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Space

The Shuttle Mission No One Wants 404

Posted by timothy
from the no-one-in-my-room-anyhow dept.
Fourmica writes "USA Today (by way of TechNewsWorld) has a surprisingly insightful look at the planned 'rescue option' for Discovery's upcoming launch. The plan, which has been mentioned here before, is to have the crew hole up on the ISS until Atlantis can launch to bring them home. My question is, why shove everyone into the ISS? Why not just dock with it, and share the life support supplies between the two systems, instead of cramming everyone into the station?" See this earlier story on the same topic.
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The Shuttle Mission No One Wants

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  • Answer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by daveschroeder (516195) * on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @09:45PM (#12219422)
    My question is, why shove everyone into the ISS? Why not just dock with it, and share the life support supplies between the two systems, instead of cramming everyone into the station?"

    Because the shuttle is only a supported flight platform for a very narrow range of parameters on a given mission. Yes, even with all the contingencies. We *know* the ISS is a predictable, stable environment, as opposed to a failed shuttle (whatever the failure is) requiring extended docking with the ISS.
    Therefore, living in cramped quarters for a while and losing/abandoning a shuttle is far desirable to potentially losing a shuttle due to yet-unknown circumstances, *and* the ISS, and all of the occupants of both.

    Better cramped and (relatively) safe than comfortable and (perhaps) sorry, no matter how remote the chances of a catastrophic event caused by unknown/unmanageable failures, even on orbit.

    Finally - jokes aside - wouldn't you think NASA knows at least marginally what it's doing here?

    Or maybe they can use...

    ...the *military shuttle*!! (Hello, WW fans.)

    • Re:Answer (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mat catastrophe (105256) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @09:49PM (#12219449) Homepage

      "We *know* the ISS is a predictable, stable environment, as opposed to a failed shuttle."

      Yes. Rock solid and *very* predictable and stable [spacetoday.net], indeed.

      • Re:Answer (Score:3, Insightful)

        by daveschroeder (516195) *
        Still more predictable and stable than having a shuttle with a catastrophic enough failure to require crew rescue attached to it.
        • Oh, I agree with you. I was just "sayin'," ya know?

          I also agree with whomever made the point about additional mass tied to the station. It would probably require some orbit recalculations and that could even throw off the timing of a rescue launch.

          And that's when those food problems become an issue! OK, just kidding again.

          Now, here's an interesting question: If the failure is really that serious and catastrophic, how do they intend to get the shuttle to the station - or vice versa? I imagine th

          • Re:Answer (Score:5, Insightful)

            by daveschroeder (516195) * on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @10:11PM (#12219622)
            Now, here's an interesting question: If the failure is really that serious and catastrophic, how do they intend to get the shuttle to the station - or vice versa?

            Well, this presumes that the shuttle is still functional enough to get to the ISS.

            This is just a typical reactive strategy, e.g., the last shuttle completed its entire mission, but just *couldn't land* because of the foam anomaly. So now they'll look for this one-in-a-who-knows-how-many occurrence, and have a "rescue plan", as all the people who don't realize how complex this is asked about last time. It's just a contingency plan, because is something even remotely similar ever happened again and they didn't plan for it, NASA would be raked over the coals and heads would roll.

            So, yeah, if something really bad happened, there's no guarantees the shuttle could get to the ISS at all. They just have to plan for the eventuality that it can.
            • Re:Answer (Score:3, Insightful)

              by rikkards (98006)
              So now they'll look for this one-in-a-who-knows-how-many occurrence

              Kind of like how in the states they make you take off you shoes during an airport security check.
            • Re:Answer (Score:5, Funny)

              by mat catastrophe (105256) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @10:27PM (#12219725) Homepage

              So, do you suppose that somewhere in NASA's big manual of back up plans there is a page that says:

              1. Other incidents not yet mentioned...
              2. ???
              3. Mission saved!

        • Re:Answer (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Don Sample (57699) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @10:17PM (#12219657) Homepage
          The only sort of failure that would have them going to the ISS is something that would make impossible to land, such as damaged tiles. Any sort of life support system failure, they can still probably land the thing faster than they can dock to the station.
          • Re:Answer (Score:3, Informative)

            by Jonathan_S (25407)

            The only sort of failure that would have them going to the ISS is something that would make impossible to land, such as damaged tiles. Any sort of life support system failure, they can still probably land the thing faster than they can dock to the station.

