So it turns out that our friends at NESC have done everyone a disservice, not making a clean cut case for replacing the wing panels on STS-120. NESC took pre-flight data of RCC panels and compared them to Discovery's panels. Unfortunately, NESC compared Discovery's RCC panels with thermography data from Endeavour's RCC panels, ruling out commonality and flight history with Discovery.
NESC appears to have shot itself in the foot as the analysts crying "wolf!" Nevertheless, the root cause of the panel problem remains a mystery.
But do you think the NESC folks would be sent back to the showers to get the proper data to make or deny their case? Nope. Not enough time for that.
So while the Emperor pats everyone on the back and declares victory for the new NASA way of dealing with risks, the problem remains. Just talking about a problem does not make it go away or make it right to fly in the face of uncertainty. Just because the NESC folks followed the wrong logic chain, doesn't mean their logic is entirely faulty. Once again, NASA claims the crew will be safe and rescueable, even if my tax money, your tax money, everyone's tax money goes down with the ship in the deep Pacific. Save the crew, lose the national asset. That's ok as long as we are meeting schedule.
Just because the clock is ticking towards 2010, doesn't make it right to launch on Oct 23.