Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
Space Science

Space Shuttles almost Ready to Re-Launch 279

stagmeister writes "CNN and are reporting that the Return to Flight Task Group, the overseeing committee that determines when the Space Shuttles can go back into space, has reported that the only items blocking the Shuttles are issues 'related to tank debris, orbiter hardening and tile repair.' They plan to re-meet in later this month to finalize their decision. However, 'NASA has made clear it intends to resume shuttle flights with the repair capabilities it has in hand without knowing for sure whether they would work in an emergency.' Would you want your children flying a space shuttle that hasn't been properly beta-tested?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Space Shuttles almost Ready to Re-Launch

Comments Filter:
  • by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) * on Sunday June 12, 2005 @10:25PM (#12799245)

    From TFS:

    ...the Return to Flight Task Group, the overseeing committee that determines when the Space Shuttles can go back into space, has reported that the only items blocking the Shuttles are issues 'related to tank debris, orbiter hardening and tile repair.'

    Um....aren't those problems the reason the Shuttles were grounded in the first place???

    Also from TFS:

    However, NASA has made clear it intends to resume shuttle flights with the repair capabilities it has in hand without knowing for sure whether they would work in an emergency.

    Well...does this 'Return to Flight Task Group' have the authority to ground the flights?

    From TFA:

    It is unclear how much weight the panelists' opinion carries. NASA administrator Michael Griffin has said that he does not consider it mandatory to get the task group's go-ahead to fly the shuttle.

    Apparently, they don't.
    Remind me exactly why we had a 'Return to Flight Task Group' again...
    • by LooseChanj ( 17865 ) on Sunday June 12, 2005 @11:34PM (#12799733) Homepage
      Issues related to. The bipod foam, which caused the Columbia accident, has been eliminated. You're never going to be able to eliminate all tank debris. The OBSS [] is a done deal, but I think they're having some problems with work stabilization, that is, having an astronaut actually work on tiles and not send himself flying all over the place. They've installed sensors in the wing leading edges that will be able to sense an impact. So it's not like they've just been sitting on their thumbs this whole time.
    • by Urusai ( 865560 )
      It's a blue-ribbon panel harrumphing and nodding as NASA does whatever it wants to. Did you expect something different from our government? I'm just surprised they don't have to consult the Flat Earth Society or put a disclaimer sticker on the Shuttle like:
      " This spacecraft was designed using science. Science is an unproven theory, nor is it mentioned in the Bible, so weigh these facts carefully and with skepticism as you decide if you are in with Jesus enough to ride the Shuttle without blowing up. "
    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Sunday June 12, 2005 @11:36PM (#12799749) Homepage
      If you'd been following the shuttle progress thusfar, you'd be familiar with what they had accomplished and what they hadn't. What they have accomplished is a modification to insulation application techniques (which helps not only them, but every cryogenic-fuelled rocket in the world) which looks like it will produce almost no insulation shedding, and no shedding of sizable pieces. What they haven't accomplished very effectively is RCC and tile repair. This is no shock at all; these things are tough enough to make and secure in the first place here on Earth. They can patch small RCC holes effectively, but not large ones. The tile patching material works well on Earth, but last I heard, it still looked like in a vaccuum, microspheres in it could rupture during application.

      One of the biggest problems is testing. It's not like we have an extra shuttle to launch, punch a couple holes in, and have reenter. They do the best that they can on Earth, and will be doing more in-space tests on the first launch.

      As for "what authority" the task force has, NASA safety boards generally have a lot more independence and authority than the equivalents in Russia, even before the accident. Without the board signing off, Congress won't be happy at all. There have been a lot of problems on ISS involving the Russians doing things like bring unapproved batteries onboard, or firing Progress rocket engines for an attitude-changing maneuver before the gyroscopes had been confirmed to be off, etc, that have led to a lot of major safety concerns.

      Honestly, I feel sorry for the people who signed off on the safety of the Columbia launch: every other safety board in the shuttle's history, including those during the ones early in the Shuttle program. Furthermore, most, if not all, other hydrogen-fuelled rockets (for example, Arianne) have used similar insulation systems, and while most haven't had side-mounted payloads, they have had components that foam could have damaged. It's a good thing that this research is being done.

      They've had a lot of blame heaped on them, when the shuttle has overall had a pretty darn impressive safety record - about equivalent to Soyuz (same % of craft losses, greater total casualties but far greater human launches). Its cost record, of course, is something different all together, and that is what justifies replacing this first-generation reusable with a second-generation craft that can take advantage of everything learned.
  • The Only Things? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by geomon ( 78680 ) on Sunday June 12, 2005 @10:26PM (#12799254) Homepage Journal
    Tank debris, orbiter hardening and tile repair have been the "only things" that have stalled a return to flight since the disintegration of Columbia. The Discovery Channel (or The Learning Channel, I can't remember which) spent the entire hour of its program on the return to flight discussing exactly these problems. So what has changed?

