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NASA Science Technology

Astronauts Having Trouble With Tranquility Module 300

Posted by timothy
from the now-release-your-anger dept.
Coldeagle writes "Astronauts ran into trouble while trying to connect up the new Tranquility module onto the ISS. A critical insulating cover didn't fit quite right: 'The fabric, multilayered cover is supposed to go between Tranquility and its observation deck, but the metal bars are not locking down properly because of interference from a hand rail or some other structure at the hatch.' One has to wonder if this is another imperial/metric snafu."
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Astronauts Having Trouble With Tranquility Module

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  • Metric Everywhere (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elzurawka (671029) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @05:06PM (#31137594)

    Atleast in scientific application there is no reason to use Imperial. Metric makes all calculations simpler, and is accepted by a much larger portion of the world, and should be the standard in all science.

    • by AdmiralXyz (1378985) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @05:22PM (#31137716)
      You're absolutely right, but I detect in your voice that you think some people disagree with you. This is something I see a lot, especially from Europeans: the assumption that Americans are actually fanatical supporters of the Imperial system. The truth is, we don't like it (can't speak for the UK, but I suspect it's similar). There isn't anyone in America who actually believes that the Imperial system is easier or more useful. The reason it persists is simply one of tradition, and the enormous expense (in terms of money and headaches) it would take to move the entire country over to a new system.

      For example, I have basically no concept in my mind of how far a "kilometer" is. Oh, I know it's .62 miles, and I can usually do the conversion in my head, but I don't have an intuitive, subconscious sense of how far a kilometer is, like I do for a mile. I suspect most people raised on the metric system are the same way for Imperial units, it's just not easy to get a natural sense of the units you didn't grow up with. An entire country of people who don't have an intuitive sense of the units they're using would be chaos.
      • by socceroos (1374367) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @05:32PM (#31137790)
        Not to mention movies like "the Green Kilometer" - doesn't have the same ring to it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ircmaxell (1117387)
        I am an american, and I do believe the Imperial system is a lot easier to use. For me. Because that's what I learned from day 1. Do I think it's better? No way. Do I think it should be changed to metric? Absolutely. But the fact that most people would have a very hard time with switch is why it hasn't happened. The only way it would be able to happen is with a (possibly multiple) decade long "dual usage"... That way kids would be taught from the beginning, and regular people would have time to lear
        • Well, we changed our currency in a couple of years. I know it's not the same, but it hardly caused any major issues. And the Spanish didn't have a nice conversion: an Euro is 166.386 Pesetas. Doing conversions in your head was troublesome!

          • by GIL_Dude (850471)
            Changing currency is easy compared to dealing with conversions in things like maintenance. "We need some new bolts to replace these old ones on the bridge. The manual says they are 7/8". What, we can only get 19 cm ones? Those don't fit." Equipment in refineries, pipelines, trucks, etc. all have long lifetimes and need replacement parts. I think we SHOULD change over, but it isn't simple and it isn't easy.
            • by bussdriver (620565) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @07:29PM (#31138840)

              The rest the world has to deal with english, American technical terms, corporations, IP laws, military bases, a hysterical anti-terror crusade and occasionally our messed up measurement system. Yet Americans can't handle having to transition to metric because it would be too hard and too difficult. The greatest generation could have done it, but not the current ones - its beyond their abilities.

              Legacy parts? live with it. Eventually, they stop being produced anyhow. It can take decades to move hardware but a ton of stuff can be moved quickly.

              Bunch of wimps. I know, I live here.

          • We (the Spanish) didn't have a truly terrible time with it, because 6 Euro happened to be damn near 1000 Pesetas (it's actually €6.01, but no one cares), so we were saved by the inverse relationship. That was the reference point that everyone used during the transition, and in fact most people still think of large amounts of money in terms of millions of pesetas. This is why you'll often hear people calling €6000 "un kilo" (1 million pesetas used to be called a "kilo" - no, it doesn't make sense).

