includes a metal rib, which also lends additional heat resistance to the local area, he added.
They have three options my husband and I have discussed:
1. Do nothing.
2. Fix it in a spacewalk and bring the whole crew down together. (most probably do this one)
3. Fix it and have another shuttle (Atlantis I suppose) come up with a skeletal crew of two and bring down part of the crew on Atlantis and the rest on Endeavour.
I wager they will have a voluntary crew of two experienced commander/pilots to come up in a rescue crew.
More from Flame Trench here:
Despite a gouge that reaches Endeavour's aluminum skin, a top NASA official believes the shuttle could reenter the atmosphere in its present condition without danger to the crew.
"If we were in a significant emergency case, we would feel comfortable deorbiting this vehicle," chairman of the mission management team John Shannon said at a Sunday briefing.
Three repair techniques exist, but computer analysis and tests must be performed before deciding to risk a repair effort, said Shannon.
However, the 3-inch gouge leaves a .2-inch by one-inch area of the shuttle's aluminum skin exposed to temperatures as high as 1,500 to 2,300 degrees on reentry.
"The gouge goes pretty much through the entire thickness of the tile," said Shannon. The brittle silica tile is 1.12 inches thick.
After computer analysis and arc-jet tests in the laboratory, engineers will decide early this week whether to send a spacewalker to repair the gouge.
More over at Blogs of War here.
John Little supposes NASA will do all three types of repair. From LA Times article:
If a repair is ordered in this latest incident, the astronauts would use one of three re- pair kits: an emissivity wash to paint the surface; a protective plate that could by screwed in- to the body over the hole; or "the goo," a putty-like sub- stance that would be applied by hand.
I'll have to go research the plans NASA has drawn up for rescue operations. That will be for Next post!