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Astronauts Open Dragon Capsule Hatch 138

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-snakes-found-so-far dept.
Hexydes writes "Early in the morning (5:53 am EST) on May 26th, 2012, NASA gave the go-ahead for the Expedition 31 crew to begin the procedure to open the hatch on the Dragon capsule, now directly attached to the ISS. 'The hatch opening begins four days of operations to unload more than 1,000 pounds of cargo from the first commercial spacecraft to visit the space station and reload it with experiments and cargo for a return trip to Earth. It is scheduled for splashdown several hundred miles west of California on May 31. Wearing protective masks and goggles, as is customary for the opening of a hatch to any newly arrived vehicle at the station, Pettit entered the Dragon with Station Commander Oleg Kononenko. The goggles and masks will be removed once the station atmosphere has had a chance to mix air with the air inside the Dragon itself.' Here is a video of the procedure."
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Astronauts Open Dragon Capsule Hatch

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  • Would that be hard to shift in 0 gravity, could it be done by one person in one go?
    • by bobstreo (1320787) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @09:23AM (#40120309)

      Yeah except for the part where you're trying to stop the 1000 pounds of cargo trying to bash it's way out of the space
      station part.

      Also I'm guessing it's not just sitting on one pallet in the middle of the capsule.

      • by Doc Ruby (173196)

        It takes time and strength to stop the half-ton cargo load equal to the time and strength used to start it moving. As long as someone of similar power begins stopping it no later than halfway to the far bulkhead, it's no problem at all. In fact the push to start it should probably be pretty weak, as the spaces are small and there's no great rush, leaving the same or lesser strength able to overpower it in the event of a sudden recalculation of when and where it should stop.

        All this will be second nature to

    • by Greyfox (87712) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @09:27AM (#40120327) Homepage Journal
      IIRC, even if the gravity is 0 you still have mass and inertia to deal with. "Heavy" stuff will be harder to get moving and stop moving once it's where it's supposed to be. Also, with Newton's third law, even tossing something with fairly low mass will have an effect on your position. So you'd have to brace or bounce off a wall or something. That would probably make the logistics of unloading a large cargo fairly... interesting...
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)

        It will be easy to get going, but somewhat hard to speed it up (just not as hard as when there's friction along the bottom enforced by gravity). It is exactly as easy/hard to slow and stop it.

        In orbital microgravity, every action on a separate object requires either bracing oneself on infrastructure, or accepting the opposite reactive motion from what you pressed away, eventually contacting some infrastructure. This has been the case since the first orbit, though some spaces are getting bigger and the possi

    • by pesho (843750) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @09:28AM (#40120337)
      There is this thing called inertia, and it is a bitch, especially at 0 G with no/little friction to help. Once the 1000 pounds of stuff gets in motion it will bounce around the place until everything gets smashed to pieces.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by YrWrstNtmr (564987)
      It's not all in one box. Whatever it is has to fit through the hatch. Inventory, move (inertia!), stow. Now do it in the other direction for the stuff that needs to come back to earth.
    • by Cold hard reality (1536175) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @09:31AM (#40120361)

      Union rules requires at least three workers over four days

    • while there is no weight, objects still have mass and momentum so producing enough force to start moving 1000 lbs and producing enough to stop 1000 lbs is a big issue.

      • by camperdave (969942) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @10:22AM (#40120671) Journal

        while there is no weight, objects still have mass and momentum so producing enough force to start moving 1000 lbs and producing enough to stop 1000 lbs is a big issue.

        No. It is no issue at all. You could push it with your finger. A fly could move it. If you apply 10 pounds of force for one second, it will start moving, and it will take exactly 10 pounds of force applied for one second in the opposite direction to stop it... or you could stop it by applying 5 lbs of force for two seconds.

    • by aaarrrgggh (9205) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @09:55AM (#40120491)

      Unloading 1,000 pounds in microgravity requires the same energy as in 1G. 450kg however would be significantly easier.

      • by Coren22 (1625475)

        I was wondering how they determined it was 1000 lbs at roughly 0g, that must be some massive stuff to weigh that much in micro-gravity.

    • by sjames (1099)

      Consider, a pallet sitting in the middle of a room in 0G (a MUCH easier setup than the tight quarters in the capsule and ISS). You grab the load and lift. Slowly it starts to rise from the floor (designated). It's high enough so you start pushing down and end up going for a ride on the cargo. Here comes the ceiling! CRUNCH!, squashed like a bug.

      So, no. Not easy and not a 1 man operation.

      In reality, the cargo is divided into many smaller packages in racks. It takes time to inventory ans stow all of that.

