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#94201 - 02/04/03 08:44 AM Re: Space Shuttle Explodes
Rubrick Offline
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Registered: 05/18/00
Posts: 679
Loc: Somewhere outside New York
The space station can hold five people safely (three permanent and two visitors - usually engineers but twice there have been space tourists). Two of the shuttle crew could've transferred to the station and waited there for up to two months. The other five would return to earth on the second shuttle (which only needs two crew to fly it). The damaged shuttle would then be abandoned on the ISS until it could be recovered or else discarded into space.

HOTOL is probably the best option for a replacement shuttle. But it's British so the Yanks won't like it (and, at this stage it's a bit dated - like the shuttle).

Food for thought: In one mission the Space shuttle travels further and endures more stress than a Boeing 747 does in twenty years of service - including refits.


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#94202 - 02/04/03 09:04 AM Re: Space Shuttle Explodes
Wordwind Offline
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Registered: 09/30/01
Posts: 6296
Loc: Piedmont Region of Virginia, U...
Rubrick,

From something Pfranz wrote somewhere, he learned that the Columbia had not been outfitted to dock at the space station.

Now that possibility of hooking up with another shuttle? Was that ever a real possibility? Were they so outfitted?


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#94203 - 02/04/03 09:55 AM Re: Space Shuttle Explodes
Rubrick Offline
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There are three entries to the ISS. The original Soyuz docking ring (which is in use by the Soyuz 'lifeboat'), the added Shuttle ring which used to be the only way to get out and meant that all Spacewalks had to be carried out by exiting to the Shuttle and then leaving via the shuttle payload door. The third entry is the latest - added just last year. The airlock allows direct exiting from the ISS to space and which could be used by the astronauts using a tether to reach the shuttle in near proximity. It's difficult to use but not risky. It's akin to something similar used by Ed White et al in the early 60s. Alternatively an ISS crew member would be able to perform a tetherless flight to the shuttle and carry the astronauts back one by one. This would be riskier, of course, and is untried, but I'm sure someone in NASA has thought about it before. Maybe it'll be added to the flight book for next time. This would mean, of course, that the Shuttle would have to be ditched in space.

A shuttle launch can take several weeks so it wouldn't be possible to sit in the shuttle indefinitely waiting for a rescue mission. Air and food would run out. However, the universal docking ring woudl allow two shuttles to interconnect. Time is the main factor, however, and NASA obviously thought (if there were any problems before re-entry) that an attempt to return to earth was the best option.


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#94204 - 02/04/03 10:06 AM Re: Space Shuttle Explodes
Wordwind Offline
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Registered: 09/30/01
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Thanks for that, Rubrick...I'll chew on this information for a while. It would be good to know what options were available in general, and then which ones were impossible in this specific case because of factors that were not in place (equipment, training, etc.).


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#94205 - 02/04/03 12:32 PM Re: Space Shuttle Explodes
Capfka Offline
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Registered: 06/28/02
Posts: 1624
Loc: Utter Placebo, Planet Reebok
There are a number of issues which could probably have been planned better or risks which could have been allowed for but the plain fact of the matter is that NASA takes risks on every launch, and the astronauts must know and accept that. As I would if I were offered the opportunity to get a ride in a shuttle. Are they looking for 50-year-old astronauts who are myopic and overweight, who have no particular scientific skills, who like their eight hours' sleep, can't stand dried food and who smoke? I did hear they were liberalising. Maybe they even have real ale in casks on the shuttles these days. Wahooo!

Rubrick was misinformed a little: If a shuttle is ready to fly and if lots of corners are cut (i.e. more risks are taken), they can get one up in a week. This could have been done as a rescue mission, but remember that the engineers assessed the risk of damage from the exfoliating insulation as small. They were wrong this time, but give them credit - they're not often wrong. If they were, the world would be littered with the remains of failed launches and/or landings. I don't believe they should berate themselves too much or start being afraid to make decisions in case they're wrong. As I said in an earlier post, the ground crews and mission control staff will not be happy bunnies at all. But they need to get it back together for the next launch.

Aborting to the ISS just wasn't an option given Columbia's mission profile. Her orbit was well below the ISS and was on a completely different plane, so that getting to the ISS was beyond her fuel endurance. End of story. You could say, of course, that they should have planned a possible abort to the ISS in and ensured that the shuttle was in the same general orbit as the ISS. But I'm sure that the credo is that each mission stands on its own and if every mission is planned around a possible accident, i.e. they always ensure that an abort to the ISS is possible, the damned things may as well just sit on the ground.

