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NASA Science Technology

Astronauts Having Trouble With Tranquility Module 300

Coldeagle writes "Astronauts ran into trouble while trying to connect up the new Tranquility module onto the ISS. A critical insulating cover didn't fit quite right: 'The fabric, multilayered cover is supposed to go between Tranquility and its observation deck, but the metal bars are not locking down properly because of interference from a hand rail or some other structure at the hatch.' One has to wonder if this is another imperial/metric snafu."
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Astronauts Having Trouble With Tranquility Module

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  • In before... (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 14, 2010 @06:04PM (#31137582)

    Metric is better than Fahrenheit, and USA should get on with the times. But Fahrenheit is more accurate. But Celsius can be just as accurate, if you take decimals into the play.

  • Hubble (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @06:18PM (#31137670)
    The Hubble misfocusing problem wasn't due to English-metric stuff. A contractor was assembling an optical apparatus and was supposed to be adjusting the focal length to a point inside some hollow cylindrical cap with a hole bored in its center. When adjusting their eyepiece they missed the hole, and centered instead on a shiny point near the edge of the cap that was also reflecting laser light, because the paint had been scratched there. They couldn't get the focus knob to rotate far enough as they would need to get this paint scratch into focus, so they drove out to a hardware store, bought some flat washers, inserted them on the threaded rods holding up the laser, and elevated the focusing section out a bit so they could dial the focus length to properly get the length to the scratch right.
  • Re:Metric Everywhere (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ircmaxell ( 1117387 ) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @06:38PM (#31137840) Homepage
    I am an american, and I do believe the Imperial system is a lot easier to use. For me. Because that's what I learned from day 1. Do I think it's better? No way. Do I think it should be changed to metric? Absolutely. But the fact that most people would have a very hard time with switch is why it hasn't happened. The only way it would be able to happen is with a (possibly multiple) decade long "dual usage"... That way kids would be taught from the beginning, and regular people would have time to learn the new system...
  • Re:Metric Everywhere (Score:4, Interesting)

    by QuoteMstr ( 55051 ) <> on Sunday February 14, 2010 @06:59PM (#31138030)

    Indeed. I'm an American, but I'm familiar with SI units. If I tell a friend that something is about two meters long, he's surprised, but he understands what I mean. That goes for everyone. Even in the US, people intuitively grasp how much a liter is, how heavy a kilogram is, and how long a kilometer is. We seem to have more trouble with temperature and speed though. I'm still a little taken aback when I drive into Canada and see speed limits far higher than what I'm used to.

  • Cliche mushup (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @07:06PM (#31138078) Journal

    "Houston, this is Tranquility Base here, we have a problem."

    Actually, when Apollo 11 landed and announced, "Houston, this is Tranquility Base, the Eagle has landed", mission managers were initially confused because they'd never heard the phrase "Tranquility Base" in training. Neal threw that in as a surprise. That teaser, Neal.

  • by Brett Buck ( 811747 ) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @07:39PM (#31138376)

    Only allowing data to be stored in metric units would likely reduce the likelihood of such a mistake, but it would not eliminate it altogether.

                Unfortunately you are about 50 years too late. In the aerospace industry, virtually ALL the data about most components is already "stored" in conventional units, no Metric. Forcing it to all be converted to Metric just creates the problem you are trying to solve.

          BTW, the MRO incident may have *started* with a units conversion error, but the real flaw was with the lack of due dilligence. The trajectory was diverging for months, and the problem could have been detected and solved easily if the normal checks and balances were applied.


  • by joh ( 27088 ) on Sunday February 14, 2010 @08:37PM (#31138914)

    Every dimension was converted prior to doing anything else. There are 25.4 millimetres to the inch, or 2.54 microns per ten thousandth of an inch. Never, ever had a problem converting.

    That's because, ironically, the inch now is DEFINED as being 25.4 millimetres, so a clean and exact conversion is no problem since the inch is already based on metric units. Saying "one inch" is just another way of saying "25.4 millimetres". Other units are less clean and exact.

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