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The shuttle wing doesn't have any stovepipes sticking out of it.
(Tim Stevenson, an engineer at the Space Research Centre at Britain's University of Leicester) "To be honest, the crew would have observed (a big crack) very quickly, particularly if it was big enough to be observed in any kind of video footage, and they would have acted very differently if they had observed it."
Another point, he said, was that a large, visible crack on the top surface of the wing "would manifest itself as a structural failure very early on.
Them's my feelings. Sensors would have caught it and the crew would NOT have sat around saying, "golly, them's funny cracks on the wing." They'd have been on the radio to NASA and would have refused to return if they thought the situation dangerous.
They could have evacuated in the Russian space craft if it was necessary (there's an old one that can be used as a "lifeboat" attached to the station.)
[Edited on 4-2-2003 by Byrd]
Originally posted by KKing123
this could have gotten complicated
but couldn't they have used the remaining fuel to dock with the ISS?
we or the Russians could have readied an additional supply flight sometime later to replenish whatever stocks they use, and it would give us time to send a rescue flight