            Of course there is a change of a failure that prevented both reentry and docking with ISS.

            One off hand example might be explosive failure of one of the main engines. If it happened late enough in the flight the shuttle might well end up in an eccentric o

      • Re:Answer (Score:5, Interesting)

        by snuf23 (182335) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @10:34PM (#12219777)
        Hey that's not fair. In this case it's the PEOPLE on the space station who were unpredictable. After all they ate the extra food, not the space station.
      • Re:Answer (Score:3, Insightful)

        by fm6 (162816)
        Failing to keep track of food stocks is a bureaucratic problem, not a technical one.
    • Re:Answer (Score:2, Informative)

      by Cognoscento (154457)
      The damaged shuttle would have to be jettisoned before a rescue vehicle could arrive, because the station cannot accommodate two shuttles.

      Maybe I didn't RTFA properly, but I think it means that the shuttle would stay there and be used until they needed the docking port to rescue the astronauts... it would spend most of the month attached, likely.
    • Re:Answer (Score:5, Informative)

      by Amiga Trombone (592952) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @10:09PM (#12219601)
      Because the shuttle is only a supported flight platform for a very narrow range of parameters on a given mission. Yes, even with all the contingencies. We *know* the ISS is a predictable, stable environment, as opposed to a failed shuttle (whatever the failure is) requiring extended docking with the ISS.
      Therefore, living in cramped quarters for a while and losing/abandoning a shuttle is far desirable to potentially losing a shuttle due to yet-unknown circumstances, *and* the ISS, and all of the occupants of both.


      Actually, it's probably simpler than that. IIRC, ISS has limited docking facilities, I believe it can only accommodate one shuttle at a time.

      In order to accommodate shuttle one, it would need to jettison shuttle one, and make sure it's a safe distance away from ISS.
      • Re:Answer (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by tomhudson (43916)
        They'd have to jettison the shu[tt]le for the same reason they'd want to go to the ISS ... would you REALLY want to be on the shuttle after everyone on it has gone "Holy fuck!" and crapped their pants?
      • Re:Answer (Score:3, Interesting)

        by DenDave (700621)
        In addition to the limited facilities there may also be the question of the structural stresses of having a shuttle docked for significant periods of time. ISS would need to use more fuel to maintain proper orbit, if at all possible with a full size shuttle attached, and this may not be a safe option to have ISS maneovering with the Disco hooked up. Better to dump Disco and twirl about on your own.

      • Re:Answer (Score:5, Informative)

        by Dashing Leech (688077) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @10:25AM (#12222956)
        "I believe it can only accommodate one shuttle at a time."

        There are actually 3 Pressurized Mating Adaptors (PMAs) on the ISS but one is the interface between the Unity (Node 1) module and the Russian FGB module. The remaining two can be docked to but if a shuttle is docked to one and a Soyuz is docked to the other (there is generally an "escape" vehicle always attached), then you are probably correct that that one of these vehicles would have to be jetisoned to accomodate the second shuttle.

        However, as to the "cramped" ISS versus using the shuttle too, I don't think anybody realizes the size difference. The shuttle has very small crew space. Both the mid-deck and flight-deck are about the size of walk-in closet. The ISS is HUGE in comparison. In the Unity module it's even possible to get to a point in the middle where you can't touch anything even fully outstretched. (For fun astronauts have put someone there to see if they could actually manage to get themselves out -- since they can't push off anything the only way to move is to throw something hard in the opposite direction you want to move. When all you have is your clothes, there's slim pickings -- and yes, it was a woman they did this to.)

        A "cramped" ISS would be a lot less cramped than using the shuttle.