    NASA needs to recognize that, despite its technical sophistication, the shuttle is too dangerous to operate. It would be better to ship smaller components into space and assemble the equipment in low earth orbit with robots rather than continue to force this orbiter to operate in a manner that risks humans.

    The idea that if NASA abandons the shuttle that human spaceflight will stop is crap, despite what the television special claims. I'm sure that the NASA shuttle managers would like everyone to believe this propaganda, but the Europeans, Japanese, Chinese, and others are unlikely to give up on space flight just because NASA dumps the shuttle.
    • Re:The Only Things? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by RhettLivingston ( 544140 ) on Sunday June 12, 2005 @10:38PM (#12799337) Journal

      "the shuttle is too dangerous to operate"

      Considering that we've only lost about 1 in 50 shuttles, I'd say its an extremely safe machine for what it does. The losses of ships in the early settling of the new world were far greater than 1 in 50. If our ancestors had felt 1 in 50 was too dangerous, the new world would never have been found.

      If the shuttle were designed to provide a one way trip to orbit, I'd bet you could find plenty of takers.

      • by geomon ( 78680 )
        ...I'd say its an extremely safe machine for what it does.

        Which is what? Put payloads into low Earth orbit?

        Can you tell me that the shuttle is safer than other payload delivery systems?
        • yeah actually its the safest thing out there for delevering cargo into space.
      • Re:The Only Things? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 )
        Yep. People need to look at early exploration like Magellan

        On August 10, 1519, the fleet of five ships under Magellan's command left Seville and traveled south from the Guadalquivir River to San Lucar de Barrameda at the mouth of the rivers, where they remained more than five weeks. Spanish authorities were wary of the Portuguese admiral and almost prevented Magellan from sailing, but on September 20, Magellan set sail from Sanlúcar de Barrameda with 270 men.

        18 men returned to Seville with the Victor
        • by Anonymous Coward
          I really hate when people compare the obvious benefits of imperial conquest with the uselessness of the Space Shuttle.
        • 18 men returned to Seville with the Victoria in 1522

          I'm glad that those 18 men aren't here to witness our present stance towards exploration - IF THERE'S MUCH OF A CHANCE PEOPLE WILL DIE DON'T DO IT, INSTEAD WATCH THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL!

          You know that they'd be jeering 'hey ya pussies, why aren't you on Mars yet?'.
      • by WolfWithoutAClause ( 162946 ) on Monday June 13, 2005 @02:08AM (#12800385) Homepage
        Check out the wikipedia article for more info: Space Disasters [].

        You've messed up the difference between safety and reliability. The shuttle reliability is 2%- 1 in 50, but the safety is actually only 95.5% (4.5% deathrate) because they put different numbers of astronauts on some of the shuttles (the first launch only had 2 crew for example, and some of the defense-related launches had reduced crew also), but both times they blew up, they had a full crew onboard. If you do the maths, it's about a 4.5% fatality rate.

        Shuttle is actually more than twice as dangerous than Soyuz (overall), furthermore Soyuz hasn't had any deaths at all in about 30 years, and none with the current version that seats 3. The reason Soyuz is safer is because they had all the really deadly problems early on when they only risked small crews, whereas the Shuttle is more brittle, and kills at random (hence more likely to kill a large crew).

      • If the shuttle were designed to provide a one way trip to orbit, I'd bet you could find plenty of takers.

        Sure, it has made one-way trips twice before.

    • Re:The Only Things? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by toddbu ( 748790 )
      NASA needs to recognize that, despite its technical sophistication, the shuttle is too dangerous to operate.

      Actually, it's the "technical sophistication" that's the problem here. We make this stuff too hard to fly. If you look at this history of the program, the shuttle got it's initial funding because it was thought that it could fly every conceivable mission. That's like saying that you need a car that can carry people, haul dirt, and move cargo. Sorry, but we build different land-based vehicles for

      • Yeah, and don't forget one of the biggest contradictions in the space shuttle. It has to not only be controllable in space, it also has to be maneuverable in the atmosphere. Two entirely different situations, each causing problems for the other. I don't know why they didn't just go all out and make it work underwater as well.

