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NASA Space

The Rescue Plan That Could Have Saved Space Shuttle Columbia 247

An anonymous reader writes "In February, 2003, space shuttle Columbia was lost upon atmospheric re-entry. Afterward, NASA commissioned an exhaustive investigation to figure out what happened, and how it could be prevented in the future. However, they also figured out exactly what would have been required for a repair and rescue mission using Atlantis. Lee Hutchinson at Ars Technica went through the report and wrote a lengthy article explaining what such a mission would look like. In short: risky and terribly complex — but possible. 'In order to push Atlantis through processing in time, a number of standard checks would have to be abandoned. The expedited OPF processing would get Atlantis into the Vehicle Assembly Building in just six days, and the 24/7 prep work would then shave an additional day off the amount of time it takes to get Atlantis mated to its external tank and boosters. After only four days in the Vehicle Assembly Building, one of the two Crawler-Transporters would haul Atlantis out to Launch Complex 39, where it would stage on either Pad A or Pad B on Flight Day 15—January 30. ... Once on the pad, the final push to launch would begin. There would be no practice countdown for the astronauts chosen to fly the mission, nor would there be extra fuel leak tests. Prior to this launch, the shortest time a shuttle had spent on the launch pad was 14 days; the pad crews closing out Atlantis would have only 11 days to get it ready to fly.'"
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The Rescue Plan That Could Have Saved Space Shuttle Columbia

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  • by Cryacin ( 657549 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @07:23PM (#46352069)
    Yes, but this was their contingency plan portfolio at the time:

    1. Spend 12 weeks to prep Atlantis at which time the larger astronauts would have begun eating the smallar astronauts. (Proven in animal testing)
    2. Request $5b in DARPA funding to develop and deploy a space elevator to retrieve astronauts in 5 years. (Plus project delays, see problem with contingency #1)
    3. Bruce Willis, a long rope, and a toothpick.
    4. Buy Uncle Murphy a case of Guinness, pray to several gods, and try to land the sucker anyway. (AKA: The ostrich risk assessment technique).
  • by mmell ( 832646 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @08:03PM (#46352527)
    Yeah, but we're talking about Sandra Bullock here.
  • by jrumney ( 197329 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @08:56PM (#46353089)

    Columbia was in a very different orbit than ISS, and had nowhere near enough fuel to get there.

    Han Solo never had fuel problems. And could go anywhere he wanted in a flash. Was Columbia really so poorly designed it could not match Han Solo's 1977 technology?

  • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @09:36PM (#46353447)
    Yes, but now they determined that with only 11 years of study first, they could launch a rescue mission in 15 days. Now there's a bureaucracy.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @09:52PM (#46353557)

    Don't be stupid. Anyone who's seen Gravity knows that all shuttles, space stations and satellites orbit within a fire-extinguisher's blast from each other.

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