Tonight, AP reports:
A chunk of insulating foam smacked the shuttle at liftoff last week in an unbelievably unlucky ricochet off the fuel tank and carved out the gouge.
This is a big deal. The area where this gouge is located heats to over 2,000° on reentry. The thermal tiles are the only thing that keeps the shuttle from frying on its way back to Earth!
I, for one, have lost my taste for the danger, without equal reward, the shuttle brings.
Whether this becomes a big deal in the media or not… it’s a big deal to the folks on Endeavour. Their lives are in peril.