        Really, if you want a kickass spacecraft, make something that only has to function in space. Then wrap it up inside a big rocket, and have that put your ship up into space.
    • This obsession with using robots to replace people in space is absurd. On Earth robots are either used for repetetive possibly complex tasks in a controlled enviroment like assembling a car. Or for very simple tasks in a dangerous uncontrolled enviroment like cutting pipe at deep ocean depths. The robots are always very specialized. A human is extremely versitle with a small bag of tools. If something goes wrong, humans can improvise, robots cannot. Sure humans die during spaceflight. It's a dangerou
      • This obsession with using robots to replace people in space is absurd.

        Yeah, those stupid Mars rovers.
        • Yeah, those stupid Mars rovers.

          Yeah, I agree that the rovers are GREAT robots. But, currently, they're the best tool for the job. If it were more feasible to put men on Mars, then I guarantee you that they would produce more good science than the rovers. While robots are great for certain things, they are no substitue for human instinct, intuition, and intellect. Simply put, robots aren't always the right tool for every job.

          • But, currently, they're the best tool for the job.

            Which job? Launching payloads into space?

            I don't see how you support that statement with facts.

            If it were more feasible to put men on Mars, then I guarantee you that they would produce more good science than the rovers.

            A little proof would be helpful.

            Tell me which of the various Mars programs past an present would have been better with a human involved. The only thing that *I* could come up with is petrographic sampling.

            While robots are great for c
            • Which job? Launching payloads into space?

              Yes, because the Mars rovers launch payloads into space. Can you atleast try to keep up with your troll?

            • Re:The Only Things? (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Rei ( 128717 )
              Neither is the shuttle, yet that is precisely how it is being used

              Quite true. On the other hand, when even the budget of one craft design was cut dramatically partway through, how could they have afforded multiple craft designs?

              The big problem is that reusable was seen as a big win. Sure, you'd have higher initial costs, but the incremental costs would be small - or so they thought. It was pictured that we could reduce maintenance costs down to very low levels that never materialized. With these "ult
              • Trash is not a problem. It is (in orbital terms) trivial to eject trash in such a fashion that it would either hit the sun, crash onto the moon or burn up on re-entry.

                The rest (crew/experiment return) could be handled with what the Hermes was supposed to do. Burt Rutan has shown that the concept works.

                When you think about it, there's only two (maybe three) vehicles needed, and they could concievably be unified in one design: crew transport, cargo transport and satelite transport.
                I say just design a re-usa
            • The problem with putting people on mars is not that they wouldn't be's that they can't be put there yet and robots can (partially due to the outdated shuttle).

              Ask any NASA scientist and he'll tell you that all our question about mars could be answered within an hour by having a human on the ground there. We do it by robot because thats currently the only option. But that's expensive. And a robot won't tell you 'hey, this ground is moist!', or 'this looks odd, I know I can climb those rocks, I'
  • Since Mars really isn't that interesting anymore, what is NASA going to do in Space that the public will actually care about? Sure for us geeks there are a plethora of things to be discovered but it is is the red-blodded American that is keeping NASA in the limelight. Unless we find ET on the moon, or we can figure out how to get to a planet, we're toast.
    • by cdelta ( 590348 ) on Sunday June 12, 2005 @10:32PM (#12799300)
      Why exactly isn't Mars that interesting anymore? In the past year, we have discovered that the planet was once covered in liquid water and could have supported life. We have two rovers there now, a few orbiters, and the ESA's Mars Express is about to start their radar mapping of the subsurface to see if there are any large aquifers present. If there is an abundance of water, human exploration and settlement will be that much easier. And as for getting to a planet, we've been going to them for the past thirty years. Cassini is in the Saturn system right now. The only difference between that and sending humans is a larger spacecraft, life support systems, and more fuel.
      • Why exactly isn't Mars that interesting anymore?

        Mostly because we've recently discovered that the sand traps will make golfing pure hell on Mars so we need investigate elsewhere.
    • Presumably you're after "care enough to spend money on", which is a much harder question.

      One thing that would get the public interested would be to make spaceflight available to somebody other than a few dozen astronauts. The public has gotten pretty tired of living vicariously, which is why they don't watch shuttle launches any more (well, didn't even when there were some.) But they'd fund a few tens of billions if they thought it would eventually result in them personally going. Sadly, it'll cost way mo
  • by barc0001 ( 173002 ) on Sunday June 12, 2005 @10:28PM (#12799266)
    I certainly wouldn't want my children to do it, as a parent. But I also realize that there are quite literally tons of people who if you presented them with the option of a shuttle flight and told them up front there was a 5% chance they wouldn't be coming back, they'd do it.
    Let's face it, if the human race was as careful about other dangerous endeavors as it has been about space flight, we'd still be debating about whether it's a good idea to put those dang horseless carriages on the road, seeing as they don't think for themselves and all..
    • ..."told them up front there was a 5% chance they wouldn't be coming back"...
      It's probably more like a 5% chance that they WILL be coming back. Who cares? I'll go.
      "Gentlemen, we need to know where we stand from a position of status. What do we got left on the ship that is good?" Gene Krantz
      • two flights in a hundred. there is a 2% chance that you won't be coming back.. incidentally, it's probably lower.. the last one was round #50 ish. (STS-51, but probably fewer flights had actually been flown, they seem to go slightly out of order) Seems they get complacent around every 50 flights or so, so it's probably been reset. (We're gonna need a lot more data to prove my assertion though.. are YOU willing to volunteer when the count gets back up to 35-40?)
    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Sunday June 12, 2005 @11:47PM (#12799815) Homepage
      2%. And that's darned good for orbital spaceflight.

