Astronomy - Woodpecker Attacks Space Shuttle

On Friday 26th February two members of the group attended the Walsall Astronomical Society meeting to see the guest speaker Donald (Don). Thomas. Don is a veteran of four Shuttle space missions.

STS-65 Columbia (July 8, 1994 – July 23, 1994)

STS-70 Discovery (July 13, 1995 – July 22, 1995)

STS-83 Columbia (April 4, 1997 – April 8, 1997)

STS-94 Columbia (July 1, 1997 – July 17, 1997)

A week before the scheduled launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on the STS-70 mission,  a Woodpecker made 205 holes in the soft foam insulation covering the huge external fuel tank of the Shuttle which is used to stop ice forming when tank is being filled with super-cold propellants, liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.

The resulting damage led to one of the more unusual delays in the thirty year history of the Space Shuttle Program as NASA wrestled with what had happened, how to fix the damage, and how to prevent additional woodpecker attacks on its Space Shuttles in the future, one idea was to put balloons with painted eyes around the launch site. Forever nicknamed “The Woodpecker Shuttle Flight” the mission was also unique in that 4 of the 5 crewmembers assigned to the flight were from Ohio. After the governor of Ohio issued a proclamation making the fifth crewmember an “Honorary Ohioan” this flight also became known as “The All-Ohio Space Shuttle Mission”.