A Hole in Endeavour
Events in Space take one back to a schoolgirl visit aboard HMS Endeavour. As you have heard, shuttle Endeavour is in orbit with a hole in her belly. The damage was caused when ice chunks again fell off external tank supports and impacted the TPS tiles. Endeavour was built to replace Challenger when the latter was lost in 1986. What a fragile Space Transportation System this is! Presently NASA engineers are working long hours trying to figure out if the hole presents a danger.
It would be prudent to go EVA and inspect the damage, but the spacesuits get in the way. Since the EMU suits weigh over 300 pounds, an astronaut colliding with the shuttle might cause even more damage. Zero gravity does not mean zero inertia! If the crew had lightweight spacesuits, this would not be a problem. Performing EVA's would be far simpler in an advanced suit.
Since Columbia's accident, NASA has arranged flight schedules so that in an emergency a second shuttle could be sent. If the damage to Columbia had been known, theoretically Atlantis could have been launched in time. The entire world would be glued to their screens when for the first time one spaceship tried to rescue another! It is a tragedy that Columbia's crew was denied this chance.
While exploring Australia's East Coast, Cook's Endeavour became trapped in the Barrier Reef. Cook discovered that the Reef extends thousands of miles, a navigator's nightmare. The crew took soundings constantly as they vainly tried to thread the labyrinth. One night when the water seemed safe and Cook had retired to his cabin, Endeavour struck a reef. Water immediately rushed into a hole in the hull. With the crew frantically throwing things overboard to save weight, the ship limped toward the shore.
Morning saw Endeavour aground on the beach. By some great fortune a piece of coral had lodged itself in the hole, otherwise the ship might have sunk. There was little chance of rescue on the far side of the world. By beaching Endeavour, Cook and the crew were able to make repairs and return to sea. Cook had chosen a flat-bottomed ship just for this contingency.
200 years later some of the wreckage thrown overboard by Endeavour's crew was found. One wooden block sits in its original position (pictured) on the replica Endeavour in Sydney. A wooden nail from this Endeavour was flown into Space on the namesake shuttle. It is very ironic that today's Endeavour should also get a hole in her belly. Cook's heritage is to go where no one has gone before.