      You're strapping yourself to a gigantic tank of highly combustible fuel in containers made minimally thin (often so weak and with a taper that if you turn them upside down when full, they'd burst), pumped at ridiculous speeds into combustion chambers running hotter than the boiling point of iron, with the entire combustion chamber being gimballed at high speed to keep the craft stable, and hope that the vibration doesn't damage anything important.

      In space, you're exposed to extreme temperature variations (and thus thermal expansion/contraction, brittleness, freezing fuel/hydraulic lines, etc), high radiation levels, parts and liquids shifting in zero-G, etc. On reentry, most of that energy that you burned off getting into space must be burned off by your craft, creating temperatures of thousands of degrees that would easily melt most materials, and give even many superalloys the texture of rubber.

      Hundreds of thousands to millions of parts, each one with failure potential. Escape velocity requiring enough energy that even the highest ISP exhausts only leave the craft at a fraction of the velocity you need to end up going. A dense lower atmosphere. It's amazing that we can get people off this rock at all, as opposed to simple suborbital hops. :)
    • The submitter should be modded down, "Will somebody PLEASE think about the children!" I wonder who the smart-aleck submitter would recommend as the 'beta testers?'

      Shuttle should fly again when the known & knowable risks have been adequately addressed. A standard of "would you let your child fly on it" is silly & overly conservative. There are many risks not appropriate for children which are undertaken by adults every day.
    • Exactly. Imagine all of the amazing discoveries and accomplishments that would never have happened if we insisted on waiting until we could nearly gaurantee that not a single person would be killed or even hurt and that no property would be lost or destroyed or damaged.

      Anyway, I'd rather die attempting to explore the universe outside of our little planet than die from cigerettes, cocaine or bigmacs.
  • by Karl Cocknozzle ( 514413 ) <kcocknozzle@ h o t m a i> on Sunday June 12, 2005 @10:29PM (#12799269) Homepage
    Would you want your children flying a space shuttle that hasn't been properly beta-tested?

    Won't someone PLEASE think of the childen!
    • by gerf ( 532474 ) <> on Sunday June 12, 2005 @10:33PM (#12799307) Journal

      NASA, by its very essence, isn't able to test things in completely realistic environments. They spend huge amounts of time and energy doing what testing they can, but how in the world (or outside the world) can you test fixing a wing on a space shuttle? There are so many variables that it's insane to attempt

      Sure, this makes NASA dangerous, but that's been known for decades. Space travel isn't as easy as driving to the supermarket just yet. Get over it.

      • but how in the world (or outside the world) can you test fixing a wing on a space shuttle?

        Get rid of the wings. There are many designs that don't rely on wings that have nearly the same maneuverability as does the shuttle with much greater overall reliability. Is it any wonder that the Russians are the only nation with a regular spaceflight capability when what they're flying is essentially a sphere?

        • because they just can't get rid of the wings from the space shuttle... That would require building a new vehicle entirely. Which if you haven't been paying attention is called the Crew Exploration Vehicle which has no wings. The Northrop-Boeing design is a capsule, the Lockheed design is a lifting body, and the t/space design is also a capsule.
    • I watched all the the moon landing Saturn V take off and I knew many of the people in the early NASA program. That was when NASA had the attitude that we are building the best we can but at the end of the day, you light the candle and go for the ride of your life. At some point in the last 30 years NASA went from pushing the envelope to being the most expensive bus drivers in history.

      I still want to see a shuttle take off. I've heard its impressive but somehow I don't think it will compare to Apollo 17
  • Heck Yeah (Score:5, Interesting)

    by OS24Ever ( 245667 ) * <> on Sunday June 12, 2005 @10:29PM (#12799271) Homepage Journal
    Would you want your children flying a space shuttle that hasn't been properly beta-tested?"
    Screw the kids, I myself would climb aboard in a heart beat.

    Did you see Contact? Remember the scene where Jody Foster sees something outside for the first time and they morph the childs face & voice onto her's as she describes what she is seeing?

