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NASA Space Science

Discovery Prepares for Return 189

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the major-tom-to-ground-control dept.
Kailash Nadh writes "Discovery's astronauts packed up their stuff on Friday as they prepared to undock from the international space station now that NASA has cleared the shuttle to return to Earth next week. Their most difficult task before leaving the station was the maneuvering of a huge cargo container filled with 2 1/2 years worth of trash into the shuttle's payload bay. Once back on Earth, the items would either be disposed of or returned to researchers."
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Discovery Prepares for Return

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  • Aldrin (Score:4, Insightful)

    by coflow (519578) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @08:53AM (#13257664)
    I find it interesting that Aldrin is critical of the shuttle program. I know there are a lot of people unhappy with it, but it seems a name as big as Aldrin being critical has quite a bit of meaning. Hopefully this is a sign of a new approach to space travel in the future.
    • Re:Aldrin (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 0xC0FFEE (763100) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @09:18AM (#13257763)
      There's quite a bit of tradition at NASA. For example, the CAPCOM is always an astronaut. This person is, alone, tasked with relaying information between command and shuttle crew. Seems experience as an astronaut is mandatory for conveying essential information in critical times.

      So my guess is Aldrin brings up something important to "the continuity of space exploration" in the same way. Whether you thing this is a PR move or not, I think having people with (successful) field experience in the decision structure is tremendously important. I think the 2 shuttle disasters showed how much managers not grounded in reality can be, well, disastrous.

      • Re:Aldrin (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cahiha (873942)
        I think having people with (successful) field experience in the decision structure is tremendously important.

        People with field experience should be consulted when the situation warrants it, but making the "part of the decision structure" is probably not a good idea. Astronauts have already demonstrated by their participation in the program that they are willing to make irrational sacrifices for a ride into space. Participation of people with that kind of psychological profile only risks wasting more money
    • I think he's just bitter. Being second, and all... ;-)

    • Probably Aldrin is a no-bullshit, in-your-face type that cannot come to terms with the current sanitized NASA. I cannot honestly say that I disagree with him and that attitude.
    • Ok, so Scottie started a fight with the Klingons when they referred to the Enterprise as 'a garbage scow'.

      But now the term honestly applies to the Space Shuttle.

  • by wowbagger (69688) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @08:53AM (#13257666) Homepage Journal
    "... So we went out there with our shovels and rakes and implements of destruction, and we loaded all that trash into the back of a Boeing orbiter, went back inside the space station, and had a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat."
  • Come home safe (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ZPO (465615) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @09:04AM (#13257703)
    Come home safe travellers.
    • It certainly would be a waste of life, just so you can play garbage man in space!
    • Come home safe (Score:5, Insightful)

      How the hell is this insightful? Even a "talking head" reporter on TV wouldn't say this drivel.

      Anyone else just immediately get the urge to metamoderate, every single day?

      God, I am so SICK of the space opera that is NASA. I don't give a god damn FUCK about the shuttle, and the only reason the networks are covering it so closely is because if the shuttle does disintegrate (thus becoming a major repeat "disaster") they'd be caught with their pants down if they didn

  • by grumling (94709) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @09:04AM (#13257704) Homepage
    Once back on Earth, the items would either be disposed of or returned to researchers.

    Attention... Would those of you who have trash from the ISS please come and claim it? If you don't pick up your trash in hanger 12 by 4:00pm, it will be disposed of at your expense. That is all."

    • You have 30 minutes to pick up your trash, or it will be compacted into a cube.
      You have 15 minutes to pick up your trash.
      You have 5 minutes to pick up your trash.
      Your trash has been compacted into a cube. You have 30 minutes to pick up your cube.
  • by p3d0 (42270) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @09:06AM (#13257716)
    Prepare for the flood of "why don't they just drop the garbage into the atmosphere and let it burn up" questions.
    • Well Mr.Knowitall why DON'T they? I'd like to know. As long as you separate out anything potentially very hazardous (radioactives, heavy metals) and you don't throw out massively huge chunks of metal likely to make it through a re-enrty then what's the big deal? MIR did it all the time using old Progress resupply containers. It'd certainly be cheaper than sending a shuttle mission every time.
      • They don't de-orbit it because de-orbiting something is not as simple as throwing it out the window - you have to remove enough oribital velocity from the object to place it into a re-entry orbit. That takes thrust - so you would have to have a means of providing that thrust.