        • Whenever they attempt to introduce metric here, the first thing you see is old ladies on the TV news bitching about the road signs being wrong.
        • by barzok (26681)

          The only way it would be able to happen is with a (possibly multiple) decade long "dual usage"

          It was tried 30 years ago [wikipedia.org] and some small-scale attempts are still in progress. The problem is that it's all small-scale so it won't really make inroads.

        • by Blakey Rat (99501)

          I'd be fine if we picked one or the other and stuck with it. My biggest problems are the interactions between the two systems.

          The other day, I couldn't get the damned oil pan drain plug out of my Chrysler car. Why? It's a Chrysler car, build in the Americas (well, Mexico, close enough), but the damned drain plug is a *metric* size. (Size 13... 13mm? I guess?)

          I had to borrow a wrench for it... in a million years, I'd never guess Chrysler would use a metric size. (In retrospect, I'm guessing they standardized

          • by karnal (22275)

            I've been around Ford and Chevrolet vehicles for the past... oh, as long as I've been driving. As long as I've been changing my oil, they've always used metric (14mm to 16mm, depending on vehicle).

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 14, 2010 @05:39PM (#31137856)

        Oh well, re-adjusting your intuition to new units of measure isn't nearly as hard as it seems at first, before you actually have to do it. I say this as an european, who not that long ago switched from a national currency to an european one. Back then, many people were scared of the very same thing, but it really didn't take long for people to adapt. I guess it would be pretty much the same for any physical unit relevant for people's everyday lives.

        • Re:Metric Everywhere (Score:4, Interesting)

          by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Sunday February 14, 2010 @05:59PM (#31138030)

          Indeed. I'm an American, but I'm familiar with SI units. If I tell a friend that something is about two meters long, he's surprised, but he understands what I mean. That goes for everyone. Even in the US, people intuitively grasp how much a liter is, how heavy a kilogram is, and how long a kilometer is. We seem to have more trouble with temperature and speed though. I'm still a little taken aback when I drive into Canada and see speed limits far higher than what I'm used to.

          • by frdmfghtr (603968)

            Indeed. I'm an American, but I'm familiar with SI units. If I tell a friend that something is about two meters long, he's surprised, but he understands what I mean.

            I've seen signs posted using metric dimensions (mainly boats, expressing lengths in meters) and somebody would scribble on the sign "This is America, we use feet here." Probably the same stubborn type that blames anything and everything on those "damned commie liberal pieces of shit."

            Some argue that Imperial units work better, since things desig

          • Even in the US, people intuitively grasp how much a liter is, how heavy a kilogram is, and how long a kilometer is.

            I don't, except for the liter since that's how soda is sold. I guess that weighs about a kg, but that doesn't help much. There may be athletic events measured in meters, but that also doesn't help with my intuition!

      • It's mainly educated people. There is a large percentage of our populous that wants creationism in schools and thinks that telling teens to abstain works.

        When visiting other countries switching over to metric for time and distance takes all of a week to get into my head. It helps that all those countries are in Metric. So when I want to go from Delhi to Agra. I know it's X km and trains travel about X km/hr, so it'll take X hrs.

        It's like Americans that point at manual transmissions and claim that takes too

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by dgatwood (11270)

          When visiting other countries switching over to metric for time...

          How are those ten day weeks working out for you, anyway? :-D

        • by darthflo (1095225) *

          take all of a week to need to order 2kg instead of 1lb.

          Are you sure this switch hasn't happened yet? All those obesity problems sure make it look like it did. ;)

        • Grocery store patrons would take all of a week to need to order 2kg instead of 1lb.

          Well, if I wanted a pound, I think I'd order 0.5 kg rather than 2 kg. Why buy four and a half pounds of meat when you need one?