      • if you're strong enough to accelerate it you're strong enough to decelerate it provided you have enough distance to do it over; the processes are exact mirror images.

        • by sjames (1099)

          But if you slip or just lose your presence of mind for a moment, suddenly all that force you applied over a nice slow 1 meter of lifting with your legs is applied much more quickly to your ribcage over a few centimeters. That's why it has to be taken slowly and deliberately and always with a spotter at least.

          • by Doc Ruby (173196)

            Yes, if you jump at a nearby wall you will split your skull. Even here on Earth.

          • by shiftless (410350)

            But if you slip or just lose your presence of mind for a moment, suddenly all that force you applied over a nice slow 1 meter of lifting with your legs is applied much more quickly to your ribcage over a few centimeters.

            Good thing I don't slip or "lose my presence of mind for a moment" when I'm moving around loads that are large enough to kill me if I fuck up.

            Otherwise I'd have been dead long ago.

            Right?

            That's why it has to be taken slowly and deliberately and always with a spotter at least.

            Spotters are for pussies.

            If you need one, by all means, use one! .... Pussy.

    • by sahonen (680948)
      Think of it this way: It's hard to push a car, even though there is very little friction in its wheels. Zero gravity doesn't mean zero mass, it just means you don't have to counter gravity.
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)

        It's easy to push a car with good bearings on level ground. I have pushed cars that weight over 10x my weight without any problem. And good bearings still have substantial friction compared to the air resistance inside an orbiting capsule, especially as the RPMs get up there with any speed. Otherwise cars would get far more MPG on cruise control than they do. Even lightweight, aerodynamic electric vehicles designed for maximum coasting still consume about 125W:Km.

    • Not one person, but two people could do it. The "standard racks" on board the Station can mass up to 500 kg each, and are swapped out regularly with new experiments. The large square hatch is sized to fit one of those racks, but you need two people for enough control of the movement so it does not smash things along the way.

      The standard racks are derived from earthly 19 inch equipment racks, with two of them side by side, and aircraft "seat tracks" are on the front to attach things to. Seat tracks are wh

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @09:41AM (#40120403) Homepage

    I would have rigged up two things.

    1 - a huge "planet express" sticker on every box.
    2 - a small device rigged to play "never gonna give you up" 30 seconds after they open the hatch.

    Come on, a futurama joke and a ISS rickrolling would be utterly epic.

    • by deblau (68023)

      Nah, 30 seconds is way too soon, hatch openings can take a lot of time. Make it 2 minutes; give the crew some time to overcome that slight adrenaline bump from opening a door into a brand new room. And while a Rickroll would be pretty cool, I think playing the Final Countdown would be funnier.

  • by pgn674 (995941)
    You mean 31 slugs.
    • You mean 31 slugs.

      Oh, now I get it. I didn't understand at first that TFS meant 1000lbs at ground level in Earth's gravity field. So confusing!

      • by jbeaupre (752124)

        Yeah, they should have corrected to 940lbs.

        (hint: gravity ain't zero at the space station)

        • Gravity aint 0 anywhere in the universe.
        • by Coren22 (1625475)

          How would you measure that on a scale?

      • You mean 31 slugs.

        Oh, now I get it. I didn't understand at first that TFS meant 1000lbs at ground level in Earth's gravity field. So confusing!

        No, it does not. Assuming you're from the U.S (that would explain some things), your pound as a unit of mass is defined in terms of the kg:

        "In the United States [wikipedia.org], the avoirdupois pound as a unit of mass has been officially defined in terms of the kilogram since the Mendenhall Order of 1893."

        You imply that it's clear what it means, which is obviously ridiculous as you're severely muddled on the issue. Of course, the grown-ups use SI-units to avoid this confusion. On a side note it would be amusing to request a quote for an otherwise serious request to SpaceX for lift to LEO with mass expressed in lbs :)

  • the goggles do nothing.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Was there a space dragon inside?

    • Was there a space dragon inside?

      Perhaps a large insect like creature wearing platform boots with giant extendable razor sharp teeth who wants to implant eggs in your belly... Something like that.

    • For you are crunchy and taste good with barbecue sauce.

    • No, a bobcat.

      Would not buy again.

  • by taiwanjohn (103839) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @10:02AM (#40120541)

    I missed the live broadcast because the bastards opened the hatch an hour an a half early. The flight director, Holly Ridings, had warned they might be "a bit early" in yesterday's press briefing, but I had no idea they'd be that early.

