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Space Science

Discovery Set to Launch July 13 161

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the checked-the-bags-preflight dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The US space shuttle is set to launch July 13 for the first time in nearly two and a half years, after being grounded following the 2003 Columbia disaster, NASA said today. NASA experts held a final 'flight readiness review' meeting on Wednesday and Thursday to make a final decision."
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Discovery Set to Launch July 13

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  • whaa? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by maotx (765127) <maotx AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:14PM (#12955385)
    What about the fact that NASA failed [earthtimes.org] to meet three vital safety recomendations Tuesday? [google.com]

    I mean granted, I'm sure they know what they are doing but what happens if we lose Discovery too? We haven't launched in over two years due to Columbia blowing up and I can't even imagine what would happen to the space program if we lost Discovery. Even more so if it is because of one of the failed safety checks.

    From my link:
    The panel said that NASA had failed to satisfactorily eliminate losses of foam and ice from the shuttle's external fuel tank. Additionally, the agency could not adequately strengthen areas of the spacecraft that are at risk of being damaged by the impact of stray debris. The astronauts who are a part of the return to flight mission did not have reliable repair kits, the panel pointed out.
    • Re:whaa? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ndansmith (582590) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:19PM (#12955466)
      Yes, we did not meet the security recomendations, but I don't think that should be a big deterrent for NASA. Compared to the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, the Shuttle program is very safe. Add to that all the improvements they've made since the Shuttle came on-line, and space flight is much safer than it used to be.

      The space business is a dangerous game and everyone used to accepted that. This was when astronauts were larger than life Supermen rather than scientists. I just want to know when the threat of death became an unacceptable risk for exploration.

      • Re:whaa? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by lorelorn (869271) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:46PM (#12955765)
        Exploration? What exploration? The shuttle has so far contributed precisely ZERO to human exploration of space.

        One aspect of the recent tragedy was that those astronauts died on nothing more than a glorified taxi run. Their mission contributed nothing to science, it had no scientific reason to take place

        The sooner we re-focus on real exploration in space the better, and we can do it without the shuttle or the money pit that is the ISS.

        NASA needs to stop wasting money and get on with unmanned exploration of Mars, Europa and elsewhere, replace Hubble, and launch the terrestrial planet finder. All these projects are being pushed back to make way for this current fad of unscientific garbage that explores NOTHING.

        • Re:whaa? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ndansmith (582590) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:50PM (#12955812)
          I agree that there has not been much space exploration done by the shuttle per se, but it did facilitate the Hubble telescope, which has been one of the best tools for space exploration.
        • Re:whaa? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Robotron23 (832528)
          Considering the advances made within the ISS during its years in space already, the astronauts on board don't just sit up there for months twiddling their thumbs, they do a lot of research on a huge variety of fields, such as theeffects of zero gravity on biological organisms. Also, the fact that Shuttles have consistantly maintained projects such as Hubble contradicts your views on its potential replacement! I think you need some trolling practice dude.
        • I suppose you complain that people were doing "nothing more than a glorified taxi run" when they die on the roads, too?

          Face it, most of life is boringly routine, including spaceflight. Not everything has to be about doing bold exploration in to the unknown.
          • Face it, most of life is boringly routine, including spaceflight. Not everything has to be about doing bold exploration in to the unknown.

            If somebody's going to perform a useless boring routine, I'd prefer that the government not waste half a billion dollars of the taxpayers' money subsidizing it.

            • how much do you think we spend on roads each year, bulk of travel on them cold be eliminated. Half billion dollars? (well, for one a orbiter is a few billion, a launch is 600-900 million bucks).

              But going with your half billion, well, the rather mundane intersection between a 4 lane street and a I-880 by me is costing 96 million, so for your half billion you can have a space shuttle that does some interesting stuff, or about 5 intersection that are very boring, used by lots of people doing pointless tri
              • At least each intersection will probably host several hundred million vehicles over a couple of decades of service. Statistically speaking, at least some of that traffic will be of very high importance.

                That compares favorably on a value-per-dollar basis to a two-week ant farming expedition for 7 overachieving geeks.

        • One aspect of the recent tragedy was that those astronauts died on nothing more than a glorified taxi run.
          Guess what 99% of the voyages of oceanographic ships or geological expeditions are? Glorified taxi runs. These runs are the reality of workaday science and exploration.

          NASA and Star Trek have badly mislead generations into believing that unless it isn't Boldly Going - it isn't exploration.

