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NASA's Space Balloon Smashes Car In Australia 174

Posted by samzenpus
from the wrong-turn dept.
Humunculus writes "Of more worldly issues, NASA's latest multimillion-dollar stratosphere-bound balloon launch has gone horribly wrong and crashed into a car, turning it over and narrowly missing two elderly people who were observing the launch. The payload fared worse, reportedly being smashed into a 'thousand pieces.'"

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NASA's Space Balloon Smashes Car In Australia

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  • First (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 29, 2010 @10:20AM (#32029860)

    First splat

  • by AnonymousClown (1788472) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @10:22AM (#32029902)

    The director of the Balloon Launching Centre, Professor Ravi Sood, says no one was hurt. But he says the scientists involved in the NASA-sponsored project are crushed.

    It says right there, some NASA scientists were crushed in the accident.

    I think the old couple needs to sue, sell chunks of their car on eBay, and retire rich!

  • NASA forgot (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 29, 2010 @10:23AM (#32029928)

    that Australia is upside down

    • All they had to do was let go. I tell you, cycle commuting in Melbourne ain't easy. At least I can ride south in the morning on my way to work.

  • by Stenchwarrior (1335051) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @10:25AM (#32029976)
    The lead baloon engineer, known for his cocky attitude and general air of superiority, had his ego severely deflated.
  • He said the balloon was then seen lying partially-inflated above a paddock "like a white Uluru".

    what's a paddock?

    and what is with the reference to an albino version of a star trek character?

    i know you australians typically speak german like your neighbors to the north, but if you are going to write a story in the american language, try to more precise

    thanks

  • Is it OK to laugh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Slash.Poop (1088395) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @10:33AM (#32030152) Homepage
    I know we lost, what I assume is, millions. (Probably $150 per screw) Someone's car got smashed. We almost killed people. We probably set the program back X amount of time. X amount of time is going to cost, what I assume is, millions. But still...

    We laugh at Fail Blog so...can't we laugh at this a little? Or maybe at least chuckle?
  • by Katchu (1036242) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @10:35AM (#32030182)
    After watching the video, I can't help but think there was a massive miscalculation of the lift. And ignorance of real launch conditions, consisting of a mild breeze.
    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      Actually, it looked to me like the miscalculation involved the strength of the crane cable.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Amouth (879122)

        which begs the question.. why the hell where they lifting a partially inflated balloon's payload with a damn crane???

        a crane to get it off the truck - Yes..

        tie downs while inflating - Yes...

        lifting up 2 tons with a crane while inflating an attached high alt balloon??? who thought that was a good idea?? and what was the reasoning for it??

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by hornblower65 (1800788)

          The answer lies in the fact that your assumption is wrong. The vehicle is not used as a conventional crane.

          In order to stop the payload swinging like a pendulum into the ground (as we just saw), you need the payload to be right underneath the balloon when you release it. There is usually some amount of wind, even if very slight, and so to satisfy the first condition, you have to have a vehicle at the bottom to drive the payload along at the same vector as the wind, right underneath the balloon which is also

          • by Amouth (879122)

            i understand your point - but by my gauge that balloon wasn't ready for launch..

            while i don't launch balloons - if that is the way you wanted to do it.. would it not make it easier and safer to secure it to a flatbed truck and drive it under the balloon then release then having a crane hold it??

            by nature a crane's arm is going to be directly above the load meaning that if the load was also directly under the balloon (required for a non off-vertical angle launch) that the crane's arm and tether are going to

            • while i don't launch balloons - if that is the way you wanted to do it.. would it not make it easier and safer to secure it to a flatbed truck and drive it under the balloon then release then having a crane hold it??

              The "crane" is needed to hold the payload still until the balloon ascends to pull the flight train and the gondola payload vertical. The tension in the flight train at balloon release pulls the payload horizontally, fairly hard. The flight train is typically 1000 feet long! While you could secure the payload to a truck, gondolas aren't generally designed to handle transverse loads at the load point. You really don't want them to, either; there's often (comparatively delicate) momentum transfer units at th

        • by fatboy (6851)

          That is the typical launch configuration. It is elevated so that when it is released, it does not drag the ground due to topography and lateral winds. Obviously the winds were too high. I suspect there was a malfunction, because I doubt anyone would think it would be a good idea to launch in winds that high. BTW, the balloon is only partially inflated because as it rises, the balloon envelope expands. (Due to lower atmospheric pressure and solar heating of the He) That balloon had enough lift. The winds wer

  • Rover! (Score:3, Funny)

    by schmidt349 (690948) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @10:36AM (#32030204)

    Why did you think a big balloon would stop people?