    I'd risk my life to see that, because I know we won't be living on the moon like I thought we would be in the 80s when I was in Jr. High.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Screw the kids

      Uh... I think that's illegal.
    • Re:Heck Yeah (Score:3, Interesting)

      by adrianmonk ( 890071 )

      I'd risk my life to see that, because I know we won't be living on the moon like I thought we would be in the 80s when I was in Jr. High.

      OK, like it or not, you've triggered a story:

      When my sister was in Jr. High (which would've been 1979-1982 if I've done the math right), she had this woefully out of date science textbook. It had all kinds of crazy and laughable things in it, but the pinnacle was a little sidebar on space travel, which talked about the challenges man faced and what we had accom

  • Beta-testing (Score:4, Informative)

    by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Sunday June 12, 2005 @10:33PM (#12799308) Journal
    Would you want your children flying a space shuttle that hasn't been properly beta-tested?

    Screw that. If the chance of coming back alive is at least as good as it was on the 100+ other shuttle launches, I'd give almost anything to go myself. I guess some additional beta-testing might be nice, but how much will it cost?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 12, 2005 @10:33PM (#12799309)
    Hi - this whole safety mania regarding the space shuttle is silly. Yes, it is tragic that two crews have died so far, but lets face it - when traveling in those atmospheric conditions at those speeds and temperature extremes there will always be a risk, even if NASA managers are under pressure to be able to claim it is now entirely safe.

    I mean, there are terrible airplane crashes every year, but do we shut down all commercial airflight until we can make it certain that flying has no risk?

    On the flip side, we should do more to acknowledge the risks those space shuttle crews take every time they go up for even a "routine" mission.

    • Yes, it is tragic that two crews have died so far, but lets face it - when traveling in those atmospheric conditions at those speeds and temperature extremes there will always be a risk...

      The Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo projects carried out all of their accomplishments without losing a single crew member during flight operations. Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee were killed during testing on the ground. Apollo 13 nearly lost a crew, but the efforts of the mission control staff pulled their bacon o
      • "We don't NEED a space truck "

        EVERY single telecom company will dissagree with you. As will every national intelligence agency. As will quite a few material scientists I know of.

        Dude, you are full of shit. Not only that, but you are risk averse (which might not be a bad thing, nesseccarily). If it where up to people like you, there'd be no cars, no trains, and no european discovery of the americas. It's people like you who take all the fun out of life. You /are/ that grey old lady who is against any and a
    • Hey, fun. There are two categories here. "No risk" and "Risk". There is "risk" in air flight; there is "risk" in space shuttle flight; therefore, if we allow passenger air flight we should allow the space shuttle to fly.

      Great logic. There will "always be a risk" and the only alternative is to "make certain that flying has no risk."

      Surely a more efficient googler can come up with a better number, but the annual number of flights flying in or out of the Baltimore/Washington International airport alone is 26
  • Rockhound - "You know we're sitting on four million pounds of fuel, one nuclear weapon and a thing that has 270,000 moving parts built by the lowest bidder. Makes you feel good, doesn't it?"

    It seemed fitting ...

  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Sunday June 12, 2005 @10:45PM (#12799396) Journal
    that hasn't been properly beta-tested?

    Quite Honestly, I would go up in a heart beat. Those shuttles have been tested through and through. Now what is happening is the nit picking over every little detail. I would guess that my 3 year old nissan quest is no where near as safe as that ship is.

  • by DualG5GUNZ ( 762655 ) * on Sunday June 12, 2005 @10:46PM (#12799408)
    Manned missions in space don't make sense from scientific or economic perspectives. For the past two years we've been spending mega bucks on making a lost cause (the space shuttle) safer, but for what? The fact is that metal things are much cheaper (if one blows up, nobody dies). Instead of appealling to peoples hearts and dreams (we went to the moon back in 1969 - when it meant something) we should focus on aquiring knowledge about the cosmos and the like. To do that we don't need people.
    • You do need people, actually.

      You need enough taxpayers to care enough about the program to be willing to fund it. Which is already hard enough to do with actual people going up and doing things, and would probably be impossible if you were talking about a robot or some guy in houston with a joystick.

      This line of argument also discounts that there are still biological (human) tests going on in space, and the fact that we have a big ol' space station being worked on and lived in, which is a pretty important
      • A. In fact, you don't need people in space to get tax payers interested, take the Mars Rovers for example. The Mars Rovers have been HUGE successes for NASA from both Scientific and PR standpoints. In fact, though this is subjective speculation, I don't remember shuttle missions EVER getting as much press as the Rovers (minus the shuttle mission where everyone died) and certainly no shuttle missions have gotten such consistently positive press. Actually, when you take into consideration the Rovers' journey
    • Manned missions in space don't make sense from scientific or economic perspectives.