      • More people died in the shuttle program than the others combined.
        • most shuttle missions have seven crewmembers. that's a lot more than mercury/gemini/apollo.
        • sigh. Is it really necessary to point it out?

          More people have died, but the shuttle program has lasted much, much longer than any of the previous programs and has flown many more times than all the other manned missions combined.

          So (# deaths)/(length of program) is lower, and (# deaths)/(# flights) is lower, thus making it safer on average than any of the previous projects.
      • I agree. I mean if you were making a chart with number of deaths per millions (or billions) of miles travelled, is there anything safer than NASA?
        Ask the NHSTA what the automobile death rate is.
        The astronauts still realize the risk. I believe it is an off-shoot of our 'everyone-has-to-blame-everyone' society.
      • Compared to the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, the Shuttle program is very safe.
        Thats a nonsensical statement - since all manned flights *combined* (including the Russian ones) don't constitute a large enough statistical universe to make valid judgement about their safety or lack thereof.
      • Not really. Mercury, Gemini and Apollo all had escape methods available at all times during launch. The Shuttle does not. If anything goes wrong while the solids are lit, you have to just sit tight until they finish their burn. No plan B. The Gemini escape system was pretty hairy in comparison to Mercury and Apollo, but at least it had one. With Shuttle, you just cross your fingers.
        • Not quite. There's an option they have if something goes wrong when the solids are lit, its just never been done before. You seperate them from the external tank while they are still lit.

          Unfortunatly the rest would be unkown. Some say that the stress on the airframe would break it up, some say that you might get away with it.

          If they do, they then have three options. Limp into space and return on a planned re-entry, do a total abort (i.e also jettson the main external tank), and try land, or do a total abo
          • So what's safer, jettisoning the ET while on top of it, or while under it? Because something of my physics knowledge tells me trying to drop it while under it will result in bad things happening to the orbiter.

            When your launch costs $200 million in hardware costs alone, nevermind another $300+ million in refurbishment costs, you don't deliberately "test" abort methods...

            But I can only imagine why booster separation would be a bad thing, and that's that the boosters would scream right by the orbiter, baki
    • Nasa Officials said yesterday, "Our goal in the return-to-flight recommendations was to break the causal chain between debris shedding and killing astronauts," said John M. Logsdon, the director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, who was a member of the investigative board. NASA's actions, he went on, "have broken the chain in enough places that the spirit of the recommendations has been accomplished." I sure hope so.
    • Re: whaa? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Black Parrot (19622)


      > I mean granted, I'm sure they know what they are doing but what happens if we lose Discovery too?

      It would surely mean the end of our manned space program.

      It might well mean the end of our entire space program, since it looks like the unfunded Mars mission serves no purpose other than to kill our unmanned space program.

    • Then don't get off the ground. End of story. This industry will always have risk, and the question is are they brought down to an acceptable level. We've done numerous tests on the ET foam, we've redesigned the bipod area, we've replaced the stuff with heaters. We've developed a boon for detection of cracks, we've developed a tile repair kit and goo to do an EVA tile patch up. We've also developed a rescue plan in the event none of these things have helped. We've gone a long way, and we've done a hell
  • To do a pre-return check of the bottom of the shuttle- especially given that this would be very easy to do with a small disposable wireless camera bot in zero gravity, or even with longer tethers on space suits in the cargo area. Seems like less than an $800 investment could mean so much....
  • oh no! (Score:2, Funny)

    by mindwar (708277)
    july 13? this cant be good.
    • The number didn't have any impact on the Apollo 13 mission. . . . .
      • Never mind the fact that Apollo 13 launched at 13:13 in the afternoon and all the major problems with the craft started on April 13,. . .



        It's a darn good thing that this shuttle flight is STS-114, and not STS-113,. . .

    • Re:oh no! (Score:2, Interesting)

      by richdun (672214)
      Nothing to worry about July 13th. All three major disasters for NASA have happened within the same calendar week (last week of January, first couple days of February), albeit 40 years apart (Apollo 1 - January 27, 1963; Challenger - January 28, 1986; Columbia - February 1, 2003).
    • Well NASA of course would normally be concerned about the 13th being an unluck day, but they figured there was a 30 fold damping factor due to the other 30 days of the "lucky month" cancelling the effect.

      Either that, or the guys and girls at NASA just don't believe in all that superstitious stuff.
      Being full of astronomers and mathematicians instead of astrologists and numerologists, I would guess that the latter is the case.