  • by Ken D (100098) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @10:42AM (#32030346)

    It seems in the very beginning of the clip that there was not enough upward force on the cable for a proper lift off. The launch release caused the payload to immediately swing like a pendulum and there was not enough launch height for the amount of vertical lift being applied to avoid the payload swinging into the ground.

    I'm assuming that the actual near vertical crash was due to some kind of abort procedure initiated as a result of the payload being dragged across the ground because there was an (off screen) catastrophic balloon failure at that point.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 29, 2010 @11:04AM (#32030788)

      I don't think that was a planned release, it seems more like an accident.

      It looks as if the crane was rotating when the accident happened. The force of the balloon and the rotation of the crane seemed to have put a torque on the apparatus that was holding the rig in place. The apparatus snapped, releasing the rig and hijinx ensued.

      Also, never part downwind of space balloon launches.

      • Also, never fart downwind of space balloon launches.

        just fixed that for you...

    • by pz (113803)

      It seems in the very beginning of the clip that there was not enough upward force on the cable for a proper lift off. The launch release caused the payload to immediately swing like a pendulum and there was not enough launch height for the amount of vertical lift being applied to avoid the payload swinging into the ground.

      I'm assuming that the actual near vertical crash was due to some kind of abort procedure initiated as a result of the payload being dragged across the ground because there was an (off screen) catastrophic balloon failure at that point.

      Or too much horizontal force? The balloon seemed quite a ways downrange. I wonder if they shot up a tracer rocket (ie, a model-rocket sized projectile that left a visible exhaust trail) to assess upper level winds?

  • by V!NCENT (1105021) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @10:47AM (#32030466)

    Is this piece of junk costing NASA millions?

    Or is the R&D costing millions and does this thing itself cost a lot less to reproduce?

    Just a minor question, of course...

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Launches are risky, ans sometime something goes wrong. It wasn't a piece of junk. The crane they where using seems to be woefully inadequate. Plus there was as sudden and unexpected wind change.

    • The payload is the expensive part. The folks in the office next to mine are building a similar telescope for TeraHertz observations. The screws don't cost $150 each as an earlier commenter suggested, but the TeraHertz components are rather pricey, since the small market for that stuff results in one-digit serial numbers. And it uses liquid helium to cool the receiver. And they aren't building it sturdily enough to handle being dragged across parked cars! (They may change their design after watching the vide
  • by kenp2002 (545495) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @10:50AM (#32030494) Homepage Journal

    I remember when NASA could sling shot a satellite 40,000+ miles looping around a planet 32 times, ricochet of an asteroid and drop a golf ball in a cup of coffee in the middle of Denver blindfolded with both hands behind their back.

    Now they can't remember to convert metric to imperial (and back again) and can't launch a ballon...

    Damn NASA used to be the best and the brightest. I worry if we'll be able to feed ourselves by the end of the year :P

    NASA's performance was once the measure of the USA's intellectual success... I'm worried... apparently more money on education doesn't = smarter people...

    I mean come on it's not rocke...errr wait...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      More money on education? We've been cutting public education budgets (vs inflation), since Reagan.

      Maybe that's why we don't have smarter people.

    • by brainboyz (114458) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @11:32AM (#32031298) Homepage

      NASA's performance was once the measure of the USA's intellectual success...

      Sadly, it still is.

    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      In the 60's, the best minds used to actually *want* to work at NASA. But since the end of Apollo, it's basically become known more and more as a great place to go if you want low pay and a dead-end job. The great minds no longer want to work there. So all they get is mediocre bureaucrats looking for job security.
    • I remember when NASA could sling shot a satellite 40,000+ miles looping around a planet 32 times, ricochet of an asteroid and drop a golf ball in a cup of coffee in the middle of Denver blindfolded with both hands behind their back.
      Now they can't remember to convert metric to imperial (and back again) and can't launch a ballon...