        Like, oh, say, a rocket. Sent up from the earth. By another rocket.

        Which pretty much describes the shuttle.
    • by Rhoon (785258) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @09:49AM (#13257898) Homepage
      The reason they don't throw it into the atmosphere is for a variety of reasons.

      They catalog everything that comes back. They weigh and measure each piece that is returned. They check it for radiation contamination (something that would spread the radiation if it was sent into the atmosphere to burn up). They do tests and experiments to see how the items faired during a long duration such as 2.5 years in space without the protection of the Earth's atmosphere from all the X-Rays, Gamma Rays, etc...

      It's more than just garbage when it comes back, it turns into a science experiment in of itself. I'm sure they collect just as much data on items in space from the garbage that is brought back as they do from the experiments that used those items in the first place.
  • Hauling The Trash... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by creimer (824291)
    ... a huge cargo container filled with 2 1/2 years worth of trash ...

    You would think that they could hurl this stuff into the sun or send it into a de-orbit burn. A certain engineer of late would be offended if someone called his ship a "garbage scow". Alas, I guess that's where the shuttle program is heading.
    • by jridley (9305) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @10:21AM (#13258041)
      "hurl this stuff into the sun"

      Yeah. Calculate how much energy that would take. It's actually pretty hard to hit the sun from here.

      Bringing it down in the shuttle is actually far and away the easiest way to get rid of it. Getting it up there was expensive. Once the shuttle is there, and the bay's empty anyway, bringing anything back is not that big a deal. Some extra mass in the deorbit calculations.

      Why would we spend the time and money to build and attach and pilot a remote deorbit pack when we have the shuttle coming back anyway?

      The Enterprise had 400-odd people on it. I guarantee they had some pretty extensive waste recycling systems. But they had matter transmutation, so they didn't actually have to deal with disposal, they could just feed mass in, and get food/water/gold/clothing/whatever they needed back out again. If you think about it, people in a society with that technology would soon come to view looking at actual trash as very disgusting.
      • It's actually pretty hard to hit the sun from here.

        Not to mention that its the only one we have. Lets not be hurling random processed debris into what could be a very delicately balanced mass reaction chamber, when we have not got clue one as to what the short or long term effects might be.

        It ain't like a fire, only bigger.

        • It's not like there ought to have been at least a few asteroids or comets with a strange enough orbit to run into it already?
        • You're really arrogant enough to think that anything humans can do would have any effect on the sun? The sun would barely notice if we threw in the entire planet.
          • While I tend to agree with you, I'll bit it was not so long ago that most people believed the same of the Earth.
            • The sun was *formed* by matter falling into them. Something hits the sun, its entire kinetic energy gets released. The hotter the sun is, and the more massive the sun is, the easier it is for fusion reactions to occur. It's not some delicate machine; it's physics. When you have high energy particles forced together into close proximity, they get close enough to teach other that quantum tunnelling can bring them even coser and thus allow the strong force to overcome proton-proton repulsion (and thus, fus
              • That's why I say I agree. But I wonder if there is something we could do, that we don't understand yet, that could actually affect the sun. Maybe something that could "foul" the fusion reactions going on there.

                But as for this topic of space-station trash, I completely agree that this trash wouldn't make the slightest impact on the sun.

                In fact, I've wondered if it might be feasible send nuclear waste into the sun. Of course, there's the tricky problem of getting it away from the earth without a tragic acc
          • What does arrogance have to do with it? Oh I forgot, this is slashdot, its a faux pas to respond to anyone without insulting them. You tool. The fact remains that relative to the sum of knowledge that could be known about our parent star, we know almost nothing about its layout and probable life cycle. Assuming that we do is arrogance. Further, I'd rather take zero risks with something that could conceivably wipe out everything within a few light years, if its all the same to you.