      Manned space missions make plenty of sense from a scientific perspective, if your eventual goal is to put a significant number of people into space (and onto other bodies). But more on that later.

      The reason that our space program is doomed is the second half of that statement. Manned space missions never made sense from an ecomonic perspective. That wasn't the point then, and it still isn't now. We're just not in a pissi

  • by distantbody ( 852269 ) on Sunday June 12, 2005 @10:59PM (#12799493) Journal
    The space shuttle program was ruined in its early days by too many government/military/nasa requirements, in short they wanted it to be a "jack of all trades", but because most of the shuttles functionality and specifications are rarely used, it turned out to be "a master of none" because of all the bloat. each flight costs in the order of $500 million rather than initial projections of $10 to $20 million!

    The Crew Exploration Vehicle appears to be on the right track, just as the shuttle concept was, lets just hope they dont make the same mistakes again! oh well, if they mess this one up too we can always look forward to the future European EADS Phoenix reusable launch vehicle! [] How a good concept turns into bad reality [] What the shuttle should have been. Leave it up to the Europeans to get it right! ;)
    • Except it's done a damn good, if expensive, job at being such an all around vehicle. What it's not so good at is measuring up to impossible hype and overselling. The shuttle flew more times before its first accident than Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo combined. It could be improved upon, what with 20 years of flying experience, but nah. Let's just throw it away because of a freak accident that destroyed our false faith in its utter perfection.
      • by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Monday June 13, 2005 @12:00AM (#12799881)
        It could be improved upon

        Exacly. And it will be improved by removing the heavy, useless wings; by eliminating the unneeded large payload capacity; by greatly reducing the heat shield size and complexity; by adding a viable escape system; by getting rid of uncontrollable solid boosters; and by dropping the high-strung engines that need a total rebuild after every flight that costs more than new engines.

        In other words, it will be replaced by a much more reasonable capsule-like spacecraft on a simple single-use booster.

  • Oh, is that all? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Fritzed ( 634646 ) <Fritzed&gmail,com> on Sunday June 12, 2005 @11:07PM (#12799542) Homepage
    ". . .the only items blocking the Shuttles are issues 'related to tank debris, orbiter hardening and tile repair."

    Oh, so all that remain are the exact same issues that grounded the program in the first place.

    So what have the actually done in the past couple years again?

    -> Fritz
  • Come on... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 12, 2005 @11:16PM (#12799604)
    "Would you want your children flying a space shuttle that hasn't been properly beta-tested?"

    Oh fuck off. The astronauts know damned well what they are getting into... certainly better than you with your irrelevant software analogy.
  • Would you want your children flying a space shuttle that hasn't been properly beta-tested?

    We did beta testing already...many, many years ago. What we're dealing with now are design flaws for a very specific set of events, wear/tear, etc.

    Besides, the only way to "beta test" the shuttle is to launch it. Simulators don't account for the real world problems that caused it to be grounded.
  • Dear Slashdot,

    Update your RSS feed.

    Thank You,

    RSS readers
  • Didn't they send up the last Shuttle without the space arm camera, which prevented them from examining the shuttle after the debris damaged the tiles? Because they were rushing, over budget, or something that shouldn't be happening now that they've been grounded for years, relaunching amidst endless talk of big budget increases? I mean c'mon: this is rocket science, but they are rocket scientists! If this administration weren't so busy screwing up every other Federal activity into an irreversible boondoggle
  • I hate the god-damned Space Shuttle. Its been around now for 25 years. It was a bad idea 25 years ago. Its an even worse idea today.

    Most orginizations at some point realize when they've built a white elephant and move forward. NASA just can't grasp that SS was a crap idea as concieved.

    I think it has undue mindshare because it looks kind of like what a spaceship should look like. Not like those ghay capsules, that, oh, managed to get us to the moon and never killed anyone in flight.

    We should throw th
    • No, I think NASA knows what the shuttle's problems are. They've been trying to get a replacement for a while. The thing is, it's not as easy as just saying, hey, let's make something new, and getting it done.

      Ignoring all the technical and engineering compromises that went on in the design, just getting approval to design and build the thing sounds like it was quite the hassle to me. Everyone wanted to build a part of it in their state, because there's lots of money and nice jobs involved. There were engine
  • so the only issues remaining are the ones that killed all of the passengers on the last flight.

    Great. Where do I sign up?
  • by aCapitalist ( 552761 ) on Sunday June 12, 2005 @11:39PM (#12799767)
    Guess what...more people are going to die going to, coming from, and in space...surprise surprise.