  • My memories (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Himring (646324) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:23PM (#12955511) Homepage Journal
    We vacationed every summer in FL. It was always part of the trip to visit Cape Canaveral (Cape Kennedy). I have fond memories of it. Hot faced from too much sun, beach clothes and sandals, and seeing those incredible rockets towering into the sky as my dad drove us onto the compound. Little did I know of the history, for I was born in 1968 and at the time was a child. My dad was really into it and took all the time to explain the details of the thing. To me, he was everything, and so was my country. He bought me a Space Shuttle model, and I remember clearly the towering building wherein it all was assembled -- labeled with our nation's flag. I remember the juggernaut machine that traveled at one or two miles an hour which moved the rockets into place. I remember the launch pad, the museum displaying the Apollo crafts and astronaut suits. My dad took lots of pictures. He taught me to believe in our country and in its projects. There was so much pride in me then. I was proud of my dad, our country, our achievements.

    My dad is gone now, and I'm not sure what he would think about things now. I think he would be sad. We have angered countries, lost landmarks and shuttles have fallen. I would not want him to know these things, and I bear them now in his memory, but maybe, just maybe, we can regain our standing as a nation and in space....
    • Re:My memories (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by demachina (71715)
      Gotta say this first, enough with the weekly Slashdot stories about some sorry ass committee saying the shuttle might fly, though there is another committe meeting next week at which point maybe it wont. Can we wait until:

      A. It launches
      B. it land safely

      and stop the week by week coverage of the pathetic bureaucracy that is today's Shuttle program.

      If you want to salvage your faith in American ingenuity and space farering try to catch the Discovery documentary Black Sky: The Race for Space [discovery.com] and its sequel,
      • Yes, let's compare. SS1, while cool in a hobby-kind-of-way, gets to space (suborbital) for something like 10 seconds.

        Compare that to a continual human presence in space for almost 5 years.
        • Lets look at the record for flights putting men in to what is strictly defined as space in the last 2 and half years:

          Scaled Composites = 3 if I remember correctly
          NASA = 0 of this I am sure

          Record for fatal accidents in the last 3 years:

          Scaled composites = 0
          NASA = 1

          How much did NASA spend on manned space flight over this period? Not sure anyone knows but its probably like $10-20 billion, Scaled composites spent like $20-30 million.

          Who broke the 40 year old altitude record for a
          • Scaled = 3 if you count suborbital and a "technical" boundary.

            Yes, we lost seven dear friends.

            Comparing scaled $ to NASA $ is like comparing tonka trucks to semis.

            Yes, 40 years after the X-15, burt and crew are catching up.

            I'm sure scaled has lots of things "on the drawing board" -- and guess what -- they are now begging for NASA funds....

            Yes, the Russians are part of the ISS, but if you think they are solely responsible for the last 5 years, you haven't a clue. The Russians would still be flying in i
            • "Comparing scaled $ to NASA $ is like comparing tonka trucks to semis."

              Such arrogance, you must work for NASA? Those are my god damn tax dollars your wasting buddy, feeding your ego and not doing much else worthwhile with 'em.

              "they are now begging for NASA funds...."

              Really how so Thats OK with me though, NASA sure can't do anything useful with my tax dollars I would rather they gave it to Burt than waste it on their welfare program in Florida and Texas.

              I know Scaled was going to bid CEV with T/Space b
              • I'll take Burt hands down. I'm never gonna make it to the ISS, Burt maybe I have a chance to at least get in to space for a reasonable price.

                Burt Rutan is cool and all, but as far as inexpensive commercial orbital spaceflight goes, I suspect Elon Musk's SpaceX [spacex.com] is going to be first. They've already announced their intent to compete for America's Space Prize.
            • "Oh, and NASA thanks you for kicking them when they are down."

              Oops, forgot this one, NASA's manned space program has been "down" since the early 70's, if we have to wait until the are "up" to kick them then by definiton we will never be able to kick them.

              Please note I am carefuly applying all this venom only to NASA's MANNED SPACE PROGRAM. Other parts of the agency do some great work, especially JPL, the great observatory teams, earth monitoring, aeronautics sometimes, etc.

              Its just the manned space prog

    • We have angered countries


      Hang on just one minute... why is that wrong? Perhaps its those very countries that are the problem and not America. If you do the right thing and make people angry, is that wrong?
    • Little did I know of the history, for I was born in 1968 and at the time was a child.

