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NASA Space Science

Russia's Unmanned Capsule Misses Space Station 224

mikesd81 writes "Russia's unmanned cargo ship Progress 38 missed docking with the ISS and sailed right on by it instead of docking on autopilot. A telemetry lock between the Russian-made Progress module and the space station was lost and the module flew past at a safe distance. NASA said the crew was never in danger and that the supplies are not critical and will not affect station operations. There will be no other attempts at docking today, and the orbit of the module raises questions of any other attempts again. Packed aboard the spacecraft are 1,918 pounds of propellant for the station, 110 pounds of oxygen, 220 pounds of water and 2,667 pounds of dry cargo — which includes spare parts, science equipment and other supplies."
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Russia's Unmanned Capsule Misses Space Station

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  • Ah, but then you'd need a space-tug-tug to pull your space-tug back when it fails...

    Where exactly do you get the idea that they are doing this in a half-assed manner? Contrary to what you might think, this is rocket science.

  • by Sir_Lewk ( 967686 ) <sirlewk@gma i l . c om> on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:23PM (#32781870)

    Well to be fair, unlike other measures in the SI system, kilograms isn't all that much better than pounds. It still isn't defined in terms of any universal constant (speed of light, properties of atoms, etc), but rather defined by the International Prototype Kilogram in France.

    The most common definition of the pound is exactly 0.45359237 kilograms. The pound is abitrary but so is the kilogram.

  • Re:pendantry (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sir_Lewk ( 967686 ) <sirlewk@gma i l . c om> on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:31PM (#32781946)

    Pounds are a measure of mass, not weight []

    This is because the most common definition of a pound is in terms of kilograms.

  • by annex1 ( 920373 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:38PM (#32782004)
    I wouldn't call the Kilogram "arbitrary". You are correct that it isn't defined by any "universal constant" but it is defined as being very near exactly the weight of 1 litre of water.
  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:49PM (#32782096) Homepage

    Why not think in terms of a permanent space station, and all that entails?

    If you've got the money, honey, they've got the time. Remember, the ISS is anything but permanent. It's going to be deorbited in a couple of years unless the various agencies find a whole lot of money to keep it up.

    It's not clear to me why we're doing this whole space station thing in such a half-assed manner.

    See above. This, folks, is why we need the ISS as half assed as it is. We have to learn how to solve all of these little problems in LEO before we venture all that far from home. It takes literally months of planning for each and every space walk. We just don't have the tech and the experience to just 'run out' and grab something that wobbles off. But we need to get there before we can do really big things like get to Mars in anything other than a beefed up Apollo capsule.

  • by R3d M3rcury ( 871886 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @09:04PM (#32782226) Journal

    While I agree, the benefits are "marginal" until you need them.

    One advantage of the Shuttle is it is designed to be a jack-of-all-trades. It has a big cargo bay that you can fill up with stuff, including a space lab. The arm can be used to grab nearby things and put them in the cargo bay for maintenance. It allows seven astronauts to work in a shirt-sleeve environment for two weeks. It's a pretty impressive vehicle.

    The "problem" is ISS can do most of the science stuff that the Shuttle did better than the Shuttle could (because it stays up longer). So as a science vehicle, it's not really that useful anymore. The Satellites you might want to maintain are outside the Shuttle's reach. While satellites like the Hubble Space Telescope are within the Shuttle's range, HST was designed to be maintained by the Shuttle and, in fact, has to do some crazy stuff to target stars while whizzing around the Earth within the Shuttle's range. So at this point, the Shuttle's only mission is to carry astronauts from Earth to ISS. This is akin to using a big honkin' four-wheel-drive SUV to pick up groceries at the corner store--sure it will work but it's kind of a wasteful way to do it.

    Using the Shuttle to capture the Progress Drone could probably be done. But it's kind of silly to spend $60,000,000 to launch a Shuttle to rescue a Progress drone that probably cost $10,000,000 to launch. Just launch another Progress and be done with it.

    I won't bag on the Space Shuttle--it's a great machine. But we really don't need it anymore. Let NASA get on to the next big thing (whatever that may be) and let private industry take over supplying ISS with people and supplies.