    Anyway, it's cool to have it all ship-shape and working fine. I was amused by Don Pettit's comment: "It smells inside like a new car!" ;-)

  • by Thagg (9904) <thadbeier@gmail.com> on Saturday May 26, 2012 @10:05AM (#40120557) Journal

    I have tremendous respect for Mr Musk and his team at SpaceX. To have designed and built the Falcon 9 and the Dragon, and to have them work perfectly every time, in the short time they had, is an amazing achievement.

    On the other hand, this really isn't the first "privately built" spacecraft. Almost all of the "NASA" rockets and spacecraft were built by independent contractors. NASA did a lot of the design work on the Saturn rockets and the spacecraft, but the Redstone, Atlas, and Titan rockets were all designed by private contractors for the military. SpaceX has some advantage in that it's doing everything under one roof (literally).

    It is impressive to see that hatch open -- showing the depths of the cooperation between NASA and SpaceX. NASA has to have been working on this almost as hard as SpaceX over the past year to develop the procedures for the rendezvous, capture, and berthing of the Dragon. The opening of that hatch might not be as historic as the Apollo-Soyuz docking of the '70s but it's right up there.

    • by Whatsmynickname (557867) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @10:19AM (#40120655)
      It is revolutionary from the standpoint that the government didn't lay down the requirements for what they wanted (or just designed the item themselves) in a space vehicle, just ISS interface requirements. SpaceX built what they wanted without NASA or DoD people sticking their noses in. And SpaceX actually completed the project and docked with the space station, instead of just making a ton of Powerpoints and 3D animated videos on what it would look like if they actually did it. If others follow SpaceX, then instead of Slashdot bitching about the difference between a capsule and a delta winged re-entry vehicle, private companies can actually BUILD it and we'll conclusively see which is better. THAT is what is revolutionary.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 26, 2012 @11:12AM (#40120983)

        SpaceX built what they wanted without NASA or DoD people sticking their noses in.

        Mod parent up. There is a huge infrastructure of NASA and DOD folks whose job it is to stick their noses in. They are expensive, their cost comes out of your budget, and they cause huge delays in your program. SpaceX is a brilliant idea in that it keeps those expensive noses out of most things.

        There are places for those noses, like launch safety and docking, where there can be risk to citizens or government equipment (the space station). But, many times, those noses simply waste money assuring 100-percent space mission success [aerospace.org].

        • by Doc Ruby (173196)

          They are expensive, their cost comes out of your budget, and they cause huge delays in your program.

          Which your aerospace contractor insists be expensive, since your budget is charged cost-plus to the government/taxpayer. So your aerospace contractor wants its costs to rise, since that's the basis for its profits to rise. Which is why NASA wants to be expensive, because NASA's every move is scripted by lobbyists from aerospace contractors who write the legislation and budgets that control NASA.

          It will indeed

      • by Patch86 (1465427)

        What large organisation buys hardware (or software) without defining their requirements first? Is NASA comprised entirely of marketing executives?

        Usual rule of business is- if you're the one paying, you're the one who gets to decide what you end up with. I'd be shocked and stunned if, when NASA tendered for the huge contracts and subsidies they're offering, they didn't list in no uncertain terms what they expect the contract winner's product to be able to do.

      • It is revolutionary from the standpoint that the government didn't lay down the requirements for what they wanted (or just designed the item themselves) in a space vehicle, just ISS interface requirements. SpaceX built what they wanted without NASA or DoD people sticking their noses in.

        That's the geek urban legend. And it's utter bullshit.

        Nothing flies from the Cape that doesn't meet DoD safety requirements and (for commercial flights, of which there are many) FAA requirements. Nothing docks to t

    • by taiwanjohn (103839) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @10:23AM (#40120685)

      True, but this is different. SpaceX funded the development of its Falcon rockets almost entirely with private funding, and they are selling rides at a fixed price, rather than the "cost-plus" accounting that has been the standard for NASA since the 60's. Also, NASA has had a much "lighter touch" in the Dragon development than they've traditionally had with other contractors. They set the goals and guidelines (and provided a LOT of expertise and some funding too) but allowed SpaceX a lot of freedom to solve the problems in their own way. Elon can't say enough about how grateful he is for NASA's help. But by the same token, NASA officials are quick to note how "different" this has been from the previous business-as-usual.

      Regardless, I agree this is a "Big F---ing Deal" (as V.P. Biden might say). I've been looking forward to this mission for a LONG TIME. It's damn satisfying to see it all coming together at last.

