Stories
Slash Boxes
Comments

SoylentNews is people

posted by janrinok on Friday February 28 2014, @07:30PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Are-you-sure-this-will-work dept.

germanbird writes:

"ArsTechnica has published a story taking a look at NASA's theoretical rescue plan for the space shuttle Columbia. The ambitious yet plausible plan was included as part of the report prepared during the investigation after the shuttle was lost during re-entry. I appreciate the author's perspective and his analysis of things as a sys-admin at Boeing he was much closer to the situation than most of us were. I for one would have liked to see the men and women at NASA given the chance to try to pull this one off, but I'm not sure it would have been worth the risk to the rescue team or even possible given the compressed schedule."

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
Display Options Threshold/Breakthrough Mark All as Read Mark All as Unread
The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by AnonTechie on Friday February 28 2014, @08:08PM

    by AnonTechie (2275) on Friday February 28 2014, @08:08PM (#8733) Journal

    Most engineers know that things work in theory but not necessarily in practice. Without trying, how will NASA and the US know, whether or not, such a rescue mission is possible. Yes, there are risks involved, but, outer space has had risks associated with it since the beginning. If the rescue mission had succeeded, it would have been a great achievement for NASA. Do people remember Apollo 13 ??

    --
    Albert Einstein - "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
    • (Score: 5, Funny) by Sir Garlon on Friday February 28 2014, @08:14PM

      by Sir Garlon (1264) on Friday February 28 2014, @08:14PM (#8737)

      Do people remember Apollo 13 ??

      I was busy being gestated at the time (April 1970).

      But I saw the Tom Hanks movie.

      --
      [Sir Garlon] is the marvellest knight that is now living, for he destroyeth many good knights, for he goeth invisible.
    • (Score: 1) by germanbird on Saturday March 01 2014, @06:10AM

      by germanbird (2619) on Saturday March 01 2014, @06:10AM (#8983)

      I too only really know the Apollo 13 from the Tom Hanks movie. I re-watched it not too long ago with my son, though, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I find it very inspiring to watch a group of engineers pull together, stay calm, and come up with the solutions they did in such a high stakes situation. To be able to pull that off and get those guys home was truly one of NASA's finest moments.

      The other, more practical take away from Apollo 13 is the cause of the accident. Apparently the oxygen tank that ruptured was dropped and damaged during maintenance. After repairing and ground testing the tank, they used a heater to boil off the oxygen so that it would be ready in time for the Apollo 13 mission. The heater, however, did not cycle leading to the temperature to rise enough to melt the insulation on the wires to the fan they used to stir the tank. As soon as the Apollo crew sent power to that fan, the wires sparked and caused the tank to explode. (More detailed writeup here: Apollo 13: Review board report [wikipedia.org].) Lesson to learn: The details often matter.

      • (Score: 1) by Jaruzel on Saturday March 01 2014, @09:26AM

        by Jaruzel (812) on Saturday March 01 2014, @09:26AM (#9037) Homepage Journal

        Having read through the entire Ars article yesterday, I couldn't help but think that it'd make a good movie anyway, even if it wasn't feasible in reality. Seeing two shuttles 'inverted' like that and EVA rescues between them, would be awesome on the big screen. Hopefully in the future, someone will option this into film.

        Obviously, sadness due to the loss of life at the time - but Space Exploration is risky. There's no getting away from that. How many thousands people were lost when exploring the planet was just as risky even as little as 100 years ago ?

        -Jar

        --
        This is my opinion, there are many others, but this one is mine.
  • (Score: 5, Informative) by dotdotdot on Friday February 28 2014, @08:16PM

    by dotdotdot (858) on Friday February 28 2014, @08:16PM (#8738)

    The comments by STS_Engineer at the end of the article are well worth the read. Here are some excerpts:

    The proposed plan in this article would have been even more difficult because there was no opportunity to use the RMS (robotic arm) to grapple Columbia.

    I am extremely dubious that the manual station keeping would be doable even just from a propellant standpoint ... I don't think there is anywhere near enough RCS fuel ....

    The only hope that this plan would have ever had would have been if the plan had already been in place prior to Columbia's launch, as there is no way on this Earth that NASA would have approved a flight with untested procedures that could destroy both orbiters.