  • by ShooterNeo ( 555040 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @09:06PM (#32782238)
    The Soviets made an exact copy of the shuttle that flew and is completely automated. []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 02, 2010 @09:33PM (#32782428)

    Why should we have to deal with something as complex as the imperial system when dealing with measurements? Why should I need to use a bit of paper to work out how many 2 inch squared tiles I would need to cover a 6yard by 12 yard area? At least with the metric system the units are base10 which means that its easy to convert 10 metres to millimeters without even thinking...

  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @10:54PM (#32782876) Homepage

    We're doing this whole space station thing in such a half-assed manner because approximately half of the people in Congress would dearly like to see the entire thing cancelled (and this is not a vote along party lines).

    Out of curiousity, do you have a roll-call vote we can refer to that might give us some idea who to vote out of office if we don't like them half-assing it? I for one would like to know names.

  • Re:pendantry squared (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 02, 2010 @11:02PM (#32782902)

    This is because the most common definition of a pound is in terms of kilograms.

    unless of course, it is only the fourth most common []. Wikipedia, like statistics, can be manipulated enough to prove any side of any argument -- which makes pendantries double the fun.

    Most americans who _need_ to know the difference between weight and mass use kilograms to distinguish the two. (despite the french) - Mainly because explaining the difference between ft-ibs. and ibs-ft to someone who doesn't is exasperating and futile. Besides the fact that saying pounds-feet in english makes you sound like an idiot just because it is awkward.

  • 220 lbs of water? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ckhorne ( 940312 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @11:48PM (#32783108)

    That's 27 gallons / 100 liters. I don't know how the water recycling works on the IIS, but I find it interesting that they send up a seemingly small amount...

  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @12:38AM (#32783308)

    I don't know about it proving "marginal benefits."

    As I see it, "marginal benefits" means what does it provide that something like a Saturn 1B couldn't. As I see it, there's a vast amount of unused capability in the Shuttle. It can repair satellites, but nobody wants to repair a satellite for the cost of a Shuttle mission. It can return vast amounts of mass to Earth (called "downmass"), but as far as I can tell, aside from the odd experiment, the only thing that ISS managers want returned is trash and that can be returned on vehicles (like the Progress, ATV and HTV) which burn up in the atmosphere. It has a bunch of flexibility in landing that really isn't that useful (landing people or downmass at an airport isn't much more useful than dropping them in the middle of the ocean, compared to the cost of a Shuttle launch).

    As far as I know, there would be no ISS if it wasn't for the SS.

    In other words, bad planning on the part of the ISS builders. None of the components were particularly massive. The Proton (or a Saturn 1B, Ariane 5, Titan IV, Delta IV Heavy, etc) could have launched all of the ISS components, if it weren't for the volume and dimensions of the pieces. By making the pieces large enough that only the Shuttle could lift them, then NASA insured that the ISS was beholden on the Shuttle in order to exist. This was, no doubt, part of an attempt to wring more funding for the Shuttle and protect NASA's supply chain from budget cuts. The drawback was that any delay to Shuttle flights, such as from the Columbia accident, insured that the ISS was pushed behind schedule. While if there had been other vehicles capable of servicing the ISS's construction needs, then NASA could have kept going with construction despite the loss of Columbia or even of the entire Shuttle program.

    To summarize, the Shuttle became a single point of failure for the ISS and contributed considerably to the overall cost of the ISS's construction and past operation which is thought (once one includes the operation of the Shuttle past 2003) to run well over 100 billion dollars in current dollar cost. My view remains that with a smarter choice of sizing of ISS components and not using the Shuttle, NASA could have dropped the cost of the ISS to 20-30 billion dollars. in my view, we could have built 3-5 ISS for the cost of the ISS we actually built.

  • by TorKlingberg ( 599697 ) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @06:16AM (#32784454)

    Also, the radiation higher up than LEO is a bitch.

  • by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Saturday July 03, 2010 @09:38AM (#32785334)
    Or may be, it was just Putin's funny idea to make Obama sweat a little. Remember, considering our current restructuring/retooling efforts with NASA, the US is temporarily -- but almost-entirely dependent on Russia for resupplying the international space station. And if you're of the mind of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, what he said just a few days ago (on the 29th of June 2010), that the timing [] of the spying allegations seemed entirely too coincidental to his liking, might seem to apply in this particular case as well. May be, just may be, the timing of this first-ever Russian docking trajectory error, seems entirely too coincidental as well?

Money can't buy love, but it improves your bargaining position. -- Christopher Marlowe