      I was born in 1979. I don't have any memories of the space program being a big grandiose symbol of just how great the United States is.

      My first reasonably clear memory of the space program is the day Challenger exploded.

      I think that the only memorable (to non-sciency-types) thing NASA's manned spaceflight program has accomplished in the last 20 years is the loss of two shuttle crews probably says something.

    • Little did I know of the history, for I was born in 1968 and at the time was a child.

      I'm no biologist, but believe that this is frequently the case.

      To me, he was everything, and so was my country.

      An admirably holistic approach to life... if enough things impressed you enough to become everything to you, pretty soon *everything* will be everything for you. I recommend reading something about Buddhism [wikipedia.org]. Seriously.

  • Couldn't they have picked a date other than the 13th? At least it ain't a Friday. No, I'm not superstitious or nothing like that.... honest.
  • I'm going to be on vacation within sight range then ... this just made my vacation! (and it's even *gasp* worth ripping myself away from a computer for a week!)
    • To be honest, you may even be able to see it in New York. But the best place to watch is Cape Canaveral and Kennedy. I've been watching them live since 98 and it would be nice to see them again.
  • Didn't RTFA.
  • Meanwhile... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:35PM (#12955648)

    ...more immediately and IMO more interestingly, Deep Impact [wikipedia.org] is going to do its stuff in about 4 days.

  • Quite odd (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Robotron23 (832528)
    Its quite strange. Most of the major news agencys reported recently that NASA had confirmed that the Shuttle could be launched in July, as it was within an "acceptable" bracket of safety.

    Yet less than a week later, the same news networks were saying that a major commission had concluded that NASA infact hadn't met their targets, lumped with a whole lot of criticism of the space agency as a whole, too.

    But as this topic confirms the launch will go ahead apparantly regardless of what this commission found?
    • Re:Quite odd (Score:2, Informative)

      by Boilermaker84 (896573)
      One of the three "unmet" requirements is a usable repair kit. This has been the most technically challenging requirements to meet. NASA has done everything they can to come up with a method/materials to repair on orbit. You can't validate a zero-g repair option in a gravity environment, though. There's a kit in the payload bay which will support repair tests on orbit. The other two deal with ice/foam falling off the tank and hardening the orbiter from impacts. The tank bipod area has been redesigned e
  • No Guts, No Glory? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cloudofstrife (887438) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @07:46PM (#12955769)
    Why doesn't anyone ever seem to realize that all of the scientific advancements that have come through manned spaceflight have come at a risk? Astronauts are strapped into a rocket capable of accelerating the space shuttle (no small object) to 10.7 km/s, many miles in the air (above the atmosphere) and then have to re-enter the atmosphere and land safely after slowing down from many times the speed of sound. With manned space flight, sh-I mean bad stuff has got to happen, and it's a wonder that more hasn't gone wrong.
    • I agree with you quite strongly, however I still don't think that argument really quite works.

      It's one thing entirely to know that something unknown might go wrong and you may die. It's quite another to know that what went wrong last time wasn't fixed.

      I count the former to be an acceptable risk, given the care NASA usually takes and their track record. The latter, I really must concede. They should fix the problems better.
      • But this is not some failed part, this is a random chunk of ice that hit the shuttle wing on liftoff. What if it was spacejunk instead. A meteor?

        Unless we have some futuristic sheilding technology, things hitting the shuttle hard and damaging it are going to happen. By your logic, because we don't have the sheilding technology (or the capability to repair the shuttle in space) then we should just wait around until someone invents these things before returning to space.
        • Actually, to the best of my knowledge it was a piece of foam off of one of the boosters that gouged a hole in part of the orbiter wing. If that hole had not been there, there would not have been extra friction and the shuttle would not have burned up.
  • Why are they launching on Friday The 13th? (Yes, it's Wednesday but the Bloom County kid freaked on the 13th of every month.) Anyway, it wasn't so bad for Apollo 13. :P
  • Space Shuttle Discovery has become too much like the Discovery Channel- too much Monster Garage and not enough Physics. Look at picture number 4. http://www.msnbc.com/modules/interactive.aspx?type =ss&launch=7587438,6955261 [msnbc.com]
    • Re:Possible Problem (Score:2, Interesting)

      by rctay (718547)
      People wouldn't watch a channel devoted to science. They wanted crap. These same people are doing the voting for people making the decisions about space flight. Sometimes the limitations of a representative democracy is all to apparent.
      • People wouldn't watch a channel devoted to science. They wanted crap. These same people are doing the voting for people making the decisions about space flight.

