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NASA Space Science

Shuttle Discovery Lands Safely 668

Tuxedo Jack writes "CNN and NASA report that the space shuttle Discovery has landed safely at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Concerns for its safe return were raised when spacewalks were necessary to repair the vehicle when external components were damaged; however, the shuttle landed safely with Commander Eileen Collins at the control yoke."
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Shuttle Discovery Lands Safely

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  • Re:What was that? (Score:2, Informative)

    by nolesrule ( 152898 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:14AM (#13277696) Homepage
    It's the APU exhaust vent.
  • Re:What was that? (Score:5, Informative)

    by TigerTale ( 414169 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:15AM (#13277701)
    It was exhaust from one of the hydraulic systems. The commentator on Fox News asked the same thing.
  • Re:What was that? (Score:5, Informative)

    by dukeblue219 ( 212029 ) <[dukeblue219] [at] [aol.com]> on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:16AM (#13277713) Homepage
    According to the astronaut on Fox News:

    It was one of the Auxilliary Power Units (APUs) that power Discovery's systems during re-entry and landing. These generators are powered by rocket fuel, so what you saw (and I saw as well) was the steady pulsing of exhaust from one of the APUs. They power things like the ailerons, rudder, and other vital systems for the orbiter.
  • by mbelly ( 827938 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:18AM (#13277729)
    I heard ~$1 million.
  • Re:Almost Home (Score:2, Informative)

    by mbelly ( 827938 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:21AM (#13277761)
    They piggyback it on a 747, the trip costs about $1 million. (Happened to visit Kennedy Space Center last week and they mentioned it on the tour.)
  • Re:"Pilot" (Score:3, Informative)

    by blancolioni ( 147353 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:28AM (#13277835) Homepage
    From the NASA coverage:

    8:07 a.m. - Discovery's wings leveling as it approaches the landing site. Now that the orbiter has gone subsonic, Commander Eileen Collins has assumed control. She'll fly Discovery on a 194-degree right overhead turn to align with runway 22.

    Sure sounds like she's landing it to me.
  • by Fjornir ( 516960 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:33AM (#13277870)
    Negative. The pilot handles most of the banking maneuvers as the skycar glides in on approach leaving the commander free for any comms with Houston and to load the updated nav data then there is an exchange of flight controls and the commander handles the landing.
  • Re:"Pilot" (Score:5, Informative)

    by outlineblue ( 472351 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:36AM (#13277891)
    actually, they do land the shuttle. Deorbit is automatic and all, but the final approch is done by the commander manually. Check out the landing 101 on the Nasa web site before spreding bullshit all over the place.

    http://www.nasa.gov/returntoflight/launch/landing1 01.html [nasa.gov]
  • Re:"Pilot" (Score:3, Informative)

    by Arbin ( 570266 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:40AM (#13277911) Journal

    The Shuttle is only computer controlled through the supersonic portion of flight, at around ~50,000 feet the controls are given to the Copilot for a relatively quick period. Following that, the pilot at around 30,000 feet assumes control, and guides the shuttle in while maintaining a trajectory within the glide slope.

    Before posting mis-information like you've done today, check your facts first.

  • by TurdTapper ( 608491 ) <`seldonsplan' `at' `gmail.com'> on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:48AM (#13277973) Journal
    Merely because you don't care about something doesn't automatically mean it isn't newsworthy. There were many things that they did up there, pretty much every day, that was very interesting to me. And there were some things that I didn't care about that I'm sure were very interesting to some other people.
    I loved the coverage and always looked forward to more shuttle articles.
  • by KitesWorld ( 901626 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:55AM (#13278033)
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4134986.stm [bbc.co.uk] for those want a read, 'tho its only mentioned in passing.
  • Groan... (Score:5, Informative)

    by mykepredko ( 40154 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:57AM (#13278050) Homepage
    according to Feynman the shuttle pilot does only 2 things:
    1. pushes the button for which base to land at
    2. lowers the landing gear
    and they only do number 2 because they don't like to feel completely like passengers.

    Neither point is accurate and somewhat condescending. Rather than going by somebody who claims to be an expert on everything, why don't you look at the source?

    Start with NASA MISSION EVENTS SUMMARY [nasa.gov] and scroll down to "Deorbit" and "Entry" to see what the shuttle astronauts really do when the shuttle leaves orbit (a lot more than just press a button).

    As to the landing gear control, this is a safety of flight issue and is discussed in SHUTTLE AVIONICS Design Constraints and Considerations [nasa.gov] in the "GNC" section. The decision to make the gear down command a manual operation has nothing to do with making the astronauts not "feel completely like passengers".

  • No big surprise (Score:3, Informative)

    by dtfinch ( 661405 ) * on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @09:59AM (#13278070) Journal
    Their survival rate has so far been 98%.
  • Re:"Pilot" (Score:3, Informative)

    by rugger ( 61955 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @10:03AM (#13278090)
    > 2. lowers the landing gear

    This is manually controlled because once the landing gear is lowered, it cannot be retracted while in flight.