          Oddly enough, I've never had any problem dealing with either SI or Imperial. Contrary to rumour, there's no real ease of use difference - it's not like we do our math with sliderules anymore, and my calculator can divide by 12 (or 5280 or whatever) as easily as it can by 10.

        • ...to order 2kg instead of 1lb.

          Actually, 1 pound = aprox. 0.45 kg.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Blakey Rat (99501)

          When visiting other countries switching over to metric for time and distance takes all of a week to get into my head.

          No countries use metric time.

          Grocery store patrons would take all of a week to need to order 2kg instead of 1lb.

          And get four times as much as they wanted?

          While I get the point of your post, you're not really demonstrating a good fundamental knowledge of metric here. :)

      • Europeans: the assumption that Americans are actually fanatical supporters of the Imperial system. The truth is, we don't like it (can't speak for the UK, but I suspect it's similar). There isn't anyone in America who actually believes that the Imperial system is easier or more useful. The reason it persists is simply one of tradition

        One thing that Imperial units have going for them is that they better divide by 3 and 4. 12 and arguably 60 make a "nicer" unit base mathematically. Ten is merely a happenstanc

        • One thing that Imperial units have going for them is that they better divide by 3 and 4. 12 and arguably 60 make a "nicer" unit base mathematically. Ten is merely a happenstance of tetrapod evolution. A "smart" god would have given us 12 digits instead of 10.

          By that argument a power of two should surely be best, but I expect that fourteen fingered aliens would favor base fourteen anyway.

      • by zoney_ie (740061)

        Ah sure it's childsplay to switch over.

        Just gradually use km on new road signs. Sure it's no big deal if people get a bit confused as to whether the distances are miles or kilometres. Then 20 years later you can finally change the speed limits to km/h overnight. Admittedly this is a bit of a more major cost/manoeuvre, but sure by now people will just want an end to it all, and most people would agree a mix of km/h and mph speed limits is not good.

        I kid you not, this is pretty much what happened here in Irel

      • Honestly? I've been living on metric for as long as I can remember and I have no concept of a "kilometer" either. Why? Because it's just "a few minutes of walking" or "a few seconds of driving". 1 or 1.6 kilometers isn't a big difference there.

        What I have trouble with when I'm in the US is mostly with more "handy" values. I know a can here is 0.33 or 0.5 liters. A bottle is 1, 1.5 or 2 liters. And, curiously, the cans and bottles have the same size in the US. So picking one up isn't so much of a problem. Th

      • by Gordo_1 (256312)

        An entire country of people who don't have an intuitive sense of the units they're using would be chaos.

        Quick, time travel back to Canada circa 1973 and warn them of impending doom!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rorschach1 (174480)

        When I picked up a camper van in Auckland and started driving around New Zealand (and once I'd gotten over my initial terror at driving on the wrong side of the road) I found it was really easy to adapt. I made a game of it for an hour or so, trying to pick an object in the distance when I thought it was 1 km away and watching the odometer to see how close I was.

        The only time it nearly caused a problem was one evening when I came to a turn that was marked <<<< 45 <<<< and I instinct

    • Most Chinese/asian made components are metric, but these sort of high tech/super high quality American made components are usually only Imperial. "Scientists" can do their maths in whatever units they like, but at some point they have to use components that actually exist. And even many of these metric parts have fun values like "2.54 mm" as standards... A big part of the reason high quality components are Imperial is because that is what all the shop equipment used to make them are designed for, and replac
      • by vlm (69642)

        And even many of these metric parts have fun values like "2.54 mm" as standards

        Thats not a metric part, thats a 0.100 inch pin spacing expressed metrically.

        Thats like reporting the length of the space shuttle in cubits, then using that number to describe it as a "biblical" spacecraft, since it was reported in cubits.

        • That's exactly my point. Even the most popular standard "metric" parts in design use today are really Imperial.
          • "That's exactly my point. Even the most popular standard "metric" parts in design use today are really Imperial."