        • Huh? The Sun has probably swallowed millions of tons of material; probably every element you can imagine, during the course of its lifetime. And it regularly ejects thousands of tons of material during the course of a year in the form of solar flares.

          Delicate, is hardly a word you can use when describing our Sun.

          And as for us throwing rubbish at it. Well if everything were reduced in size by a factor of a billion, then the Earth would be about 1.3 cm in diameter (the size of a grape) and the Sun would
          • then the Earth would be about 1.3 cm in diameter (the size of a grape) and the Sun would be 1.5 meters in diameter (about the height of a man).

            Remind me, is a bullet larger or smaller than a grape?

            would have the same affect as you walking to a spec of dust so small you couldn't even see it.

            That depends on what the speck of dust was composed of. Since we're taking things to extremes here, lets assume its antimatter. I guarantee you you'd notice if you walked into a speck of that good stuff. I daresa


            • Remind me, is a bullet larger or smaller than a grape?

              Huh? What ever are you talking about? I was scaling things down to a size you could visualize to try and get the point across just how infinitesimally small our waste would be in comparison to the size of the sun, AND how small it is compared the the stuff the sun digests on its own anyway.

              Since we're taking things to extremes here

              I'm not taking anything to extreme, I'm being very realistic. You seem to have a problem visualizing just how small and
              • I was scaling things down to a size you could visualize to try and get the point across

                And I was taking your point and making yet another point, which appears to have sailed merrily over your head, that when you introduce a grape sized body into a human sized body, you get a dead human sized body. Relatively simple system into complex system with unpredictable results, get it?

                I'm not taking anything to extreme, I'm being very realistic

                So throwing our trash into the sun isn't an extreme solution..


                • You only get a dead human sized body when the grape sized body is 1) hard, 2) enters it at speed and 3) destroys a part of the body that disrupts the flow of blood to vital organs. Many times people get shot and survive too. You cannot take this analogy and apply it to bits of rubbish entering the Sun because:

                  1) Any rubbish we throw at the Sun will vaporize before it gets there.

                  2) Any rubbish we throw at the Sun is not going to get there quickly, and even when it arrives, it would approach the sun very s
                  • Good lord its like arguing with a wall. Okay lets just deal with this whole thing in one sweep sparky. I'll put it in bold and and use short simple words just for you.

                    We don't know shit about the sun. If you think you know shit about the sun, you are a fool. Shit is what you know about the sun. Full stop.

                    Now, if you have in fact travelled from the future and are an infamous and well travelled sun-scientist as well as temporal voyager who knows all there is to know about the sun, well I humbly apolog


                    • Good lord its like arguing with a wall

                      Ditto!

                      Ok then let me get real with some hard facts. We know more about the Sun than you're obviously aware of, because we observe it, every day of every year. I've tried (in vain) to explain to you, that the Sun is, has, and will continue to be hit by large space bound objects many many times and still continues to do its thing. But you obviously don't believe me. So how about I show you!

                      Go here> [grandunification.com] and take a look at the movie and data. Yes, its a comet hittin
                    • I strongly suspect I am being trolled here, so I really shouldn't feed this one any more than I have already, but what the heck. Having lost the grape argument, you have degenerated into simple minded mass arguments. Heres a question that might get those sluggish neural channels stirring... was the comet formed of processed debris? Was the comet composed perhaps of the advanced technological cast offs of a spacegoing race? And this spacegoing race, once it blithely decided it was okay to hurl one lump of cr

                    • No you're not being Trolled, you're supposed to be having an adult debate about the merits/demerits of tossing waste into the Sun. Nice attempt at ad hominem though. And if that's the way you want to play it, well I can give as good as I get.

                      Having lost the grape argument

                      Only in your reality distortion field, Sparky. In your warped world, tossing a stone into the sea would likely cause a tsunami off the coast of Australia.

                      you have degenerated into simple minded mass arguments

                      Simple minded ... mass has
                    • Hahahah, ahh this is great. Eh I haven't had this much fun in hours. Let the dissection begin!

