Friday, July 8, 2011

Flatlanders in Space? Art Thomason Debriefs us...

There was a Shuttle Launch yesterday at Cape Canaveral in FL. Yo' boy, Art Thomason, works for NASA, so I caught up with him to find out what flatlanders are doing in outer space....

FM: Hi Art! Did you work on today's launch?

AT: Hi Bobby. My role for this mission is to tell to the crew how to repair the Shuttle if there is any damage to the tiles that protect them from the heat if entry. Hopefully, I won't be busy for this mission. We should know how the tile looks in a couple of days.

Some dude Art helped to space walk.

FM: Cool. Can the tiles get damaged on the way out of the atmosphere?

AT: Yes, the main cause of tile damage is foam that comes off of the big orange fuel tank when the shuttle is still in the atmosphere. Tile is pretty fragile; you can poke a hole in it with your finger because it is not very dense. There is damage on every mission, but most of the time it is small. There have been a few times when the damage was large and in a bad place. We had to start working on plans for a repair, but in the end analysis showed the damage would pass without a repair.

FM: Wow. What is it made of that it can be so fragile and still protect? Does it protect against radiation too?

AT: It is made of silica (glass), but there is lots of empty space in it to dissipate the heat. It protects against heat only. When you pick one up, it is so light that it feels like it is made of Styrofoam.

A.T. handling business!

FM: Do you fill it in or are there some spare tiles?....Just in case I need to repair my tiles before re-entry....

AT: Each tile is unique, so no spares. We either fill it in or cover it with a big plate that screws into the good tiles. The second one is only for large damage. Hope your tiles are doing well.

FM: Haha! yeah! I was watching this video about the last night launch today. You have pretty much the dream job. Do you work with Satellite launches too?

AT: Cool video. Watching it now.I only deal with human space flight and specifically space walks. I was the space walk lead for the STS-130 mission (last night launch). I didn't realize it was the last night launch until now.

FM: So are these your co-workers in the video?

AT: I only know the astronauts from the video. We don't have too much interaction with the people that process the Shuttles because they are in FL and we are in TX. I have met a few of them, but none from the video. We need to be in Houston for the launch because the second after the shuttle takes off, we are in control. You don't want to get stuck in FL and not make it back to support from Houston.

National Flatland Space Administration - Space Walkin'!

FM: Are you at mission control right now?

AT: I am at home right now. We take shifts at mission control. Here is a press brief I did for my last flight.


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