    • uh...no (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @10:34PM (#12219775)
      "wouldn't you think NASA knows at least marginally what it's doing here?"

      No, NASA is terrified of losing life.

      Along with too many Americans.

      Here's the thing...when the 6 astonauts died in the last shuttle accident it was too bad. Terrible.

      But...it was no more terrible than 6 anonymous people dieing in an accident on the interstate. Its the same thing morally.

      In people's minds though, its worse...and it is, but mainly because of the loss of equipment. People are cheap and plentiful, shuttles are not.

      And shame on NASA and the bureaucracy for not having the b*lls to find a nice way to say the truth.

      So to answer your question, no, I don't think they use their best *scientific* judgement; they're concerned about image.
      • Re:uh...no (Score:3, Funny)

        by B3ryllium (571199)
        So ... uh ... what you're saying is that NASA should use terr'ists as astronauts?

        Then have everyone root for the shuttle to get destroyed?

        Sounds like a fun way to end-of-life the shuttle program - and justify the "Star Wars" program - all at once.
      • Re:uh...no (Score:5, Insightful)

        by robertjw (728654) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @11:33AM (#12223602) Homepage
        But...it was no more terrible than 6 anonymous people dieing in an accident on the interstate. Its the same thing morally.

        Actually, that's not true. I would say some poor schmoe dying on the interstate is MORE tragic than astronauts dying in space. The guy on the highway is probably just going from his crappy job to his tiny house with his bitchy wife (or her abusive husband - let's not be sexist) and bratty kids. The astronauts that die in space are actually doing something they probably have dreamed of doing since they were children. They all know the potential risks and signed on anyway.

        Unfortunately, while we value human life, the reality of the situation is that everyone dies and any type of exploration is dangerous. Where would we be if every exploration expedition in the world was scrapped because of a loss of life. I think we should take every reasonable precaution, but scrapping a space program because a few astronauts lost their lives is just dumb.
    • Re:Answer (Score:3, Insightful)

      Let's say there is a problem with the space shuttle. NASA sends the shuttle to the ISS and starts planning the rescue mission. Directly after the astronauts arrive at the ISS they ditch the old, probably damaged shuttle. Now a month passes food, water and air run out. And all of a sudden NASA finds a problem with the rescue-shuttle, or some other circumstance (bad weather, hurricane that damages launch-facilities). And let's say that this situation is so severe that it is 100% sure that the shuttle is not

  • Fuel (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Easy2RememberNick (179395) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @09:46PM (#12219430)
    Easy, it's the lack of Fuel.

    The combined mass will use more fuel to maintain orbit.
    • Re:Fuel (Score:5, Interesting)

      by JWSmythe (446288) * <jwsmythe@jws[ ]he.com ['myt' in gap]> on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @10:03PM (#12219568) Homepage Journal

      I thought docked shuttles and supply ships were used to adjust orbits.

      According to This Story [mosnews.com] a Russian supply ship was used to move it by 3 kilometers. As long as the shuttles OMS thrusters were working, it should have no problem maintaining its orbit. If the thrusters weren't working, well, they wouldn't be docking in the first place. :)
    • Re:Fuel (Score:5, Informative)

      by Rei (128717) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @10:31PM (#12219757) Homepage
      First off, the mass is not the critical issue; it's the resistance. In fact, more massive objects tend to decay in orbit slower because cross-sectional area tends to rise O(N^2), while mass tends to rise O(N^3)

      At extreme speeds, resistance tends to be proportional to the cross sectional area - it's the main reason that you'll see the fuselage of modern, very fast aircraft/spacecraft often "pinch" near the wings. So if the shuttle is aligned with the orbit of ISS, it won't make too much of difference in terms of resistance. Now, the increased mass will make the ISS's fuel less effective at boosting orbit, but even still, it's not a major issue.