            And that surely has nothing to do with the fact that USA goes Imperial.

            Change USA to metric and you'll see what happens with all those 25.4mm components.

          • Bad example. Pin spacing in multiples of 1/10th of an inch was the standard for through-hole electronics components, but with the switch to surface mount everything is being switched over to mm. The first and largest surface mount packages (SOIC, PLCC, etc) used 1/200 in spacing, but pretty much everything smaller is using fractions of a mm. And connectors smaller than your standard humongous (these days) pin headers are also done in mm: flat flexible cables, tighter pitch connectors (e.g. the pin headers o

    • There's absolutely no reason to think this has anything do do with units conversion, that's just a silly strawman.

    • Do Italians even use Imperial units? The Tranquility module and the cupola were both designed and built through the Italians and the European Space Agency. I seriously doubt conversion had anything to do with it. I'm sick of people making such dumb statements as the submitter did without checking simple facts beforehand.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CharlieG (34950)

      Actually, Aircraft , and for that matter, almost all machine shop work is done in decimal inches (of course except for fastener sizes, which are their own odd 'wire gage' sizes, but are not really added/subtracted), and measurements are usually NOT reduced to feet and inches, so you'll see things like 78.50 inches (and yes, the significant figures matter for tolerances, so 78 1/2 - which yes is sometimes used in old drawings is different than 78.5, 78.50 and 78.500)

      So, yes, metric IS easier, but the inch sy

  • Tape? SS wire (what's used for tying down hoodpins on racecars and securing critical bolts) or aircraft cable (used with crimping connectors for tamperproof seals), some velcro bands, rope?
    Didn't they learn anything from the apollo missions?
  • duck tape (Score:2, Funny)

    by mikey177 (1426171)
    it can fix anything!
    • Not quite. If at first it doesn't fit then get a bigger hammer! THEN you patch with duct tape and baling wire.
  • Um, no one doesn't (Score:4, Insightful)

    by afabbro (33948) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @05:17PM (#31137664) Homepage

    One has to wonder if this is another imperial/metric snafu.

    Uh, why? Yes, NASA made that mistake once, ten+ years ago. Aren't there plenty of other mistake categories that are just as if not more likely?

    • by Nyeerrmm (940927)

      Yeah, this sounds much more like an issue of not thinking through interferences and tolerances well enough. Those problems tend to be hard to find in a computer model, since its all perfectly precise in those cases.

      Of course it could also just be that something else was attached improperly and causes everything else to be messed up. There are a huge number of issues that this could be, and I think maybe the poster just has an axe to grind with Imperial units.

  • Hubble (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @05:18PM (#31137670)
    The Hubble misfocusing problem wasn't due to English-metric stuff. A contractor was assembling an optical apparatus and was supposed to be adjusting the focal length to a point inside some hollow cylindrical cap with a hole bored in its center. When adjusting their eyepiece they missed the hole, and centered instead on a shiny point near the edge of the cap that was also reflecting laser light, because the paint had been scratched there. They couldn't get the focus knob to rotate far enough as they would need to get this paint scratch into focus, so they drove out to a hardware store, bought some flat washers, inserted them on the threaded rods holding up the laser, and elevated the focusing section out a bit so they could dial the focus length to properly get the length to the scratch right.
    • They aren't talking about Hubble. The classic example of an imperial-metric snafu is the Mars Climate Orbiter http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Climate_Orbiter [wikipedia.org] which was lost because the software measured force in pounds while the thrusters gave results and throttled accordingly by newtons. This is not the only time an Imperial-Metric screwup has occurred but this is the most expensive. There have been multiple minor issues in the past on the ISS related to units issues.
      • by Rockoon (1252108)
        There are two valid solutions to the classic problem of accidentally mixing imperial and metric.

        One solution is to use only metric.




        The other solution is to use only imperial.


