I'd like to propose an alternative solution to the Ion Pod debate: What if the pod was designed not just to analyse but in fact to disperse an ion storm (or at least clear a path wide enough for the ship)? It might almost be called an anti-ion pod. The dialogue from the episode suggests that jettisoning the pod was not unusual, perhaps even standard procedure during an ion storm. I imagine that the pod would have to be configured for the unique conditions of each storm (requiring a specialist to do the analysis and adjustments to the pod) and then ejected forward, clearing the path for the ship. The more readings you can take of the storm, the better the clearance abilities. Naturally this would need to be done in the launching bay, in order to continue taking readings up to the last possible minute. Once Red Alert sounds the officer leaves the bay and the pod is ejected. Kirk's opening log entry mentions the "considerable" damage to the ship. If this was a likely risk, why would they have gone through it at all? The conversation on the bridge suggests that traversing the storm is certainly a delicate manoeuvre, but one for which the ship is quite capable. If my ion pod theory is correct, the reason why the ship took so much damage is that Finney failed to configure the pod correctly - he may not even have been there! Anyway, that's my thoughts - feedback, anyone?