Just saw Endeavor return safely at night which inspired me to follow up on a question Ive long pondered: why not deploy the wings and vertical stabilizer after ascent or even late into re-entry in the lower mach numbers? The draw backs of dragging along the the aerial control surfaces on ascent and high mach re-entry are obvious after Columbia: 1. Susceptible to damage from high velocity debris on ascent - foam/ ice. 2. Drag 3. Complex and difficult to maintain tiled heat shield required to conform to the aerial surfaces. In other words, when the shuttle is performing as a rocket, it should look like a big cylinder as does any other rocket, and start looking like an aircraft only when it is required to perform like one. The idea instead would be to mechanically deploy wings and stabilizer well into reentry at low mach when the aerial surfaces don't need to withstand high temperatures, say 60,000ft? Before then it would use some kind of monolithic heat shield as did the earlier manned missions which might be ejected. Even deploying the surfaces in orbit is still a big plus as that approach still saves on ascent drag and keeps the surfaces out of harms way. Storing, and then deploying the surfaces in flight must be difficult (impossible?). I know of some imperfect analogies - the F14 in flight and of course carrier aircraft in general that fold wings for storage. No doubt this has been considered. Can anyone explain why its not done?