        That gives me an idea for a sure-fire space program that will enjoy the full support of the American public:

        Create two teams each comprised of a combination of rocket scientists and washed-up hollywood celebrities. Pit them against each other in a battle to create the next manned space launch system. Each team is given a workshop, a silo full of

        • That gives me an idea for a sure-fire space program that will enjoy the full support of the American public:

          Create two teams each comprised of a combination of rocket scientists and washed-up hollywood celebrities. Pit them against each other in a battle to create the next manned space launch system. . .


          Not quite what I was expecting, which is: "Who will be voted out the airlock THIS week?!?!?!"

  • Greeeeaaaat (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Reality Master 101 (179095) <RealityMaster101&gmail,com> on Thursday June 30, 2005 @09:01PM (#12956345) Homepage Journal
    $600 MILLION dollars to launch a shuttle, down the drain. I wonder how many probes that would buy? I wonder how many probes a year we could launch if all those resources were put toward them?

    A hundred probes a year? A thousand, if we mass produced them?

    I hate NASA and the culture of "we must put people in space no matter how wasteful and useless it is."

    • Re:Greeeeaaaat (Score:3, Informative)

      by aussersterne (212916)
      Mass produced them? A thousand identical probes? Just how advanced, intelligent, multi-functional do you think our "probes" can be right now? I don't know that we could come up with a really workable *dual* use design (say, one design that could go to both the moon and mars and do useful things), much less a design that would be useful for a *thousand* different exploration/testing tasks using an identical probe in each case.

      What features that are currently technically feasable (at any cost) would you put
      • What features that are currently technically feasable (at any cost) would you put into a "probe" such than 1,000 of them would actually be useful to us?

        Only one feature is needed: Modularity.

        You design a general probe with all the things that wouldn't generally change (e.g., communication, power, etc), and you make the sensors "modules" that can be plugged into it.

        Where would you send them?

        If you can't think of anything to see, get out of the way of people who can. There are ENDLESS experiments

    • $600 MILLION dollars to launch a shuttle, down the drain. I wonder how many probes that would buy? I wonder how many probes a year we could launch if all those resources were put toward them?

      You've forgotten the law of government spending. If you don't spend the big bucks on what the public or congressmen wants to see (even if it's wasteful and has low benefit), you lose all funding for all projects.

      If you don't spend X Million with contractor Y for project Z, you also don't spend X thousand on project A
    • Well, you could give the US military a day off and have both.
  • If I was a bookie, I'd be taking bets on these guys coming back alive. The Space Shuttle is still a flying death trap.
  • July 4: Deep Impact hits comet Temple1BRBR July 13: Shuttle Launches

    July 15: Temple 1 hits shuttle
  • Some good things are associated with 13!!!
  • 1-800-KSC-INFO (Score:4, Informative)

    by G27 Radio (78394) on Thursday June 30, 2005 @11:24PM (#12957299)
    When I moved to Florida one of my friends gave me the number. It's great for knowing when to watch for a launch here--not just shuttles, but any launch from Kennedy Space Center.

    If you call you'll hear in the first 10 seconds of the recorded message that the launch is currently targeted for July 13th. The message said the same as last time I checked a week or two ago.

    Definately a handy number to have :)

    1-800-KSC-INFO for anyone that didn't see the subject.
  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Friday July 01, 2005 @03:37AM (#12958521) Journal
    (The following is from a slashdot story I've tried submitting variations on a few times over the past few days, which has gotten rejected repeatedly for whatever reason. Since it's relevant to the topic of what NASA's planning on doing once the shuttle is retired, I'm posting it here)

    At a recent talk, Michael Griffin outlined NASA's plans [space.com] for helping to generate a robust and competitive commercial market in orbital spaceflight. The speech [spaceref.com] and Q&A [spaceref.com] transcripts from the talk are available. In a move reminiscent of the US government kickstarting the early airline industry by purchasing airmail services, NASA plans on purchasing cargo delivery services to the International Space Station from commercial providers, followed by crew transportation after the systems have proven themselves. Unlike traditional government contracts, sellers wouldn't see a profit before the services are delivered and the emphasis will be on actual performance instead of process and specifications. Non-traditional space companies such as SpaceX and t/Space have found Griffin's remarks encouraging, and Aviation Week has some commentary [ecnext.com].

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