Once the safety assessments were completed and the purge and freon lines were connected, the circus begins.
The parade of VIPs and other looky-loos started and everyone’s first stop is under the right wing to see the damaged tile area,
which turned out to be not that spectacular after all. The actual damage turned out to be less distorted after re-entry than the test panel that they made during their on orbit investigation. The plasma flow just skipped over the hole and left it undisturbed. Even the exposed filler bar at the bottom (the red piece) of the hole looked brand new!
Mike Griffin, head of NASA, was there along with Laurier Boisvert, president of the Canadian Space Agency to do their thing.
The crew exited after their medical checkouts and did the handshaking line welcoming them back after their mission. Barbara Morgan did not exit because she was having problems adjusting to gravity, but that isn’t uncommon.
The crew made a bee-line right to the damage area and were underwhelmed by what they saw. “That’s what we were so concerned about?” was what I heard when they saw it. You never know when damage like this can cause bigger problems- maybe they just lucked out.
They did some obligatory photos during the quick interview then left in the crew van– it was a little hot out there!
Once they left, the place emptied out and we were able to ramp up our post-landing and towing ops.
Every landing spot is marked on the runway with the mission number,
and preliminary inspections are performed of the tile and landing gear. This shot shows the R/H E.T. attach point. You can see the closed flapper valve in the 17″ line where liquid hydrogen flows from the tank to the main engines. The bowl in the lower right of the cavity is one of two sockets where the tank mates to the vehicle. The E.T. camera is behind the lens cover on that green plate aft of the socket.
I’ll break here and talk about the rest tomorrow.
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