      Decay isn't *that* fast or that hard to compensate from. At the very least, the incoming shuttle can provide ample replacement fuel, in addition to boosting the orbit itself. ISS is at a very high orbit, as far as LEO orbits go. It has a long way to go if it is to reenter; I'd imagine that irreversible orbital decay with the shuttle attached would take more than a year, and would probably be closer to a decade.
    • In orbit (at the hypersonic velocities experienced, think mach 30 or so with really, really tiny pressure), your drag is proportional to your area, so your orbital decay is proportional to your mass to area ratio. An orbiter is really heavy, but isn't very big, area wise. On the other hand, the ISS is mostly thin solar panel, so it has a much smaller mass to area ratio, and therefore decays faster than the orbiter itself, or even the orbiter+station stack. I know this was true when the shuttle docked with M
  • by gangofwolves (875288) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @09:47PM (#12219435)
    I thought they were retiring the shuttle program [slashdot.org]? Personally I am to the point where these shuttle flights are a big waste of money "if" they are not doing anything innovative to help the next breed of space capable crafts.
    • It looks like the primary objectives of the current shuttle flights is to "prove" that NASA is still in the race and that the shittle is not a complete has-been. It is important for NASA to prove - if only to themselves - that the shuttle can make its way to the ISS and back.

      This is /., so a sports analogy is probably wasted here, but it is a bit like the aging football player taking shots and hobbling through a season to prove he's not dead yet.

  • NASA has no choice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by redswinglinestapler (841060) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @09:47PM (#12219442)
    They may hate the shuttle but due to the short sightedness of the last few administrations they have no other viable space lift vehicle available. And they have contractual obligations on the International Space Station. The poor Russians (bankrupt as they are) are pulling more than their share and might get fed up soon if NASA doesnt start pulling its weight. After all the Russian part of the ISS is built independently. They can just close the doors and jettison all the US modules.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @09:48PM (#12219448)
    Sounds good to me. It ain't like this shit is rocket science
    • I imagine their plans are a bit more detailed than the sumbitter makes it sound. Certainly sharing resources has been planned for in a "minor" issue (something that would prevent reentry and/or landing, but not operation in space), but they have to plan for a worse case scenario where the shuttle can no longer be trusted to safeguard the people on board.

      If we both go into the woods, and our plan is to meet up if something happens to one of us, it's great if we plan to share food and water in that case unti
  • New tech needed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by redswinglinestapler (841060) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @09:49PM (#12219453)
    The shuttles are masterpeices of engineering.... circa 1980. Unfortunatly they invested $$$ in a short production run vehicle that seems to still serve the original purpose. If you were to start building one new replacement it would take a long time and cost big bucks.

    If they were to start off with a new design they could apply modern techniques/materials to create a lighter, stronger, more reliable system (i.e. a carbon monocot frame, carbon heat shield skin, computers that have more than 640k of ram, etc)

    After working out the kinks on paper they could build a few dozen (price per unit should go down with increased volume) and launch more regularly. But then again, I'm just smoking crack here, NASA will never see that kind of budget again. Unless we can convience the public that Bin Laden is camped out in his secret moonbase.
    • Re:New tech needed (Score:5, Insightful)

      by XorNand (517466) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @10:26PM (#12219721)
      Everyone likes to point out that a first gen Palm Pilot is more powerful than the systems on the space shuttle. However, keep in mind that these machines are highly specialized, unlike a general computing platform. While a Swiss Army knife might be more "advanced" than a hunting knife, which would you rather have when the only thing you need a blade for is field dressing a whitetail deer? Furthermore, more often than not, a system's reliability is inversely proportional to it's complexity.

      You make a valid point that the shuttle program (or it's successor) could hugely benefit from new tech. However, to imply that it's on it's way to being a usless antique is a mischaracterization.
    • Political (Score:4, Interesting)

      by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @10:34PM (#12219779)
      Even in the 80s it was apparent that the shuttle had some basic conceptual flaws. Everyone else uses cargo craft to launch satellites etc while NASA used a far more expesive shuttle: (it's a bit like flying airfreight in the first-class cabin of an aircraft - it can be done, but it is far more effective to use a cargo plane for that purpose).