    Sadly, I can't see a path where this would have actually been feasible.

    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by CoolHand on Friday February 28 2014, @08:29PM

      by CoolHand (438) on Friday February 28 2014, @08:29PM (#8750) Journal

      Yes, I was wondering throughout the entire article why it was that they did not have standby shuttles for rescue operations. Then at the end of the article it said that someone FINALLY thought of using that idea for LON missions before the next flight...

      --
      Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job-Douglas Adams
      • (Score: 5, Insightful) by emg on Friday February 28 2014, @08:43PM

        by emg (3464) on Friday February 28 2014, @08:43PM (#8760)

        A few ideas:

        1. They didn't have enough shuttles to dedicate one to a standby.
        2. Most failures were expected to be catastrophic (Challenger) or survivable (the single engine failure during launch). Being stranded in orbit was expected to be a rare occurrence.
        3. The launch rate earlier in the program was high enough that there probably would be a shuttle close to being ready for launch at any moment. If I remember correctly, the record turnaround between flights for one shuttle was about eight weeks.

    • (Score: 5, Funny) by r00t on Friday February 28 2014, @09:21PM

      by r00t (1349) on Friday February 28 2014, @09:21PM (#8790)

      ...the RMS (robotic arm)

      I wouldn't get Stallman involved with this just yet.

  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by SleazyRidr on Friday February 28 2014, @09:03PM

    by SleazyRidr (882) on Friday February 28 2014, @09:03PM (#8772)

    All the talk in the article about shortening the preparation time makes me think about the Petrobras P-36 platform [utexas.edu]. The platform sank and killed a lot of people. As happy as I would have been to see another shuttle go up and rescue the Astronauts on Columbia, I'm afraid that the more likely scenario would have been two shuttles and two crews lost in the mission.

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by The Grim Reefer on Friday February 28 2014, @09:29PM

      by The Grim Reefer (1451) on Friday February 28 2014, @09:29PM (#8800)

      I agree. Doing so would have been more likely to endanger more astronauts than anything.

      Additionally, I didn't think NASA even knew there was a problem until Columbia broke up during reentry. No one knew about the damage to the heat shield until after it happened. So this is really a moot point.

      • (Score: 2, Informative) by quacking duck on Saturday March 01 2014, @01:11AM

        by quacking duck (1395) on Saturday March 01 2014, @01:11AM (#8918)

        Some in NASA suspected a more serious problem and wanted to request help from the US military for some visual inspection by spy satellites, but no formal request was made:

        "Wayne Hale, a senior flight director now serving as launch integration manager at the Kennedy Space Center, made inquiries about the possibility of Air Force help inspecting Columbia. But those initial efforts were terminated by senior management"

        http://www.spaceflightnow.com/shuttle/sts107/03031 4readdy/ [spaceflightnow.com]

      • (Score: 2, Informative) by germanbird on Saturday March 01 2014, @06:24AM

        by germanbird (2619) on Saturday March 01 2014, @06:24AM (#8987)

        From what I've read, they had some idea that there could be a problem. However, I don't think the extent of it was known until it was too late.

        Apparently during the accident review, they actually fired foam blocks at spare wing panels to try to recreate the problem. Most of the impacts only caused surface damage or cracks. After further analysis of the flight data, they were able to narrow down the impact site and fired a block of foam that create a hole approximately 16 in x 16 in the panel. (See Columbia Disaster: Columbia Accident Investigation Board [wikipedia.org] for details.) So unfortunately for Columbia (and I guess fortunately for all the other shuttle missions that came before it), this appears to have been a very improbably accident.

        I think you guys are right, though, a rescue mission probably would have just put more lives at risk. However, I would hate to have been the guy to make that call knowing that the lives of the astronauts in orbit were on the line.

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by resignator on Friday February 28 2014, @09:16PM

    by resignator (3126) on Friday February 28 2014, @09:16PM (#8785)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_abort_m odes#Ejection_escape_systems/ [wikipedia.org]

    I remember shortly after Challenger there were talks of designing a new shuttle that ejected the entire crew cabin, separating it from the rest of the vehicle. This design would allow for a full abort during ANY part of the flight and a safe return for the crew.