    If there was some fault in the computer system that prematurely lowered the landing gear, during liftoff or while in orbit, the shuttle would be unable to re-enter the atmosphere.
  • by duffbeer703 ( 177751 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @10:09AM (#13278149)
    The problem is that back in 1998 or 1999, foam panel insulation was introduced to replace some sort of freon (or other CFC) spray foam insulation, because the manufacture of most CFCs is banned in most of the world.

    The foam panels on Columbia took out critical tiles on the leading edge of the wing. Previous shuttle tile damage had been limited to less critical sections.

    The Columbia disaster is a classic example of what happens when external events and political pressures interfere with the engineering process.
  • Re:Almost Home (Score:4, Informative)

    by pizen ( 178182 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @10:15AM (#13278234)
    Back when I lived in Texas I saw it when they made a stop on the way back to Florida. It's a really cool sight. Good article about it at space.com [space.com] . According to the article the largest part of the $1 million is the travel expenses of the KSC employees who have to fly to Edwards on short notice.
  • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @10:22AM (#13278315)
    Why does the foam on the external tank need to be there? When you're dealing with liquid hydrogen and oxygen, you do want some insulation, for example to prevent the external tank from turning into the world's largest popsicle.
  • Re:What was that? (Score:3, Informative)

    by mj_1903 ( 570130 ) * on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @10:29AM (#13278409)
    Just to add to this comment a little further, the glow was the exhaust from the 3 auxiliary power units (APU) on board the shuttle. They provide power for the hydraulic systems (stabilisers and landing gear) and some electrical power. They are only used in descent and landing and are powered by Hydrazine, the same fuel that is used for the OMS and the thrusters.

    When I first saw it in infrared it reminded me a lot of the space shuttle Columbia coming back on a flight where one of the APU's caught fire and flames were seen pulsing out the back. A quick check of the visual feed showed that it was just hot gases.

    A video of the fire is available at John Young's website. [johnwyoung.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @10:37AM (#13278491)
    The computerized autopilot handles all of those banking manuevers. A human pilot, generally the commander (not the "shuttle pilot") then takes the flight controls about 3-4 minutes from touchdown and manually flies the craft from the last portion of the descent to the airport, around a semicircular base leg (in today's landing it was a right-base) of the landing pattern and straight on down final thru the flare and touchdown.

    The "shuttle pilot" handles the maneuvering of the craft while in orbit, and is a "co-pilot" during takeoff and landing where the "commander" is the actual pilot.

    In today's landing, Eileen personally handled the landing.
  • Re:Almost Home (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rolan ( 20257 ) * on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @10:41AM (#13278519) Homepage Journal
    Now how do they get the shuttle back to FL so it can be launched again ?

    Atop [spacepix.net] a [nasa.gov] 747 [theaviationzone.com].
  • by Jeremy Erwin ( 2054 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @10:52AM (#13278611) Journal
    The foam that destroyed Columbia was BX-250, which used CFC-11 as a blowing agent. Columbia used Lightweight External Tank 93, an older model.

    On tanks constructed after ET-93, NASA replaced BX-250 with BX-265, which used HCFC 141b as a blowing agent. BX-265 is not without its problems, however, and NASA is working on replacement formulae.

  • Re:What was that? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Lars83 ( 901821 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @11:06AM (#13278752)
    I work for the company that makes the orbiter APUs. They are fueled with hydrazine, which is one of the most toxic and flammable substances in the known universe. One of the reasons they wait so long before letting the astronauts out is because they want to make sure all of those gases have vented.
  • Re:IM transcript (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @11:26AM (#13278956)
    wb == welcome back
    ty == thank you
  • by GFunk83 ( 686657 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @11:26AM (#13278957) Homepage
    From a different FA [reuters.com]:

      "As a result of the foam problem, NASA grounded the shuttle fleet, saying the spacecraft would not fly again until the insulation issue is fixed. Sept. 22 was tentatively set for shuttle Atlantis to take off on the next mission but NASA managers acknowledge that date is unrealistic."
  • HTH (Score:4, Informative)

    by kriegsman ( 55737 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @11:27AM (#13278970) Homepage
    See various FAQs [pulpchat.com]; "wb" is "welcome back", "ty" is "thank you".
  • by PriceIke ( 751512 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @11:42AM (#13279113)
    Yeah, but at least the woman is cute [nasa.gov]. I think she is, anyway.
  • by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @12:00PM (#13279283) Homepage Journal
    I wish I had some mod points.

    I've read that in studies that factor in senority and working hours, that the difference disappears.

    The idea is that women tend to work fewer hours/take longer leaves than men, and this leads to the difference.

    Heck my mother(an accountant) says the exact same thing. And she's the highest paid worker in the office.
  • Re:What was that? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @12:03PM (#13279319)
    Actually, the FOX news coverage of the landing was nice to watch because of the guests: a shuttle astronaut and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin. It was interesting to hear Buzz's comments on things, you can tell that even at the ripe old age of 75 he's pretty sharp, and he would sometime ask the shuttle astronaut rather intellegent questions and the two would go on for a couple minutes as if they were having a personal coversantion filled with NASA jargon and it'd go back to the FOX guy asking some "average Joe" question. Funny to watch.
  • Re:"Pilot" (Score:4, Informative)

    by blancolioni ( 147353 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @12:32PM (#13279566) Homepage
    Looking at the facts, it seems that only one shuttle mission has ever landed manually, the rest have been computer controlled. The pilot just launches the landing gear.

