NASA has decided not to repair Space Shuttle Endeavour's heat shield before the vehicle returns next week. Was this the right decision?
I think so and I am glad to see that the process worked to arrive at this conclusion. The facts are that we have seen similar tile damage postflight in the past. The damage is in an area that does not contain critical systems or wiring underneath. Modeling (although I take modeling results with a healthy grain of salt) has shown that heating will not be severe in this area.
Sure, it would have been a good data point on repair techniques and effectiveness. However, one maxim that we live by in the space business, is that no matter how bad it is, you can always make it worse! Thus, any decision like this needs to be weighed carefully. A bump by a helmet or a tool could easily cause much worse damage in a much worse area.
Like all other enthusiasts, I eagerly await Endeavour's return next week!