    I'm sick of this nancy boy, nurse ratchet mentality where there can be no risks in anything and when an accident does happen we have to spread the blame as much as possible. And I'm talking about society in general, not space flight.

  • by MikeSty ( 890569 ) on Sunday June 12, 2005 @11:43PM (#12799793) Homepage
    "Space Shuttles almost Ready to Re-Launch" Great ... but ... are they ready to land?
  • Beta test (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Elf-friend ( 554128 ) on Monday June 13, 2005 @12:19AM (#12799958)
    ...hasn't been properly beta-tested?
    This is the beta. It's been going on for 25 years. The current space shuttles, as designed, were never meant to be a long-term solution, but lack of funding meant they began to be treated as one well before the Challenger disaster. Rather than realize this fact at that time, Congress has continued to refuse the funding NASA would need to move on to the next generation of shuttle (and really "go gold" with the program). The result was the Columbia disaster. If the program had moved forward as intended, Columbia (and the rest of these beta-shuttles) would have been long since retired.

    As to the overall stupidity of that comment, believe it or not, someone has to do the beta testing here. Yeah, it's a tragedy when lives are lost, but that's the nature of the space program: risks have to be taken, because some things just can't be done without real-world testing. Even when the space program is no longer experimental, lives will still be lost, because space, in and of itself, is a high-risk venture.

  • These things have already killed 14 people, more than all the other space programs in the world combined. Will there ever be an end to this madness. It is a flawed, pointless program.
  • by Banner ( 17158 ) on Monday June 13, 2005 @12:45AM (#12800069) Journal
    You know, the stuff that WORKS? The stuff that was pulled out of service for some ridiculous and unproven green PC Bullshirt?

    NASA became a worthless joke when they started practicing junk science and let the middle managers rule the roost. Time to shut it down and just fire everyone.
  • Firstly the reason spaceflight is dangerous is purely because we have no ability to gauge the dangers out there. Space (yes im aware that LEO is quite tame compared to say Lunar apogee during the new moon)is THE most hostile place for a human to go. zero gravity causes phsyiological stresses and potential damages from long term life under microgravity are very unclear despite decades of research. the removal of friction means that high speed debris are ALWAYS a risk, no matter where you are or what orbit, there is very strong chance your rocket will get hit with something, its an absolute certainty. The Shuttle is pounded by micrometeorites and other debri while in orbit. everything from pain flecks from saturn V's to frozen urine from appolo 13, along with the regular space dirt dust and tiny tiny chunks of rock.

    I have always been interested in spacefligh and at one point considered Aeronautics to be my eventual feild of work. I do know what im talking about. IANAPRS (i Am not a PROFESSIONAL Rocket Scientist) So i wont claim i know Everything i should or need But im no average bystander with a casual interest in it.

    The shuttle is Dying. Clear case point. IT WAS BUILT DEAD. The shuttle was a masterpeice of design and some of the inital work for it was pehonomenal. BUT as all publicly accountable institutions with large goverment funding in any country, they had to deal with political decisions that impacted on the end result of the Space Shuttle.

    Personal I want to see the shuttle Fly Purely because its better than the alternative. No i dont mean the russian soyuz modules or even Buran (the soviet space shuttle, which is arguably better given it flew a full orbit test and reentry under auto pilot, Which are by themselves very excelent machines. Abeit more "ruggedized" than the NASA engineers would want. Soyuz is still derived from the Balistic Missile school of rocket science. And there is proof that in fact the Russians are better able to deal with an emergency than the US are presently. A soyuz can be "locked and loaded" ready on the launch pad to take off in 6 hours. This comes from the entire launch fabrication and facilities still being heavily derived from balistic missile technology, which was built to be used quite quickly in the event of a nuclear war.

    The american space program tried to leave this behind to "look towards the future" Wernher Von Braun, the German behind the V2 rocket and a significant member of his staff surrendered to the US at the end of WW2 and were essentialy the brains behind the US space program and most of the Balistic missile technology developed leading up to it. He, before even the launch of the saturn V had begun to think about the desin of a "reusable" space vehicle. Taking off like a rocket landing like a plane.

    All of this is looking towards the kind of mass market future for spaceflight most here would hope to see someday. But the risks remain great. and currently It appears that the US have taken a step back. Deciding to shift to disposable launches with single use crew modules. While safer due to the elimination of long term mechanical wear and tear it is still going to be throwing precious resources away every time. and adding to the amount of junk in space.