                      Nice attempt at ad hominem though.

                      An ad hominem is an attack on an opponent's character based upon imagined flaws in said character. A troll is someone that says things designed to cause debate and inspire emotion, without adding anything constructive to the debate. I see your ad hominem and raise you a strawman.

                      In your warped world, tossing a stone into the sea would likely cause a tsunami off the coast o


                    • An ad hominem is an attack on an opponent's character based upon imagined flaws in said character. A troll is someone that says things designed to cause debate and inspire emotion, without adding anything constructive to the debate. I see your ad hominem and raise you a strawman.

                      So you don't think I've added anything constructive to the debate? Despite teaching you basic awareness of mass, and posting reference material in the form of links to expert web sites (which you have tactfully chosen to ignore on
                    • So you don't think I've added anything constructive to the debate?

                      Nope, not really. Besides doggedly sticking to one flawed perspective and belabouring it in approximately the same way post after tedious, tedious post, the only thing you have really brought to slashdot is exercise for my fingers.

                      In essence, the strawman attack is putting words in your opponent's mouth and then attacking the resulting position, while simultaenously [sic] evading the real argument.

                      Congratulations, you learned wha


                    • Nope, not really. Besides doggedly sticking to one flawed perspective and belabouring it in approximately the same way post after tedious, tedious post, the only thing you have really brought to slashdot is exercise for my fingers.

                      LOL, what a load of revisionist horse shit. I've offered perspectives based on mass, speed, temperature, and composition. You on the other hand drone on, reiterating the same zombie mantra over and over. You think because you can't understand it that no one else should be able
                    • Hahahahahahahaaa...

                      Eh

                      Aaaahahahah

                      Ahhh yeah....


                    • Quoting from this publication from Cornell ... http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/supernovae.php [cornell.edu]

                      Stars of all masses spend the majority of their lives fusing hydrogen nuclei into helium nuclei: we call this stage the main sequence. When all of the hydrogen in the central regions of a star is converted into helium, the star will begin to "burn" helium into carbon. However, the helium in the stellar core will eventually run out as well; so in order to survive, a star must be hot enough to fuse progressively heav

                    • Hahahahahahahaaa...

                      Eh

                      Aaaahahahah

                      Ahhh yeah....

                      Ahahahhhaaaaaaaaahhahahahahah!!

                      Ahhh...

                    • Well, yes, my posting history certainly supports that, as well as the accepted stories. Oh by the way...

                      Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahahahah!!


                    • I agree. Your posting history on this thread certainly does support it. All you offer is conjecture, hyperbole and emotional reactions formed from a vacuum of scientific knowledge on the subject. What are you doing on Slashdot anyway? Its "News for Nerds". Nerds open up things, look inside them, find out how they work and what makes them tick. But your approach to seems to be "Waaaa, don't touch that, you might break it". You're not a Nerd, you're an embarrassment. Even my girlfriend thinks you're
                    • Haaaaaaaaaaahahhahahah... ahhh yes indeed... hahahahah....


      • Yeah. Calculate how much energy that would take. It's actually pretty hard to hit the sun from here.

        Well, it very much depends on how much time you want to do it in. If you want to blast something into the Sun from here and have it arrive within your lifetime, then thats going to require a lot of energy. But if you don't care if it gets there 5000 years from now (and why would you care) then all you need is to give it a small steady push from a relatively inexpensive ion thruster, and when it expires
      • I think NASA would have a problem if the shuttle breaks up over Texas again, but raining 2.5 tons of trash on top of everything else. Even if you do bring the trash back home, you still have to dispose of it somewhere. Which is why a one-way trip to the sun or a de-orbit burn would make sense. You only need the remote hardware long enough to get things into motion. If NASA can position a copper slug in front of a comet, sending trash somewhere else shouldn't be a problem. Of course, there's the moon (a la S
      • Yeah. Calculate how much energy that would take. It's actually pretty hard to hit the sun from here.