    Of course, we are talking about a complete redesign or retrofit of the current space shuttle. Let's hope the next shuttle has a budget for such luxuries. All previous US manned space vehicles had launch escape systems, although none were ever used.

    • (Score: 1) by BradTheGeek on Friday February 28 2014, @10:07PM

      by BradTheGeek (450) on Friday February 28 2014, @10:07PM (#8835)

      There will be no next shuttle budget. We would rather let China and India and private firms creep forward with space exploration, while we waste our money on pervasive surveillance, military boondoggles, and nearly senseless wars (including terrorism, drugs, etc.)

      Space cannot generate enough fear to manipulate the population. Space cannot generate enough corporate money to create a huge lobbying force.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by resignator on Friday February 28 2014, @10:51PM

        by resignator (3126) on Friday February 28 2014, @10:51PM (#8861)

        You do realize a new shuttle is already in the works, right? It also looks like I got my wish for an emergency abort system, too!

        http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/mpcv/index .html/ [nasa.gov]

        "Orion will serve as the exploration vehicle that will carry the crew to space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during the space travel, and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities." -nasa.gov

        "NASA also is making progress with the development of the Space Launch System (SLS) - an advanced heavy-lift rocket that will provide an entirely new national capability for human exploration beyond Earth's orbit" -nasa.gov

        Just two days ago, the parachute system designed for Orion passed another hurdle in test that put extra stress on drogue parachutes and simulated a failure. Scrapping the new shuttle is very unlikely at this point since it has already been budgeted for. So cheer up and quit acting like the sky is falling. Space flight will continue into the next century and beyond.

      • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 28 2014, @11:03PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 28 2014, @11:03PM (#8869)

        Don't forget spending trillions to feed our useless eaters while they make more useless eaters for us to feed -- while inviting the rest of the world to dump their useless eaters here for us to feed, too! The votes must be harvested, after all.

        • (Score: 1) by resignator on Saturday March 01 2014, @12:21AM

          by resignator (3126) on Saturday March 01 2014, @12:21AM (#8905)

          It's nice you can write off most of humanity as "eaters". I am guessing you dont identify yourself as one though.

      • (Score: 1) by paddym on Friday February 28 2014, @11:38PM

        by paddym (196) on Friday February 28 2014, @11:38PM (#8887)

        If only there were some activities that took place a long time ago in a galaxy far far away that could teach us to combine pervasive surveillance (being able to sense disturbances wherever they occur) military boondoggles (like a giant moon-shaped base), nearly senseless wars (including trade, clones, etc) and space exploration. Maybe we could foresee the effects of suspending our form of government to reduce the influence of lobbyists and put our trust in a single chancellor who could get everyone on the same page. "Space cannot generate enough fear", but fear leads to anger... Ok, I think everyone gets the point.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 02 2014, @06:55PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 02 2014, @06:55PM (#9704)

      I remember shortly after Challenger there were talks of designing a new shuttle that ejected the entire crew cabin, separating it from the rest of the vehicle. This design would allow for a full abort during ANY part of the flight and a safe return for the crew.

      How about just having separate vehicles for the crew and payload? The crew could go up in a light, reusable vehicle designed for maneuverability and self-propelled landing capability, which could turn around and fly home at any point. Less fuel, more flexibility.

      The payload could go up on a separate disposable rocket. The payload varies by mission, but with the Shuttle you had to take the same vehicle every time, meaning the missions had to be planned around maximizing the use of payload space. It was a poor choice that, once NASA committed to it, were stuck with flying infrequent, costly, wasteful missions.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by adp on Friday February 28 2014, @10:41PM

    by adp (1083) on Friday February 28 2014, @10:41PM (#8852)

    The article is talking about cutting corners in procedures. You know where else corners were cut? In Baikonur, in October 1960. [wikipedia.org]

  • (Score: 1) by mrkaos on Saturday March 01 2014, @12:29AM

    by mrkaos (997) on Saturday March 01 2014, @12:29AM (#8907)

    failure *was* an option.

    --
    My ism, it's full of beliefs.