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Space Technology

Soyuz Ballistic Re-entry 300 Miles Off Course 197

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the you-know-you-need-the-soviet-russia-joke dept.
call-me-kenneth writes "Soyuz TMA-11, carrying a crew of three returning from the ISS, unexpectedly followed a high-G ballistic re-entry trajectory and ended up landing 300 miles off-course. The crew, including Commander Peggy Whitson and cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, are reportedly in good health. Soyuz capsules have previously saved the lives of the crew even after severe malfunctions that might have led to the loss of a less robust vehicle."
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Soyuz Ballistic Re-entry 300 Miles Off Course

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  • by tpheiska (1145505) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @10:44AM (#23127492)
    In the article they state that the vehicle returned in "a plunge with an uncontrollable, steep trajectory." So basically it came down without guidance, maybe the steering systems malfunctioned. The "ballistic trajectory" seems to be an euphemism for coming down like a rock.
  • "less robust" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Swampash (1131503) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @10:45AM (#23127498)
    read "Made in America"
  • sort of off-topic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zappepcs (820751) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:11AM (#23127630) Journal
    This is one of the reasons that material/websites are listed as inaccurate sources of data. Rounding is good when you are talking about 1.300056000 billion dollars as 1.3billion. But in the case of simple math that the reader can do on their own rather quickly, it is imprudent to do any rounding.

    A professional news reporter would know that there have been trouble with the US space program regarding conversions to and from metric units. Therefore it is professionally prudent to make sure you are not lumped in with the same idiots who made those mistakes.

    It's not that hard, really. Such things are the stuff of journalism classes from the 50's or sooner. How not to look like an idiot when reporting the news!
  • I'm impressed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Whuffo (1043790) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:14AM (#23127638) Homepage Journal
    They came down in a space capsule on a ballistic trajectory - in other words, dropped like a rock.

    The fact that they survived the experience is amazing. Say what you want about Soviet technology, this was a very, very neat trick.

  • by johnny cashed (590023) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:15AM (#23127644) Homepage
    I would think that once you're experiencing 10G, your course has already been set. It is a space capsule, not a maneuverable atmospheric vehicle. The only control I could imagine is the decent burn, just prior to "falling out" of orbit. Once that happens, it is like going over the hump on a roller coaster, gravity takes over from there.
  • by SteveDob (449830) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:28AM (#23127698)
    In both cases the figure was rounded to 1 significant figure, which is as relevant as is needed for the audience.
  • by FlyByPC (841016) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:36AM (#23127740) Homepage

    In both cases the figure was rounded to 1 significant figure, which is as relevant as is needed for the audience.

    You're trying to explain significant figures to /. ? You must be new here. Good luck, sir.
  • by DieByWire (744043) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:42AM (#23127784)

    But at 10G, the crew's probably not going to be conscious to operated that manual system. 10G is enough to cause G-induced loss of consciousness (GLOC) in anyone, even physically fit, properly trained, and prepared personnel. Even fighter aircraft, where the pilot is in a properly reclined position and is wearing a g-suit, limit maneuvering to 9g, because after that, that pilot's asleep.

    In an aircraft, the pilot's head is necessarily somewhat higher than the rest of his body so that he can see outside, especially forward. That's why high G's result in a loss of blood flow to the brain.

    An astronaut doesn't have that limitation. I wouldn't be surprised if their seating position makes them less vulnerable to GLOC than a pilot.

  • by berashith (222128) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:44AM (#23127796)
    I would also think that having just spent some time in a much less than 1 G environment, that the 10G is even more severe by relativity. Aren't the astronauts a bit wobbly when they return to a normal G load?
  • by Detritus (11846) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:52AM (#23127850) Homepage
    I'd take that report with a grain of salt. The first impulse of many bureaucracies is to blame all problems on the flight crew.
  • by EsonLinji (723693) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @11:52AM (#23127856) Homepage
    Of course, this is still a lot better than what happens to a space shuttle that has problems on re-entry.
  • Oblig (Score:3, Insightful)

    by iminplaya (723125) <iminplaya.gmail@com> on Saturday April 19, 2008 @12:10PM (#23127966) Journal
    "Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?
    That's not my department," says Wernher von Braun.
  • by MrNaz (730548) * on Saturday April 19, 2008 @12:15PM (#23127992) Homepage
    "Such things are the stuff of journalism classes from the 50's or sooner."

    Spoken like a true foreigner.
  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @12:19PM (#23128014)

    The "ballistic trajectory" seems to be an euphemism for coming down like a rock.

    It's not really an euphemism. The definition of "ballistic" literally means to fall like a rock.

  • Re:I'm impressed (Score:4, Insightful)

    by c6gunner (950153) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @12:21PM (#23128022)

    The fact that they survived the experience is amazing. Say what you want about Soviet technology, this was a very, very neat trick.
    Despite the pointless profanity which makes his comment appear to be a mindless rant, JockTroll actually made a good point in his response to you [slashdot.org].

    He's right, there's nothing amazing about the Soyuz surviving a ballistic re-entry, since that's what it was designed to do. This isn't the shuttle we're talking about - you can't compare the two. It's like saying that it's amazing that a 747 can continue flying with one broken engine, while a Cesna can't. You'd be comparing two completely different things.
  • by mysticgoat (582871) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @12:30PM (#23128048) Homepage Journal

    "Any landing you walk away from is a good landing."

