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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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  • Re:However.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by CohibaVancouver ( 864662 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @06:51PM (#46351657)
    From TFA:

    The foam strike was not observed live. Only after the shuttle was orbiting Earth did NASA's launch imagery review reveal that the wing had been hit. Foam strikes during launch were not uncommon events, and shuttle program managers elected not to take on-orbit images of Columbia to visually assess any potential damage. Instead, NASA's Debris Assessment Team mathematically modeled the foam strike but could not reach any definitive conclusions about the state of the shuttle's wing.

    The mission continued.
  • Re:However.. (Score:4, Informative)

    by CohibaVancouver ( 864662 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @07:30PM (#46352139)

    OP couldn't have gotten first post if he'd RTFA'd.

    The cool kids already RTFA four+ hours ago when it appeared on Digg & Reddit.

  • Re:However.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by nrjyzerbuny ( 141033 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @07:39PM (#46352267)

    As stated in the article (page 2, I know, I must be new here):

    Columbia's 39 degree orbital inclination could not have been altered to the ISS 51.6 degree inclination without approximately 12,600 ft/sec of translational capability. Columbia had 448 ft/sec of propellant available.

  • Re:However.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by quenda ( 644621 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @07:53PM (#46352419)

    Do you wish that the first Apollo mission hadn't reached the moon?

    Dude, I have some really bad news for you about Apollo I. They didn't even make it off the launchpad - all dead in a fire.
    There were four more manned missions, and a number of unmanned missions before Apollo 11 reached the lunar surface.

  • Re:However.. (Score:4, Informative)

    by gargleblast ( 683147 ) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @09:05PM (#46353173)
    Yes exactly. Here [wordpress.com] and here [wordpress.com], Flight Director Wayne Hale describes the efforts of NASA's TopMgmt to halt further analysis, refuse any help from the DOD, insist that nothing could be done, and squelch any chance of rescue.

Solutions are obvious if one only has the optical power to observe them over the horizon. -- K.A. Arsdall