    • The Dragon spacecraft is the first vehicle which has been built primarily with private funds, where the "ownership" of the vehicle does not belong to a government agency. When this vehicle returns to the Earth, while NASA will get all of the stuff that is inside of the vehicle, it doesn't "belong" to NASA. In fact SpaceX has even hinted that this particular vehicle might see a 2nd or 3rd flight in the future (in terms of the capsule itself). NASA's COTS contract requires a new vehicle for every flight, so those subsequent flights will likely go to paying commercial (read non-government) customers, but the spacecraft doesn't "belong" to NASA.

      The comparison here is more like how commercial airlines can lease their aircraft and crews to other people, including government agencies.

      In the case of most of those "privately built spacecraft", there is a huge difference between them and the Dragon. For things like the Space Shuttle, the Apollo spacecraft, or even things like the probes to other planets, they were designed by NASA engineers where all of the specifications and design requirements were decided upon by NASA management and had NASA personnel at nearly all levels of production. Any "private" companies were really contractors and sub-contractors who followed the lead of NASA supervision.

      Also it is important to point out that the other spacecraft that have flown to the ISS by American companies have also all been "owned" by NASA. If you tried to buy a Space Shuttle from North American-Rockwell International (yes, I know those companies are now owned by Boeing), you would have been politely told you simply can't buy them at any price. There were some people who tried to buy a Shuttle in the 1980's and simply couldn't. In the case of the Dragon, SpaceX will gladly sell you one and even help you out with the government paperwork needed to be able to use it and help schedule a launch for you as well. They will even help you through the process if you aren't an American (which does add paperwork and some hassles, but it can be arranged).

      I'll admit that commercial companies have been involved with the construction of spacecraft in the past, but this is something new. How different it can be will be seen with other projects that SpaceX is doing that will be completely private for-profit ventures not involving NASA at all.

      • You're quite right. Historically companies building space vehicles for NASA were contractors. These vehicles were not strictly speaking private craft, any more than an aircraft carrier is a private ship.

      • The Dragon spacecraft is the first vehicle which has been built primarily with private funds, where the "ownership" of the vehicle does not belong to a government agency.

        Wrong. There's a whole raft load of satellites on orbit built entirely with private funds, launched on private boosters by private companies, with no "ownership" whatsoever by any government agency.

    • by thePig (964303)

      I actually would congratulate Obama on this. He forced everybody's hand on this, and it looks like a completely new future is beckoning...

      • by Teancum (67324)

        First of all, the decision to begin shutting down the Shuttle program happened under the Clinton administration and was accelerated under the Bush (W) administration, arguably even going back to the Reagan administration due to policy changes that happened after the loss of the Challenger. Regardless, the actual shutdown process was begun by Michael Griffin, administrator for NASA. To blame Obama for shutting down the Shuttle program and giving us the mess that NASA is in right now is patently unfair to t

        • by Doc Ruby (173196)

          At best all Obama did was continue the program.
          [...]
          Both Presidents Bush announced plans to go to Mars yet failed to provide any leadership in terms of getting funding to get it to happen or even building any infrastructure to make it happen.

          Then again neither does Mitt Romney [really care to offer any real leadership]

          Indeed that is why Obama deserves credit. He continued the programme. Despite also handling a catastrophic economic collapse that literally threatened to delete America's main industrial engin

          • by MrKaos (858439)

            Again, it's not easy spending money on something like NASA when the country is flooded by propaganda calling any government spending "socialism" during the biggest economic collapse in a lifetime. Appointing someone against that headwind, and NASA getting its various work done especially since a Republican Congress has insisted on interfering with anything Obama could take credit for (including killing Binladen), was real leadership.

            It's hardly surprising that people are so apathetic whilst political parties spend their energies on seeking and maintaining political power instead of fixing the structural issues with good policy. NASA is another in a long line of victims used for political expediency.

            So it's a good thing Obama will be defeating Romney in 6 months. That makes it look a lot better than if Romney and his party of Bush, Bush, Reagan (who did nothing but keep the Shuttle programme on the treadmill while pimping the Star Wars SDI boondoggle), Ford, Nixon and Eisenhower were running NASA. Those people showed leadership only in screwing the best thing America's ever done, our space programme. Obama deserves credit for keeping NASA going, even growing private industry into space the way Republicans would always lie about but never do. He will get that credit, and will do more to deserve more credit when reelected. Especially the fewer Republicans around to interfere with it.