    Where it should have gone and NEEDS to go is where some of the prototypes that have come from aerospace research reside and go. There is no reason besides lack of interest stoping us from building a Single Stage to Orbit Space Plane that could take off AND land like a plane at an airport. Dont cite technicalities. Theyre fudged by people that either havent looked at the full picture of available technology, or have a vested interest in not looking at it. Current Aerospace technology if rounded up and applied directly to the problem with the kind of $$$ the us goverment gave back when the Appolo program began or even with the amound of money put into the space shuttles development. Perhaps even with the meager budget given to the creation of the "new" Spacecraft for nasa, th
  • by bergeron76 ( 176351 ) * on Monday June 13, 2005 @01:00AM (#12800136)
    Didn't SpaceShipOne re-enter the Earth's Atmosphere using a composite resin body? How was SpaceShipOne able to do this without ceramic tiles? Was it Altitude?

    Logically, I'd think Ceramic tiles are required considering that "rocks" / meteors are all that are found intact on Earth (from Space). However, the Earthling in me doesn't see a "rock space shuttle" as a practical alternative.

    • by Free_Meson ( 706323 ) on Monday June 13, 2005 @01:40AM (#12800289)
      Didn't SpaceShipOne re-enter the Earth's Atmosphere using a composite resin body? How was SpaceShipOne able to do this without ceramic tiles? Was it Altitude?

      SpaceShip One (orwhatever it was called) was going MUCH slower. It never reached orbital velocity, ~22,500 knots iirc. The heat experienced during reentry is from the atmosphere slowing the craft down. You wouldn't have to shield a craft at all if you were only traveling a few hundred mph. You'd have other problems, of course, but reentry heat wouldn't be one of them.
  • Beta Tested (Score:2, Insightful)

    by airider ( 728197 )
    It has been beta tested and gone gold and so far it's track record has been much better than MS Windows, and every other OS or software App I'm aware of. It's only crashed twice over 25 years of service in THE most demanding environment imaginable. Show me another system (software or otherwise) that's had this track record over the Shuttle's current and projected longevity?
  • by XO ( 250276 ) <blade.eric @ g m> on Monday June 13, 2005 @02:38AM (#12800459) Homepage Journal
    Space flight will, for a very very long time, be in beta test. Until we can achieve the shuttle's original mission of going up many, many times in a short time frame... it's going to be in test. Space missions are dangerous, get used to it. It's amazing that we have a track record as good as we do.
  • Idiotic question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RWerp ( 798951 ) on Monday June 13, 2005 @02:53AM (#12800504)
    Would you want your children flying a space shuttle that hasn't been properly beta-tested?

    No, I wouldn't. That's why we don't send children into space, only consenting adults.
    • by oneishy ( 669590 )

      Would you want your children flying a space shuttle that hasn't been properly beta-tested?

      Honestly, I agree. In any other post on this site that article should be moderated as flaimbait.

      It's a nice case of emotional misdirection which gets you emotionally against children flying spaceships into space, when that isn't the issue at all.

      Besides; don't we expect any beta test of space flight to involve flight? So why claim that it isn't beta-tested so we can't/shouldn't fly. As another poster mentioned -

  • by ShoobieRat ( 829304 ) on Monday June 13, 2005 @11:03AM (#12802751)
    It's surprising how many people are just appalled by the "loss of life", not to mention money, in the two shuttle disasters.

    Let's review:
    1. Out of over 107 missions, into a region of existance we know little about, with a machine more complex than most other aircraft, with a crew riding thousands of tons of explosives, we've lost "only" 14 people, in 2 disasters. (That's a less than 2-percent failure ratio.)
    2. There have been over 14-thousand fatalities in the airline industry since its start. (Over a thousand deaths in the past 3 years alone.)
    3. In comparison to the two known non-US space-flight programs in operation on this planet, the Russian space-flight program with its current Soyuz ship (older than the space shuttle) has been plagued with more problems than death, and the Chinese, although modestly successful, are still back in the days of the Mercury and Gemini missions, flinging people into orbit in capsules with nothing else to do.
    4. Despite widespread lack of knowledge on the public's part, the US space program has had wide-spanning benifits to the human race.
    5. The number of countries capable of supporting a continual human space-flight program, are few. The number that can do so, and then afford to advance further to make it a process that is safe and as common as airline flights, comes to single digits.
    6. The space shuttle remains the only solution available for providing support and maintenance to satellites. It is also the only platform able to move between orbits and locations, and actively interact with other space-based systems.
    7. The money spent advancing space technologies, not only benifits us, but goes into our economy.
    8. The government spends far more than the entire NASA budget that, without sounding like a hippie, have done little to advance our standing in the world and which have a deadly outcome. If NASA wants to spend millions and billions developing technology that makes our lives better and expands our knowledge, what's the problem? Money burned is bad, but money burned towards a good intention is better than money burned for naught.
    9. Do I need to continue?

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982