        I blame the rest of the world for trying to force their system of measurement upon us.
      • The classic example of an imperial-metric snafu is the Mars Climate Orbiter http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Climate_Orbiter [wikipedia.org] which was lost because the software measured force in pounds while the thrusters gave results and throttled accordingly by newtons.

        WRONG. The data was supplied to the mission analysts was in lb-seconds. The program they used to do the mission analysis expected the data in newton-seconds. And, once again, that particular error was far from the most damning part of the issue.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Tablizer (95088)

      I also heard that they skipped an integrated (final) test to save money, relying on unit tests instead (like the paint scratch story you give). As we in the software biz know, unit tests are not a true replacement for the real thing. Unit tests merely reduce the problems in the final contraption, not prevent them.

      • True but then NASA pretty much invented formal interface definitions, and as a result integration tests of hardware go much smoother than might be expected. And it is only hardware anyway. Its a bit like what my wife does as an architect. She specifies this type of wall and this type of fitting and expects them to work on site.

    • by Blakey Rat (99501)

      Who said anything about Hubble?

      • I did.

        It's probably the most famous example of a misconstructed space module, and ordinarily one might have to wonder if it was an imperial/metric snafu.
        • by Blakey Rat (99501)

          Uh, it's not in the article and it's not in the summary, and Hubble's flaw had nothing to do with imperial/metric. That was a reference to Mars Climate Orbiter.

          So, in short, fail.

          I love the use of passive voice, instead of saying "I'm the one idiot who thinks the Hubble has anything to do with this story" you can say "one might have to wonder."

  • by koan (80826)

    Don't they have mock ups on the ground and quality control for these issues?

  • Not an issue (Score:5, Informative)

    by pyrrhonist (701154) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @05:35PM (#31137818)

    One has to wonder if this is another imperial/metric snafu.

    Probably not. From the article:

    The $27 million, Italian-built observation deck sports the biggest window ever flown in space. In all, there are seven windows that will offer 360-degree views.

    The 11 astronauts aboard the shuttle-station complex opened the door Friday to the $380 million Tranquility, also made in Italy for the European Space Agency. The door leading from Tranquility into the observation deck was opened soon afterward, and that's when shuttle pilot Terry Virts and Kay Hire encountered the cover problem.

    So, now even submitters aren't reading the article? Damn...

  • by chelberg (1712998) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @05:42PM (#31137882)

    The problem has been fixed, it was interference by some bolts.

    "Late Saturday, the space station's commander, Jeffrey Williams, reported that bolts seemed to be causing the interference. He removed all eight bolts, saying the clearance would be tight but that the cover likely would fit. It did, with some coaxing Sunday."

    http://apnews.excite.com/article/20100214/D9DS3UOO1.html [excite.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by d474 (695126)

      "...bolts seemed to be causing the interference. [b]He removed all eight bolts[/b], saying the clearance would be tight but that the cover likely would fit. It did, with some coaxing Sunday."

      ...And in other news, the International Space Station exploded and fell apart for some [i]unknown reason[/i] today.

    • The article doesn't say if the eight bolts were reinstalled or if the bolts are necessary. I doubt that there would just be a bunch of unnecessary bolts on the International Space Station, and yet...

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by oljanx (1318801)
      Awesome. Now I have some ammunition for the next time my wife insists something I've assembled is a "death trap" because there are leftover parts.
  • Better coverage? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vlm (69642) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @05:43PM (#31137892)

    Here's another mystery. Why does the headline link to a story at USATODAY.COM ?

    You wanna know whats up with some peculiar internet routing? OK, we get quotes from the guys with hands on the SSH session keyboards right off the NANOG mailing list.

    You wanna talk about apple stuff, Woz himself posts here, although all he talks about is his Prius accelerating.

    You wanna talk about amateur space exploration, John Carmack himself posts here about his peroxide motors.

    You wanna talk about star trek, you get CleverNickName posting, although not since October.

    I figure Don Knuth, linus, and RMS probably post here too, although AC.