    OK, let's look at the facts, which you clearly didn't do, or did you just forget to put your references in? This is from the landing 101 page at NASA's web site. [nasa.gov]

    Landing-5 minutes
    The orbiter's velocity eases below the speed of sound about 25 statute miles from the runway. As the orbiter nears the Shuttle Landing Facility, the commander takes manual control, piloting the vehicle to touchdown on one of two ends of the SLF.

    Which facts were you referring to?

    The fact is, shuttle pilots train for years and do hundreds of landing approach practice runs, and it's pretty sad when slashdotters, who have no idea and who think that cynicism is the same thing as sophistication, post bullshit like you just did.

    Perhaps it makes you feel better to imagine that, but for a random twist of fate, it could have been you pressing that landing gear button. Well, it wasn't and you couldn't. Accept it, and move on.
  • by RoverDaddy ( 869116 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @12:34PM (#13279576) Homepage
    My memory may be faulty, but I seem to recall that -occasionally- the mission commander has given the pilot the actual landing, perhaps because that astronaut was being prepped for commanding a future mission.

    Given how (more) precious an opportunity to fly the shuttle is, I'd be surprised to see any commander do this. Consider that Col. Collins' career in space is probably over, not through any fault of hers, but simply to make room for other mission commanders.
  • by Lord Satri ( 609291 ) <alexandreleroux&gmail,com> on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @12:50PM (#13279742) Homepage Journal
    From the great JSR monthly report.
    http://www.planet4589.org/jsr.html [planet4589.org]

    Shuttle and Station

    The Shuttle has completed its return-to-flight mission, but continuing problems with debris marred the otherwise successful flight.

    Discovery was launched at 1439:00 UTC on Jul 26, reaching a 54 x 229 km orbit at 1447 UTC. The OMS-2 burn at 1517 UTC raised the perigee out of
    the atmosphere, with a 155 x 230 km orbit. NC-1 and NC-2 burns resulted in 226 x 285 km and 270 x 287 km orbits, as the Shuttle slowly matched
    altitude and speed with the Station in a 350 x 356 km x 51.6 deg orbit. Meanwhile, external tank ET-121 fell back into the Pacific with reentry
    at around 1550 UTC.

    Spectacular camera views from the External Tank showed minor tile damage during ascent, and the loss of a half-meter piece of foam from the ET at
    the time of SRB separation. Although the foam did not hit Discovery, the failure to stop large foam loss (a 15-cm piece was also lost from near
    the bipod ramp) will have to be investigated and fixed before Atlantis can fly the next mission.

    On Jul 19 the Station crew flew Soyuz TMA-6 from the Pirs docking port, undocking at 1038 UTC, and redocked with the Zarya docking port at 1108 UTC.

    On Jul 28 at 1118 UTC Discovery docked at the Space Station. Hatch opening was at 1250 UTC. The first spacewalk was carried out on Jul 30
    and saw tile repair tests in the payload bay, and installation of a mounting bracket for the ESP-2 stores platform on the Station's Quest module.

    The second spacewalk on Aug 1 saw replacement of the Station's CMG-1 gyro. The third spacewalk on Aug 3 saw installation of the ESP-2 platform,
    and the removal of two protruding pieces of tile gap-filler material from the Shuttle's heat shield.

    Discovery undocked from Station at 0724 UTC on Aug 6 and landed safely on Runway 22 at Edwards Air Force Base at 1211 UTC on Aug 9.
  • Re:What was that? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Lars83 ( 901821 ) on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @01:34PM (#13280139)
    Yeah, it's the fuel efficiency. It burns really, really hot and spins a turbine that generates the hydraulic pressure used to control several of the other devices on the orbiter. A few years ago, we built a prototype electric APU to replace the hydrazine model. NASA eventually canned the idea (and our funding, presumably) and decided that they would stick with the current APU. I found some more info [nasa.gov] about how the APU works, if you're interested.
  • by MCraigW ( 110179 ) <`craig' `at' `mcraigweaver.com'> on Tuesday August 09, 2005 @03:46PM (#13281322) Homepage
    A woman doing the same job as a man will be paid the same. And if not, lawsuits quickly pay her much more for not doing any job. Gender discrimination in the workplace is illegal.

    The differences in pay for men and women are that men and women tend to work in different types of jobs. Not many men would take a job as a secretary or hair stylist, not because those jobs are "typical women's jobs", but because they don't pay enough. Until fairly recently, this was true of school teaching positions too, but now that teachers are getting paid much better, more and more men are taking school teaching positions.

    As soon as they start paying secretaries the same thing as an engineer, I'll be a wonderful secretary.

A consultant is a person who borrows your watch, tells you what time it is, pockets the watch, and sends you a bill for it.