There are no other possible abort options that I'm aware of.

I was surprised to hear that they didn't have EMUs on board. I thought they were standard equipment. They certainly were in the early years. Still, what could they have done even if they found the gash, presuming it existed? Duct tape is amazing stuff, but in this instance, well, maybe not.

One thing that could be done is to have a Saturn V on standby with a big Apollo capsule specifically to carry out rescues, although it wouldn't take seven people, of course. But it would be costly; they don't have any Saturn Vs left, dammit. They were amazing machines. If you ever get to the Hutchinson Aerospace Museum in Kansas, take a look at the F1 engine they have on display there. Absolutely, mindblowingly amazing. Even if it was the Huntsville Nazis who designed it. The Saturn remains the most powerful booster the US ever built and the most reliable.

They also have the actual Apollo 13 capsule there.

Maybe the Russians could be contracted to keep an Energia on tap. They'll do anything for dollars.

Anyway, they have to keep on truckin'. Getting the space plane built and up and running will reduce the number of heavy-lift shuttle launches necessary and each SSTO mission will cost peanuts alongside shuttle launches.



- Pfranz

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#94206 - 02/04/03 12:39 PM Re: Space Shuttle Explodes
Buffalo Shrdlu Offline
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Registered: 06/24/02
Posts: 7210
Loc: Vermont
thank you, Pfranz. that was so very well put.
I, too, with some discussion with my family, would go in a minute, if given the chance.

_________________________
formerly known as etaoin...

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#94207 - 02/05/03 04:24 AM Re: Space Shuttle Explodes
Rubrick Offline
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Registered: 05/18/00
Posts: 679
Loc: Somewhere outside New York
Yes, sorry about that. I completely forgot that this wasn't an ISS related shuttle mission. As a result they were orbiting at a much lower altitude and so an abort to the ISS was not an option. A re-entry despite the risks seemed to be the only possibility and I'm sure that the astronauts were aware of this. One probability for the breakup could've been that the re-entry trajectory was recalibrated to compensate for a minor hull breach and the shuttle was pitched at a steeper angle. This would result in more turbelence, stress on the hull and an increased likelihood of hull failure. It's plausible.

It has always been my dream to fly to space - even now. I've only met one astronaut (candidate, actually) and he was young, a genius and incredibly fit. Plus he was genial, eloquent and astute. Perhaps the last three are the most important. He told me that his interview was in front of 14 people (all senior NASA members and ex-astronauts) and the chair was John Young - the most experienced astronaut ever. His heart monitor (worn 24 hours a day) measured over 180bpm and he almost lost his lunch. He got the job. If astronauts feel scared in those situations - imagine how they feel sitting on top of a Hydrogen and Oxygen-filled bomb.


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#94208 - 02/05/03 03:58 PM Re: Space Shuttle Explodes
Capfka Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 06/28/02
Posts: 1624
Loc: Utter Placebo, Planet Reebok
Here's some info about the insulation/tile damage thing. Quite frightening, really:

http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/shuttle_tiles_030205.html

- Pfranz

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#94209 - 02/06/03 11:23 AM Re: Space Shuttle Explodes
WhitmanO'Neill Offline
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Registered: 03/13/01
Posts: 4189
Loc: Rio Grande, Cape May County, N...
It seems that now Dittmore has all but dismissed tile damge on takeoff as the cause of the breakup. He said at the briefing yesterday that the foam just isn't hard enough to produce the type of damage that would cause the tiles to fail. So, according to him, they're back to the drawing board.

On another note, here's one for the Darwin Awards...it's announced that taking and possessing pieces of the shuttle wreckage is a federal offense. So no less than 17 people took wreckage and posted it for sale on eBay with all their required contact information. They are all presently being visited by federal agents.


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#94210 - 02/06/03 11:29 AM Re: Space Shuttle Explodes
Wordwind Offline
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Registered: 09/30/01
Posts: 6296
Loc: Piedmont Region of Virginia, U...
AFter the NASA briefing late Sunday afternoon, a specialist stated that a piece of insulating foam had broken off during lift-off over a year ago, had hit an exterior rocket engine made of steel, and had dented the steel.

This foam is a lot harder than most of us would first imagine--and traveling at between 1200 and 2000 mph during the earlier phases of lift-off would give this hard foam a lot of force upon impact.

I have not heard Dittemore say that NASA has cast out the foam hitting the underside tiles theory altogether. I thought NASA has gone back to the drawing board to see whether they could have miscalculated the force of the foam. If that foam can leave a sizable dent in steel, it ain't no small force.


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