Shuttle Muddle Befuddles

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As Ronald Reagan asked, "Where's the rest of me?" Space shuttle Atlantis, the Shemp Howard of partially reusable orbiters, won't be landing today, after crew members spotted an unidentified floating object that may be a piece of the ship. The cautious birds at NASA are checking out the mystery to see if there's any problem with landing. In jargonese:

[Shuttle program manager N. Wayne Hale Jr.] said the object was first spotted early Tuesday by a camera in the Atlantis cargo bay. Low-resolution images and a lack of data about it prevent engineers from determining the object's size, mass or exact shape, he said, making it hard to tell whether the item is critical to the shuttle or a sign of a threat. The pictures indicate a very small black object orbiting near the shuttle, Mr. Hale said.

"It could be a little something up close or a bigger something a little further away," he said. "It's a bit of a mystery."

shuttleatlantisblackobject.jpg

Hey that's Ray Walston! Unfortunately, this blue-yellow-level alert comes in the middle of a pretty good space week, as Atlantis successfully delivered some large materials to the stinky International Space Station, space tourist Anousheh Ansari made it to the ISS on a Soyuz capsule, and all three vehicles were simultaneously in orbit long enough for a bunch of crappy "crowded up here" jokes. Then again, you can't count out a conspiracy theory wherein NASA cooks up a fake emergency to make the return seem more heroic. But I've got a history of jinxing shuttle missions, and going into space is really fucking dangerous, so good luck to them.

NEXT: Getting Bombed

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  1. It’s probably one of the myriad things they dropped during the mission.

  2. How does that qualify as “jargon?” I didn’t see a single word that an English-literate person with an acceptable exposure to the type of technology we see every day couldn’t understand.

  3. Lovely how the Soyuz program can be used to send people up to the ISS, but apparently cargo is too delicate and requires the shuttle.

  4. Trash ’em, then wish ’em luck.
    Classy.

  5. I’m really getting sick of of all this cynicism towards our space program.

    Space research has yielded a lot of wonderful things. Like Tang. Imagine growing up in the 70s without Tang.

  6. I don’t get it. It’s not much of a mystery what it is, it looks to me like a Nasa logo.

  7. I don’t get it. It’s not much of a mystery what it is, it looks to me like a Nasa logo.

    That’s what’s got them scared. Imagine filming the landing of a shuttle without a NASA logo. It’d keep the conspiracy theorists in talk show gigs for years. Can’t have that.

  8. Hey that’s Ray Walston!

    Man, you must be as old as I am. Thanks for the chuckle. Watching MFM in the early 1960s was crucial to my political and philosophical development. Or lack thereof.

    (MFM = “My Favorite Martian” if you were wondering.)

  9. How does that qualify as “jargon?” I didn’t see a single word that an English-literate person with an acceptable exposure to the type of technology we see every day couldn’t understand.

    It was a joke, db.

  10. “”It could be a little something up close or a bigger something a little further away,” he said. “It’s a bit of a mystery.””

    NASA: repository of America’s finest scientific minds. Priceless.

  11. It’s probably either one shoe, or a shredded piece of tire, or possibly a snarled-up cassette tape.

  12. It was a joke, db.

    Joking…is forbidden!

  13. Did they do a headcount after the last spacewalk?

    “Uh-oh… where’s Heidi?”

  14. Forget the little black dot…don’t the clouds look like someone made a “snow angel” in them?

  15. Query: How long until this object is identified as an alien spacecraft by conspiracy nuts, who will go on to explain why NASA covered up the sighting with claims that the shuttle is falling to pieces? Why, as I understand it, there was a meeting between the Overlords and President Bush on the ISS. He’s in Florida today. . .coincidence? I think not.

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