      So, instead of spending the 80s and 90s designing better and more suited craft, they kept up the sham that the shuttle is the best way of getting stuff into space. If someone had had the balls to admit a mistake back then, things could have moved along a lot faster.


    • circa 1970. They designed it and started building. It took a few years to get the designed product built.

      From what I understand, they did finally upgrade the computers with ones that had color screens, and ran faster than 1Mhz. :)

      NASA would never build shuttles in bulk. Their price doesn't go down with volume. You forget, these are government contracts. $14,000 hammers, and the whole mess. They don't even put two in orbit at once, I'd never expect them to have a 'fleet' of them. It won't
  • by gangofwolves (875288) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @09:51PM (#12219466)
    NASA has a good record of recovering after a tragedy.

    If you take the Apollo program as an example, the very first Apollo mission was a disaster with three astronauts killed. And yet after that, the Apollo missions were great successes (although Apollo 13 was a close call, of course).

    The Hubble Space Telescope was launched with a faulty mirror, but this was fixed and Hubble's become a great success, too.

    This program will probably go the same way.
  • by natrius (642724) * <[gro.narin] [ta] [narin]> on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @09:52PM (#12219469) Homepage
    There's an easy solution to the funding problem. It normally would hurt to throw away a $3 billion shuttle, but not if you take the right precautions in advance.

    Pass a law giving NASA the sole movie rights to the rescue mission.

    That by itself won't even be enough to cover the cost. But wait... there are 293,027,571 Americans according to Google. At $10 a ticket, that pretty much covers it. But how do you get everyone to watch it?

    Pass a law that revokes the citizenship of anyone who can't present the ticket stub for the movie on request.

    I really need to get into policy work.
  • Uh... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Moby Cock (771358) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @09:52PM (#12219470) Homepage
    How many shuttles can dock with the ISS? If its one , do they draw straws to see who moves Discovery so Atlantis can dock?
    • by abb3w (696381) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @10:19PM (#12219667) Journal
      On the one hand, re-entry is the most dangerous part of the mission after initial launch, and most of the scenarios involve discovering that the shuttle has developed a defect that will not allow it (and the crew) to survive that reentry. On the other hand, the shuttle's computer can probably be programmed to do a timed minimal dock-and-move-off burn without a human aboard. On the gripping hand, the space station also has thrusters for minor maneuvering; it might be possible to undock, and then move the station.

      Mind you, that last wouldn't be pretty, but this is already an emergency scenario. In such cases, people think way outside the box, equipment gets used for alternate purposes, and plans get modified. Sometimes literally.

      "All right, Aquarius, this is Houston. do you have the flight plan up there?"

      "Affirmative, Andy. Jack's got one right here."
      "Okay, we have a... an unusual procedure for you here. We need you to rip the cover off."
      Disclaimer: I am not an astronaut, I just work with one.

      • by StarsAreAlsoFire (738726) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @12:31AM (#12220505)
        What is interesting to me is that they want to ditch the *possibly* damaged shuttle.

        Why? The programmers lost a fight to fully automate the landing; but the code is in the machine. Just have the damn computer land the thing. It already applies the brakes! If I recall correctly, pretty much the only thing the pilot gets to do on landing a the shuttle is tell the computer to put the gear down. Maybe parent can confirm/deny this for me? :~)

        Not sure about flight paths crossing over cities; I suppose that is probably the driving concern about tossing the shuttly in the water. That, and how would it look if the damn thing actually landed fine? ;~)

    • According to This Page [marscenter.it] there are two airlocks, one for the Americans, and one for the Russians. I believe the shuttle itself only has one, so if the disabled one is docked up, you'd either have to EVA through the other airlock, or keep the working one in orbit near by while they work on it.

      I believe the door on the side is strictly an emergency escape, not an airlock. If they open it, it would purge all the inside air.

      Switching shuttles on the ISS is a much more involved than rearranging cars in
  • Meanwhile in Russia (Score:4, Interesting)

    by redswinglinestapler (841060) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @09:52PM (#12219472)
    The Russians seem to have started building their Kliper [mosnews.com] lifting body [wikipedia.org] space craft.
    • In Soviet Russia, Kliper Lifting Bodies build you!