    Here is a very interesting spacecraft story, and we get a hyperlink to USA-freaking-today.com. USA-freaking-today.

    Slashdotters you should be ashamed of yourself for slashdot linking to USA-freaking-today, I know theres a genuine NASA console jockey out there whom can post the real goods, AC at least...

  • by ChrisCampbell47 (181542) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @05:58PM (#31138020)

    Even if this gets modded up to +5, it's going to be buried under a dozen pointless and irrelevant posts about imperial vs. metric ...

    From the ISS Flight Director briefing on NASA TV at 1:30pm today:
    http://www.space-multimedia.nl.eu.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5693:sts-130-iss-flight-director-update-fd-7-8&catid=1:latest [eu.org]
    [transcribing] "Crew was able to use their eyes and hands and gave good info on interference along with photos, Jeff has had a lot of hands on the hardware and he's given us the best info. His info allowed us to validate what he's seeing with our records on the ground. Actual interference is just a bolthead, that caused us to question our clearance analysis. We went back and looked at it since we don't want clearance issue when we install Cupola on nadir, and found that we have more clearance than originally expected."

    From the Flight Day 8 "execute package" sent up around 3pm to the Endeavour astronauts:
    ( http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/426345main_FD08.pdf [nasa.gov] )
    "Because of your excellent work in checking interferences, we are now comfortable with
    proceeding with cupola depress and relocate today!!! Thanks so much!!!"

    From the NASA TV schedule, Tuesday:
    CUPOLA MLI REMOVAL 10:39 PM EST / 03:39 UTC

    After that the windows can be opened, which is what we're all waiting for!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Gudeldar (705128)
      This is Slashdot, the articles are just an excuse to argue about our pet issues. Just look at the article about the proposal to create a national climate service. It had absolutely nothing to do with whether anthropogenic global warming was valid or not yet the vast majority of comments were arguing for or against it.
  • But its the reports that like to post the problems not the successes, its like there biases against NASA. Tranquillity is the worlds biggest glass out house, plenty to see there and plus there put the gym in there. Its usages to science is probably quite low. But when it comes to space tourism and making videos of astronauts in space, its the businesses. When they get it working, and i'm sure the will. The ISS can boost its film rights and tourism value, to get new heights hopefully enough to keep it in spa
  • Cliche mushup (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Tablizer (95088)

    "Houston, this is Tranquility Base here, we have a problem."

    Actually, when Apollo 11 landed and announced, "Houston, this is Tranquility Base, the Eagle has landed", mission managers were initially confused because they'd never heard the phrase "Tranquility Base" in training. Neal threw that in as a surprise. That teaser, Neal.
         

  • Inside Scoop (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 14, 2010 @06:10PM (#31138102)

    I work for Boeing (the main contractors for the ISS) and the problem is that the cover will not retract over one of the CBM (common berthing mechanisms) where they wish to install the Cupola. It is actually no impact to Tranquility which is working wonderfully so far. This issue has at this time already been resolved and the Cupola is being relocated to this area, while PMA-3 (Pressurized Mating Adapter #3) is being relocated to where the Cupola used to be. This was done so that the Cupola could face the earth and create all those fantastic views everybody envisioned from the ISS, while being able to be launched in the shuttle payload bay.

  • Did anyone else glance at the headline and think they were talking about the Apollo mission, then feel a fool when they read the story properly? ;-)

    • by k2r (255754)

      > then feel a fool when they read the story properly?

      On Slashdot, nobody reads the story properly....

  • Its a small problem and i bet there fix it. Then the station has a observation and excerise room which will do wonders for space tourism. No point paying for the ride, if you don't get a great view which is exactly what tranquillity with give astronaunts and space tourists. ---

    --- Space Craft [feeddistiller.com] Feed @ Feed Distiller [feeddistiller.com]

  • "Take that NASA!"

    Stephen Colbert's revenge!

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