    Ancient quotation from the early days of airplanes... and still appropriate.

    Good to have the cosmonauts back in one piece.

  • Astronauts. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by radarsat1 (786772) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @12:31PM (#23128054) Homepage
    Wow. Stories like this remind me of the huge BALLS it takes to strap yourself onto a rocket and fly straight into orbit, and then come back down again. We like to think that technology has progressed so far that things like space travel are safe, and to a large extent it is. But with the shear number of things that can go wrong and the calculations that have to be *just so* in order to get back safely, I am seriously humbled to remember that astronauts are still explorers, and, frankly, still Heroes to mankind. Let's not forget it.
  • Nice Spin (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dun Malg (230075) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @12:37PM (#23128098) Homepage
    I love the "spin" in this line:

    Soyuz capsules have previously saved the lives of the crew even after severe malfunctions that might have lead to the loss of a less robust vehicle.
    Well yeah, it's not surprising that the Soyuz is built more robustly than other spacecraft, given that it has a 20% malfunction rate. It's a classic Soviet design philosophy: when quality and precision are unavailable, substitute brute strength.
  • Re:China (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Original Replica (908688) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @01:22PM (#23128376) Journal
    With the Dollar getting so low (I won't go into the politics of it) even Walmart is getting expensive.

    I think what is happening is goods from China are price correcting. If you think Wal-mart is getting expensive, maybe you should try shopping there on the pay scale of the people who make the clothes you are buying. For many years now the Yuan has been kept artificially low, giving China a strong advantage in international trading. They kept their currency values (read labor cost) low by buying up US debt, which kept the dollar high, Japan may have done the same thing. [treas.gov] In effect, Asia has been subsidizing US consumerism for decades. So the western world moved a huge amount of their manufacturing to China. In 2005 China stopped their policy of keeping the Yuan fixed at 8.28 yuan to the dollar, now it's up to 7 yuan to the dollar so everything made in China costs 18% more. China still maintains some trade advantage as they now have a much better manufacturing infrastructure and labor pool, but the now rising yuan is going to slingshot the standard of living in China up to that of the western world in short order. That means that "Made in China" is soon going to cost just as much as "Made in the USA". Which really just means that the people making it are getting paid a fair living wage, and the item actually costs what it is worth.
  • by khallow (566160) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @01:28PM (#23128408)
    This is incorrect. The reentry was successful. Using a fallback mode is not a failure of reentry, it is a failure of the primary mode of reentry. For example, burning up in the atmosphere or "lithobraking" (slowing down only when you leave a smoking crater in the ground) are failures of reentry. Reading through Oberg's report, he indicates that there were few actual reentry failures and most of these occured early in the program. Further you seem to be counting things like a capsule landing on its side as a "failure". I'm not interested in playing semantics games with the several posters here who claim otherwise. But a failure in a reentry system isn't automatically a failure in the process of reentry. The capsule and crew arrived intact. In my book, that makes the reentry successful no matter how many systems failed on the way down.
  • by Abies Bracteata (317438) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @02:38PM (#23128808)
    ...nothing beats the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) approach.
  • AK-47 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Fifth Earth (1172333) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @03:14PM (#23129056)
    I find it interesting that Russia makes (made) both the Soyuz and the AK-47, which have reputations for robustness and ability to function in adverse conditions, while America makes the M16 and the Space Shuttle, which have reputations for failure in less-than-ideal conditions.

    Granted, I hear the latest versions of the M16 and its descendants are much better.
  • by rcw-home (122017) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @04:16PM (#23129466)
    Very often, especially in American news reporting, you'll see an exact unit converted from a previously-rounded metric figure. To make up an example: "Witnesses said the flames from the fuel tanker crash reached between 328 feet [google.com] to 656 feet [google.com] in the air." Of course, the source they are quoting said "100-200 meters". It kinda sucks because it implies a level of precision that wasn't ever there.
  • by call-me-kenneth (1249496) on Saturday April 19, 2008 @05:54PM (#23130166)
    Oh dear, +5 informative and no-one's noticed that figure's fantasy. No-one's died on a Soyuz since 1971.
  • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday April 20, 2008 @01:23AM (#23132752) Homepage

    I'm not interested in playing semantics games with the several posters here who claim otherwise.

    Yet, that is exactly what you are doing by claiming that a failure of a major system during reentry isn't a reentry failure.
     
     

    In my book, that makes the reentry successful no matter how many systems failed on the way down.

    In my book, when you have a major system fail routinely... you have a serious problem. After all, fifteen crews landed safely despite O-ring failure and dozens of crews landed safely despite tile damage.
  • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday April 20, 2008 @01:37AM (#23132790) Homepage
    The Russian bureaucracy in particular is quick to attempt to shift blame away from themselves. The first computer failure of this type (the current one is something like the fifth out of fourteen flights) was also blamed on the crew. It was only months later that they admitted it was a hardware problem - and that a fix was in the works. Quite a few years have passed by, yet here we are again.

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