      Sorry.

      Japan is moving ahead with plans [usatoday.com] for space travel as well.

    • by imemyself (757318)
      The Russians have built lots of things. A carrier(Kuznetsov), a shuttle like space craft(Buran, it might be even better than the shuttle), and a lunar rocket(N1). What they haven't done is actually use those things more than a few times.
      • by Zarhan (415465)
        The Russians have built lots of things. A carrier(Kuznetsov), a shuttle like space craft(Buran, it might be even better than the shuttle), and a lunar rocket(N1). What they haven't done is actually use those things more than a few times.

        I was visiting the Avionics Institute in Moscow two weeks ago, and saw a lots of things. One of the most interesting ones was a lecture given us by a professor that had originally been designing Buran's automatic landing system.

        He drew some comparisons to the americ
  • dock (Score:2, Informative)

    by CSfreakazoid (873190)
    There is one simple reason for this decision. There is only one dock for the shuttle on the ISS. Therefore, they must remove the first shuttle before the second shuttle can launch. Until they have confirmation that Discovery is in the ocean, Atlantis will not launch.

  • My guess on the docking question would be that the Shuttle has a relatively short period where it's life support is designed to operate. While the shuttle is operating sufficently, that's fine, but once it's systems start failing (like, running short on power, oxygen, etc), then it's an additional load on the ISS.

    Also, this sounds like a last resort choice, so they'd only be docking up once they're relatively close to running out of supplies.

    Also, if I remember correctly, the shuttle's solar panels are deployed from the cargo bay, which would be impossible to deploy while docked with the ISS. At very least, it would make it impractical to move the shuttle into a more favorable attitude for good exposure to the sun.

    Myself, if I knew I was floating around in a big tube in space, which was the only thing keeping me alive, leaving a big crippled airplane tied to the site through a narrow tube, I'd rather not keep the door open very long. If something happened, I'd rather it peacefully float away, rather than risking that narrow tube become a relatively big hole in the side of my big tube I called home.

    When floating inside a helium balloon, avoid pins.
  • On a similar note... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by crow (16139) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @09:54PM (#12219484) Homepage Journal
    If the shuttle's crew compartments are sufficient for long-term habitation, even if it requires borrowing power and such from the ISS, then wouldn't it make sense for the end of life plan be to leave them up there? Sure, they would need extra docking ports for the next generation system, but it might be a good way of providing more habitable space up there.
  • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @09:56PM (#12219508)
    My question is, why shove everyone into the ISS? Why not just dock with it, and share the life support supplies between the two systems, instead of cramming everyone into the station?

    The ISS can only dock one shuttle at a time. Discovery would stay there, and be remotely undocked prior to Atlantis getting there.

    Seems someone else [technewsworld.com] has thought of this:
    "If Discovery were damaged during launch or in orbit, Mission Control would determine whether the shuttle is capable of safely bringing the crew home. If not, the astronauts would be forced to take refuge aboard the space station and wait five weeks for Atlantis and its crew of four to come get them.
    The damaged shuttle would have to be jettisoned before a rescue vehicle could arrive, because the station cannot accommodate two shuttles. Mission Control would command Discovery to unlock from the station and fire its steering jets, which would send the vehicle plunging down into the atmosphere. If all went as planned, the remnants would splash into the Pacific Ocean far from any land."

  • My question is, why shove everyone into the ISS? Why not just dock with it, and share the life support supplies between the two systems, instead of cramming everyone into the station?