            I long thought that it no longer matters who is the president of America Inc. The political system is being interfered with by political donations and private appointments of retired government policy makers. Voting is no longer enough to c

            • by Doc Ruby (173196)

              It clearly matters who is president of America Inc. As I pointed out, Republican presidents of it are intolerable, while Democratic presidents of it suck, but are tolerable. There's plenty of other supporting data. Like the GDP and the stock market [dailykos.com] each growing faster under every Democratic president than Republicans, since Eisenhower. Of course we can always do better. Then there's the warmonger record, which Republicans dominate (except are roughly equal on Vietnam, which is now just a middling war). It's

          • by lennier (44736)

            America's main industrial engine, the automotive industry.

            Yikes. America is depending on its automotive industry to do... much of anything? From this side of the world (New Zealand), Japan has been the only place making decent cars since the 1980s.

            If your statement is true, America is in pretty deep trouble.

            • by Doc Ruby (173196)

              Yes, that's why the world depends on New Zealand's opinion.

              The US of course depends on its automotive industry to drive our entire manufacturing industry, the core of the US economy [wikipedia.org]. Our manufacturing that is still by far the largest in the world, about 20% of global output. Manufacturing employs about 20% of American workers. We invent most of the world's manufacturing techniques, materials and responses like recycling; most of the rest of global manufacturing uses American machinery and feeds America's ma

              • by Coren22 (1625475)

                Ford has been doing pretty amazing stuff recently, but Toyota is still king of reliability. I can't imagine why you would think your wife's car should have been recalled, which recall do you think affected it? My Camry was recalled for the "people can't figure out the difference between the gas and brake when panicing", but I never had a single issue with that car.

                • by Doc Ruby (173196)

                  The catalytic converter's computer values for the sulphur content in the gasoline are wrong. So when especially sulphurous gas is burned, the converter pumps sulphur dioxide into the cabin. It stinks like an antisocial gastric event. It's also somewhat toxic. Toyota pretended to diagnose the car for over 2 years until the lemon law no longer could force them to replace the car. Even though it turned out that Toyota had issued a notice to its dealers describing exactly the problem, the 2 dealers my wife used

    • by kermidge (2221646)

      "but the Redstone, Atlas, and Titan rockets were all designed by private contractors for the military"

      Redstone was designed by von Braun and team at Army Ballistic Missile Agency at Redstone Arsenal, the _building_ of it was contracted out to Chrysler as prime. Most of the rest followed the more normal process, bids to spec.

      Your first and last paras, right on!

    • Almost all of the "NASA" rockets and spacecraft were built by independent contractors.

      Yes but NASA owned them after they were built. NASA does not own SpaceX's equipment. They are launching stuff on behalf of NASA but it's not different than NASA contracting the Russians to launch for them. It wasn't contract manufacturing like Boeing does for NASA, it was their own product. The technology isn't the revolutionary bit, the economics and funding models are.

  • by Vandil X (636030) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @11:00AM (#40120905)
    It's great that we have U.S.-based cargo delivery/recovery capacity again. This is definitely a huge milestone. However, the crewed-version of the Dragon will be the true, emotional U.S. milestone, as it replaces the human element lost with the retirement of the space shuttle.
    • by Doc Ruby (173196)

      I was very moved by the human element of the human ground crews roaring applause as the human arm pilot completed the capture.

      I'm all for human space colonization and exploration. But I want to see all human presence preceded by machines either remotely controlled or (at real distances) autonomous. Their scouting, sensing and preparation (construction, cleaning, etc) will make the humans far more productive than when humans have to do everything manually.

  • ... did anyone say, "Here be dragons"?

  • by loshwomp (468955) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @11:34AM (#40121123)

    The video narrator sounds like he should be piloting a terran battlecruiser.

  • I've heard that somewhere...

  • I expected to see Elon Musk hiding inside.

  • AFAICT, the Falcon 9 rocket was disposable, so as its exhausted stages dropped away from the Dragon payload, they broke and burned up in the atmosphere, landing as scorching hot chunks and dust hopefully on unoccupied oceans. But couldn't they be shaped to break into steerable, durable chunks that sail down to land on the surface for collection? Making them less dense than water would also make the rocket lighter, a big benefit. All this seems to call for aerogels, the least dense synthetic material, which

    • by Megane (129182) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @10:33PM (#40125371) Homepage

      Specifically, THIS Falcon 9 was disposable. At some future time, the first stage, and I think the second stage too, will land vertically after a powered descent, and will even have fold-out legs to land on. Only the "trunk" section behind the capsule and the solar panels attached to it are specifically not going to be reusable, because they reach orbit without a heat shield.

      There are also plans for the crew capsule to do a powered ground landing, but that will make use of the enhanced maneuvering rockets that will be designed to work as a (non-disposable) launch abort system.

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