      Do stop with your foolish rants. NASA (and everybody else in the business) has had numerous failures and setbacks. It's part of the business (you know, rocket science). Even t

      • by kenp2002 (545495)

        The par-for-the-course failures of old we not a result of blatant oversights for the most part. Failures and setback due to unforeseen issues and the unknown are one thing, the last 5 years... not so much. Now lets just pray that the Range Safety Officer isn't watching pr0n on his iPhone when he's supposed to be at the ready for that button push you mentioned.

  • How do you crash a balloon? I mean, don't you just fill it up with helium and let it go? Then it comes down slowly in a few days, right?

    Right?
    • You would think it's pretty straight-forward to inflate a balloon and let it go, but apparently there's a way to screw that up too. Forget reaching other planets or even the moon, NASA can't even get a helium balloon off the ground.
      • by geekoid (135745)

        There is ALWAYS fucking risk. Shit sometimes goes wrong.

        Plus this was Australians... so you know~

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by SharpFang (651121)

      Then it comes slowly in a few days and crashes into a car ;)
      That would be understandable.

      • by JWSmythe (446288)

            You know, that's what I was expecting when I first read the title. I assumed it was a balloon that had gone up, and when it came back down, it smacked into a car. That would have been more interesting. :) Imagine driving down a road in the middle of nowhere, and then suddenly your car is hit by a balloon. :)

    • by JWSmythe (446288)

      It's not too hard, if you make it complicated enough. :)

      They were trying to carry a heavy payload. To have enough energy to flip over a car, I'd have to assume it was very heavy.

      If you watch the included video (oh my gosh, like on the link), you'll see there was already a decent crosswind. The lines from the balloon to the payload were at a 45 degree angle. This was not a "calm" launch. The crane was rotating to the left for some reason. It appeared that th

    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      When the wind blows it sideways while you are still inflating it, it has a problem. The solution is to never inflate balloons when there is any chance of wind. I experienced this personally when I tried to hold back a hot-air balloon at he Tualitin Festival of Balloons that go hit by a wind -- turns out the weight of humans is completely ineffective at holding these back. They tie the basket to the chase vehicle with a heavy-duty tether before they begin inflation, and that is the only thing that stopped it
  • by Jetrel (514839) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @11:03AM (#32030762)

    Was there a little boy in it? Is he OK??

  • by Alsee (515537) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @11:26AM (#32031212) Homepage

    If you don't like the way I drive, stay the hell off the sidewalk.
    If you don't like the way I fly, keep your damn car the hell out of the field.

    P.S.
    He said the balloon was then seen lying partially-inflated above a paddock "like a white Uluru".

    What the hell is an Uluru?
    I guess it's something that kinda looks like a partially-inflated balloon over a paddock, except it's not white.

    Ah... yeah... something like that. [wikipedia.org]

    -

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Don't want to get crushed by a weather balloon? Don't park you cars 25 feet away from the launch.

    • Look for my finger as you tailgate that elderly gentleman with the black fit-over sunglasses driving the old Hyundai at 25mph on i280.

  • by Eevee (535658) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @11:45AM (#32031542)
    According to the BBC [bbc.co.uk], the equipment was not damaged.
  • Crock Dundee must have been hiding near by.

    • by mjwx (966435)
      Nah, all the roo's sold their guns in the buy back scheme, now they just glass their girlfriends in pubs.
  • Balloon launches are notoriously unreliable. You would think something this intrinsically simple would be pretty reliable, but a huge fraction of these types of launches go wrong. FAR less reliable than, say, a sounding rocket, which are typically 4-9's.

            I don't, however, see how they could have released it when they did. It was clear that the thing would swing in an arc into the ground from where they released it. Particularly with someone dead downwind.

  • It's a UFO. Meanwhile, somewhere, Chris Carter's getting his notepad out.
  • What the hell was Australia doing out in space?
  • NASA: Close encounters of the thud kind.
  • It could have rained also, (with apologies to Mel Brooks).

I tell them to turn to the study of mathematics, for it is only there that they might escape the lusts of the flesh. -- Thomas Mann, "The Magic Mountain"

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