    Perhaps because the shuttle may be too damaged to safely sustain life. For instance, what if there is a slow oxygen leak, or a damaged fuel valve/line venting vapors into the shuttle? I'm sure they planned for many contingencies- after all, they are NASA scientists, and we're not...
  • RC Landing? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eingram (633624) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @09:58PM (#12219519)
    If I remember correctly, the Buran had the ability to land under remote control. Does the Shuttle have that ability? If the crew must ditch, it'd be neat to try to bring the Shuttle in with no one in it to see if it would make it or not.
    • Re:RC Landing? (Score:3, Informative)

      by eingram (633624)
      Nevermind, I just found the answer here [wikipedia.org]. It looks like the Shuttle is mostly automated, except for the deployment of the landing gear. I wonder if there is some sort of override so they'd deploy automatically?
    • Re:RC Landing? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ShnowDoggie (858806) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @10:08PM (#12219593)
      The shuttle will only be abandoned if there is damage. What if that damage causes the shuttle to blow up and a large chunk lands on a building, or several, in Texas? It would be neat to see a damaged unmanned shuttle safely land, but the risk of killing a lot civilians is most likely to great.
    • by porp (24384)
      I hope if they do try such a neat thing as land a damaged Shuttle under remote control that they do it over your house instead of mine. I like my roof and all my stuff inside.

      porp
    • Or better still, why fire the rockets *down* towards earth at all? Why not move it into a higher orbit by Radio and not risk losing the shuttle at all? The shuttle could maintain it's orbit until repairs could be completed (with any needed materials brought from earth) with less risk than a tricky RC re-entry process.
    • Re:RC Landing? (Score:3, Informative)

      by RedWizzard (192002)
      If I remember correctly, the Buran had the ability to land under remote control.
      The Buran was capable of fully automated takeoff and landing. In fact it's only flight was fully automated.
    • Re:RC Landing? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by solios (53048)
      If not, it damned well should.

      The Buran is essentially an aerodynamic copy of the shuttle and was test launched, orbited, and landed by either remote control or automation, I forget which.

      Soviets figured the thing was worthless so they stuck with Soyuz.

      Took us, what, ~110 launches to start to figure that out? :)
  • by csoto (220540) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @10:09PM (#12219599)
    ISS is capable of receiving routine and emergency visits from automated Soyuz and Progress vehicles. They can stay up there indefinitely, get parts to fix the shuttle, etc. A shuttle can only really "doc" with the Science Lab.
  • On another note.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by eingram (633624)
    FTA: By working around the clock seven days a week, technicians could have Atlantis -- which is scheduled to fly in July -- ready about a month after Discovery's liftoff. In such an emergency, NASA would consider setting aside some of the safety rules instituted after the Columbia accident. A requirement for good lighting conditions during launch, to ensure clear photos of liftoff, could be waived.

    So, who would rescue the rescuers if something happens to Atlantis? Endeavour? And after that? I seriously ho
  • Because (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tankd0g (875636)
    Why shove everyone into the ISS and why only a backuup shuttle for the next two launches? Because there is a life boat, it's docked with the ISS, or at least it will be, hopfully by the time flight three comes around. First it will free fall captules, later to be replaced by sort of a "mini shuttle" if it is ever finished.
  • itself gets damaged during lift-off? Wouldn't it be safer/cheaper to use the Soyuz docked with the space station and send up a replacement?
  • by H01M35 (801754) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @10:49PM (#12219900)
    I can understand the need to not scatter debris all over the continental United States, but since the Space Shuttle can, as I understand it, land itself, why not let it land itself in California? If it disintegrates on re-entry, then they've justified the rescue mission. If it doesn't, they've saved a $3B shuttle, (though possibly opening themselves up to the question of why the rescue was necessary). Seems like a win-win scenario to me.

    Which means that I'm obviously missing something. It probably has to do with the degree of 'wreckedness' of the shuttle.

    Seriously though, if there's a good reason to not try to land it, I'm all ears.

    -Holmes.

    • I can understand the need to not scatter debris all over the continental United States, but since the Space Shuttle can, as I understand it, land itself, why not let it land itself in California?

      Suppose the shuttle turns out to be in worse shape than it was suspected? After it's in the atmosphere, right on track for a "safe" area in the desert, suppose something goes wrong. And then the shuttle comes down in the middle of LA....