        Fine, Mr. Wizard, do your calculations. Just bear in mind while you're doing your math stuff that astronauts are in peak physical condition. Also, they'll be pitching the garbage overhand, not underhand.

    • Quark [spacedoutinc.org]
    • Astronaut 1: 2-1/2 years of trash loaded. Phew! Ready to undock.
      Astronaut 2: Dibs on the front seat.
      Astronaut 1: I'm not ridin' in the back this time.
      Astronaut 2: Well Iiii'm not ridin' in the back.
      Astronaut 1: Yes you are.
      Astronaut 2: Am not.
      Astronaut 1: I'm the oldest, and I am NOT riding in the back.
      Astronaut 2: MOM!!!!
  • Would be any takers if NASA were to auction the space returned garbage on ebay ?
  • Unmanned flights (Score:4, Interesting)

    by roman_mir (125474) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @09:20AM (#13257772) Homepage Journal
    NASA is going to freeze the Shuttle program, but I wonder, Shuttle can fly without anyone on-board, so isn't it possible to do that? Just use the damn thing as a cargo vehicle without people on board. Or have one pilot on it who will take it up, and then if the thing is damaged, have it fly back automagically, and let the pilot stay on the space station and go down with a Soyuz crew.
    • Yes and no... The shuttle can take-off and reenter 100% computer controlled. However it can't land that way. The wonderful designers thought it was too dangerous to let the computer control the landing gear since they can't be retracted and accidental opening means death on reentry.

      So... yes it can.. except some monkey has to be there to drop the landing gear.
      • If memory serves, it was the astronauts who objected to computer-controlled landing gear and insisted upon the change.

        I wonder how hard it would be to retrofit, though...

    • Re:Unmanned flights (Score:2, Interesting)

      by TMonks (866428)
      Saying "the shuttle can fly without anyone on board" is very similar to someone asking why we even need commercial pilots, since the planes can take off, fly, and land themselves. If anything were to go wrong with the shuttle, you might not lose over a hundred passengers, but you still lose over a billion dollars in investments. IMHO, Having people on board to make sure that everything is going right is absolutely necessary to protect that investment. After all, how would you feel if an unmanned shuttle
      • The vast majority of airline accidents are caused by pilots and air traffic controllers. (not the ones in charge of the air-space, the ones in charge of the taxiing around)

        Since automated flight is simpler than automated driving and the vehicles are big enough to have supercomputers hidden away in a compartment somewhere, the question is, "Why do we have pilots in the loop on airplanes?"

        The argument that the pilot can think of a new way out of a situation is a red herring. Plenty of accidents involving pi
    • Re:Unmanned flights (Score:3, Informative)

      by doomtiki (789936)
      In Soviet Russia (this is not a joke), Space Shuttle Buran flew one unmanned orbital flight. It landed in a 57km/h crosswind and was only 1.5m off the center line of the runway. The program was cancelled after the end of Communism in Russia. Buran was destroyed a few years ago when the hanger it was being stored in in Kazakstan collapsed.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuttle_Buran [wikipedia.org]
      http://www.buran.ru/ [buran.ru]
    • They still hand-fly the landing for two reasons - the trivial one is it gives the pilots something to "do". The non-trivial one is the landing programs have never been certified for flight. Given the bucks, they could do so, but last I'd checked it's still an option but not a good one.
  • by Chonine (840828) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @09:21AM (#13257777)
    It is very possible that what we consider waste and what NASA does could differ. Remnants of experiments, minilabs that belong to schools, old journals, outdated equipment, failed equipment... I think a big part of the reason to take it all back is so the engineers can find out failure points, reuse or sell older equipment, for NASA historians and archivists to keep any documentation, and to give loaned items back to their respective owners.
    • I doubt if much of the waste is that useful. (A lot of it much be just ordinary household trash, or worse.) A bigger reason for bringing it back is the simple difficulty of disposing of it in orbit. There's already a lot of crap in orbit -- that's why there's such a shortage of launch windows.

