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NASA Releases Failure Report On Outback Crash 72

Posted by timothy
from the failure-analysis-is-not-an-option dept.
cybrpnk2 writes "In a Friday news release, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center has issued Part 1 and Part 2 of an excellent and very interesting failure review on the April 28 failed balloon launch of the Nuclear Compton Telescope at Alice Springs, Australia. Bottom line: make sure you don't need a gorilla to pull the payload release handle at balloon launch; if the release mechanism does fail then make sure your safety cables are sized for lift loads and a swinging payload, not just static hanging payload weight; and oh yeah — keep people and vehicles out of the downwind flight path. One spectator was nearly crushed while running from his SUV that was hit and flipped (Figure 29, Vol I). At least nobody ordered video evidence destroyed."
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NASA Releases Failure Report On Outback Crash

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  • In Sum (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mikkeles (698461) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @10:49AM (#34004384)

    Hire a competent engineer to design your balloon!

  • A few quibbles (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gadget_Guy (627405) * on Sunday October 24, 2010 @11:03AM (#34004462)

    First, an Australian wouldn't call the car involved an SUV, but rather a 4WD (4 wheel drive).

    Secondly, it doesn't seem like an amazing story. They saw some spectators were in the way, so they tried to quickly move it all and they had problems doing this. The only real concerns that I had with the operation was lack of direction given to the spectators as to where they should go to stay out of harm's way and the campaign manager not being organised enough to know the emergency services number in Australia. No, it is not 911. It is also not what they said it was in the NASA report "0". It is in fact 000 or 112 if you are using a mobile (cell) phone.

    Finally, what is with the trolling in the summary about video evidence being destroyed. That has nothing to do with this story.

  • by jshackney (99735) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @11:08AM (#34004490) Homepage

    Am I the only one who expected the final link of the summary to take me to video of the mishap and not some crap about the Ft. Hood shooting?

  • Re:In Sum (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kell Bengal (711123) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @11:26AM (#34004612)
    Well, in fact, it's not that simple. I worked for a time with an engineer who did exactly that - balloons and apparatus for radio astronomy. He often told me of how complex and dangerous this process is. This is hardly the first launch mishap of a radio astronomy balloon, and it won't be the last.

    Even with the very best balloon design, the very best tethers and the very best launch protocol, if the wind turns on you unexpectedly, everything can be lost in an instant. This crash wasn't negligence or even direct human error in design or execution, it's just a confluence of things (some foreseeable, some not) that lead to a failure. It happens, especially in experimental work.

    I don't know why TFS is contrasting the accident report to a soldier being ordered to delete footage - what does this have to do with the story?. After all, it's not like NASA has a history of erasing important footage or data [wikipedia.org].
  • Re:In Sum (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chuckstar (799005) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @11:39AM (#34004680)

    The report may not use the word "negligence", but if you read it, you'll see they come down pretty hard on the balloon program for not taking the proper precautions to avoid an accident. How that differs from negligence, I have no idea. Here are just a few of the findings that led to that conclusion:

    - Suggestions developed from the investigation of a crash in 2002 were ignored.

    - NASA's requirement to have a range safety officer independent of the program were ignored.

    - A variety of other safety guidelines were ignored.

    - Culture in the balloon program was that balloon launches are straightforward and nothing could go wrong, in spite of a history of mishaps.

  • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @11:40AM (#34004692) Homepage
    Excuse me, but can anyone tell me the significance of the link to the soldier who was ordered to erase the video of Major Hasan's murders? This has what do with NASA now? The video was erased because it wouldn't look good on the evening news to show him shouting 'Allahu akbar' as he killed American soldiers. Or is this just some sort of post-ironic offhand hipster comment that nobody can understand, including the story submitter?

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