      Ditching it in the middle of the ocean is much safer than any option that br

  • by Logic Probe (469288) on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @10:52PM (#12219925)
    I thought this [nasa.gov] was supposed to replace the Shuttle.
  • I find it odd... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hamster Lover (558288) * on Tuesday April 12, 2005 @11:03PM (#12220001) Journal
    that NASA is all pent up about sending the shuttle back into space with a feable backup plan when they sent a total of 33 men on 11 do-or-die Apollo missions. There was no recovery for a failed Apollo mission, it was fly or die. Funny how the Cold War seemed to convince many to accept much slimmer margins of error then are currently accepted.

    Maybe the cold war was the best thing that ever happened to the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.
  • by fm6 (162816) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @12:34AM (#12220515) Homepage Journal
    Working on two shuttles at once is not unusual for NASA. But it is unusual for NASA to prepare two shuttles to launch a month apart, as a rescue mission would require. To stay on schedule, NASA had to pull workers away from servicing the third remaining shuttle, Endeavour. "It's really tough to have those vehicles lined up that close together," says Steven Lindsey, the astronaut who would command Atlantis if a rescue were needed.
    Here's what's really sad. I seem to recall that the original plan was to work towards have a shuttle launch every month, indefinitely. That was the whole point of the shuttle program -- to be able to go into space on a schedule. A reminder how thoroughly the program has failed.
  • by Alex Belits (437) * on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @02:55AM (#12221122) Homepage
    ...but why, oh why, an old, simple combination of Salyut/Mir and Soyuz/Progress ships constantly visiting it, was a much more reliable, convenient, useful and cheaper than all this pretending-to-do-2001-the-space-odyssey-remake stuff?

    No one to rescue -- Soyuz docks with Salyut/Mir, all work is done in a relatively large station + modules, and if anything wrong happens, there is another Soyuz attached.

    No giant airplane-thing to land -- a small landing capsule is the last thing you would expect to fail (not that there weren't early failures, but that was long ago).

    Soyuz can sit attached to the station being actually useful, with its living space, fuel and engines, as opposed to the shuttle that mostly produces corrosive gas and stress on the flimsy station.

    If anything is REALLY wrong, another Soyuz can be launched in a reasonable time, and without some insane risk, as long as the Khrunichev factory will continue making what by then can be considered mass-produced parts, as opposed to unique shuttles.

    That was the state of the art two decades ago. Six Salyuts plus Mir operated like this. And there was more scientific work done than bickering and genitalia-waving between participants in those projects (bickering and waving between the countries was another story though). Can we now make something that isn't significantly worse than things that flied 20 years ago?
  • by ewanrg (446949) * <ewan.grantham@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @08:49AM (#12222308) Homepage
    I'm wondering why the preferred rescue scenario is to send up another shuttle? I thought that the station kept a Soyuz module connected at all times as an emergency escape vehicle. So there's three folks who can return. Send up another one shortly thereafter, and there's another three folks. Then you are back to the ISS normal compliment.

    Right?
  • Hurricanes? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SurfTheWorld (162247) on Wednesday April 13, 2005 @09:40AM (#12222610) Homepage Journal
    I wonder how hurricane season will factor into NASA's mission planning (or if it will at all). Imagine if Discovery flew on Sept 1, suffered some sort of failure, which activated the rescue contingency. If all went according to plan they'd fly the rescue mission no sooner than 33 days after Sept 1.

    Imagine if during the month of September the eastern side of Florida is on the ass end of an ass-whipping from a hurricane (or multiple hurricanes as was the case last year). Can engineers safely make the long drive out to the cape to work in the vehicle assembly building?

    How would the high wind and rain effect the crawler that moves the shuttle from the vehicle assembly building to pad 39?

    Before Columbia NASA would've hunkered down and given folks a few days off a storm blew through. But with possibly 7 crewmen stranded in space NASA no longer has that flexibility.

    The bottom line is that violent weather is a very real problem in Florida from late August to early November. I'm sure the mission planners are brighter than this SlashDot poster, but I hope that they've factored in meteorological effects into their rescue contingency.

    -c

Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.

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