      But come to think of it, this is a long term problem. If the station is ever finished (which is pretty doubtful at this point), it'll be generating several times as much trash as it is now. Were they really planning

  • by murderlegendre (776042) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @09:22AM (#13257785)
    Next time, get ahold of Richard Benjamin, Tim Thomerson, Richard Kelton, Tricia Barnstable, Cyb Barnstable and Conrad Janis.
  • by fuzzy12345 (745891) on Saturday August 06, 2005 @09:28AM (#13257809)
    I wasn't watching around the clock, but I saw no evidence of any science being done at all on this mission.

    NASA uses the word 'science' as a figleaf. What they mainly do is engineering, and they badly do what they should have perfected 20 years ago.

    Microchips have become routine, brain surgery has become routine, but in 'rocket science' there's been no progress. It's a process and internal culture issue, and it isn't being fixed.

  • LISTER: Quagars?
    RIMMER: Quagaaaars! It's a name I made up! Double A, actually! I believe the Quagaars have the technology to give me a new body!
    LISTER: The perfectly preserved remains of a Quagaar warrior! [nildram.co.uk]
    LISTER: Yeah, right, Rimmer. Absolutely.
    RIMMER: They must have looked something like ... a roast chicken.

    RIMMER: IT'S A SMEGGING GARBAGE POD!!
  • Seems more like an 'itinerary'...but anyways...

    -Go out shopping for food, supplies *tick*
    -Take vehicle for preventative repairs/maintenance (done...sort of)
    -Fill up vehicle *tick*
    -Check tires (give it a kick)
    -Blast off *tick*
    -arrive at camp site
    -Unload food and supplies *tick*
    -Check vehicle still okay (done...issues found)
    * had to go underbonnet to remove some stuff
    * inspected paint job near windscreen?
    -Clean up room
    -Bag trash-rubbish, put back into vehicle *tick*
  • Wow.

    That is a terrible lot of pain just to get some trash.

    They had to do more than that on this mission.

    Besides tugging at fabric and picking up the trash....

    What are some other things they accomplished?

       
  • I wish the astronauts a safe return however, once they are on the ground, this question must be asked:

    1: How can the USA spend close to 2 billion dollars and have so little to show for it? The shuttle underwent so many upgrades but all in the industry were surprised that stuff was falling of the shuttle.

    2: Would it be a better idea to let those who can do much with so little (read Russians), do our space work since they can do precisely that? After all, a good number of our industrial base is being out-so

  • The best and most bracing recent analysis I've seen of the Shuttle and its current situation is A Rocket to Nowhere [idlewords.com] by one Maciej Ceglowski. "The goal cannot be to have a safe space program -- rocket science is going to remain difficult and risky. But we have the right to demand that the space program have some purpose beyond trying to keep its participants alive. NASA needs to take a lesson in courage from its astronauts, and demand either a proper, funded mandate for manned exploration, or close down the
  • I have seen a couple of posts recommending souvenir sale or recycling in orbit of the trash. I would propose bagging it up and storing it against some side of the ISS as added shielding during solar flair events. There is also some hope of some means of recycling some of it in the future, and there it will be for the picking -- sort of an extreme form of Dumpster diving.

    There are plans to recycle urine, but we haven't been doing this up to date. Solid human waste matter is definitely not recycled, and

  • Garbage scow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by isomeme (177414) <cdberry@gmail.com> on Saturday August 06, 2005 @01:26PM (#13258943) Homepage Journal
    Their most difficult task before leaving the station was the maneuvering of a huge cargo container filled with 2 1/2 years worth of trash into the shuttle's payload bay.

    When, at the age of seven, I sat enthralled by the Apollo XI landing in 1969, I would never have believed that our most sophisticated space vehicle in 2005 would be an aging garbage truck traveling a couple of hundred miles from Earth to visit a space station with no purpose.

    I can't even think about this for too long; I start shaking with the force of my anger and disappointment.
  • Their most difficult task before leaving the station was the maneuvering of a huge cargo container filled with 2 1/2 years worth of trash into the shuttle's payload bay. The billion dollar garbage truck! woohoo!

What this country needs is a dime that will buy a good five-cent bagel.

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