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Soyuz Ballistic Re-entry 300 Miles Off Course

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the you-know-you-need-the-soviet-russia-joke dept.

Space 197

call-me-kenneth writes "Soyuz TMA-11, carrying a crew of three returning from the ISS, unexpectedly followed a high-G ballistic re-entry trajectory and ended up landing 300 miles off-course. The crew, including Commander Peggy Whitson and cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, are reportedly in good health. Soyuz capsules have previously saved the lives of the crew even after severe malfunctions that might have led to the loss of a less robust vehicle."

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197 comments

suppositories (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23127460)

they melt in your ass, not in your hand

hmm (2, Funny)

DanWS6 (1248650) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127468)

[insert "in soviet russia" joke here]

Re:hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23127634)

In America, pilot lands shuttle. In Soviet Russia sojuz lands YOU!

Ballistic trajectory? (2, Insightful)

tpheiska (1145505) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127492)

In the article they state that the vehicle returned in "a plunge with an uncontrollable, steep trajectory." So basically it came down without guidance, maybe the steering systems malfunctioned. The "ballistic trajectory" seems to be an euphemism for coming down like a rock.

Re:Ballistic trajectory? (4, Informative)

figleaf (672550) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127532)

The article also says
"He said the crew missed the target because they changed their landing plan at the last minute without telling mission control."

So most likely it was not a steering malfunction.

Re:Ballistic trajectory? (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127674)

Sometimes you have to ask "What were they thinking?" Then pick your jaw up off the floor and move on...

Re:Ballistic trajectory? (5, Funny)

Fishead (658061) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127760)

According to the voice data recorder, the last comment before the course change was:

"Screw you guys, I'm going home."

Re:Ballistic trajectory? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23128458)

Dude, one of the best comments I've ever seen here - BRAVO!!

And don't forget to respect my AUTHORITAE!!

Re:Ballistic trajectory? (5, Insightful)

Detritus (11846) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127850)

I'd take that report with a grain of salt. The first impulse of many bureaucracies is to blame all problems on the flight crew.

Re:Ballistic trajectory? (5, Informative)

trout007 (975317) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127568)

A capusle can "sort of fly" during reentry. You can use thrusters to change the attitude of the craft which changes the direction. This requires guidance. You usally use this because it's less stressful on the crew and you have pretty good accuracy. The ballistic trajectory is just like you said. Uncontrolled so you fall like a rock. So you spend less time slowing down in the upper atmosphere. You get to the thicker atmosphere sooner and when you do you are going faster which causes very high G deceleration. Not fun but the craft is designed to do it.

Re:Ballistic trajectory? (2, Informative)

ThreeE (786934) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127762)

The soyuz changes its CG position to change its attitude which rotates the lift vector which changes the trajectory.

There. I fixed it for you.

Re:Ballistic trajectory? (4, Funny)

MopedJesus (1266412) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127684)

The "ballistic trajectory" seems to be an euphemism for coming down like a rock.

A jet mechanic friend of mine is fond of the phrase "the glide-ratio of a rock".

Re:Ballistic trajectory? (4, Insightful)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128014)

The "ballistic trajectory" seems to be an euphemism for coming down like a rock.

It's not really an euphemism. The definition of "ballistic" literally means to fall like a rock.

Re:Ballistic trajectory? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23128576)

Is the US dollar in a high-G ballistic re-entry trajectory?

_anon in Pakistan

Re:Ballistic trajectory? (2, Informative)

v1 (525388) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128732)

basically that's correct. "ballistic trajectory" means there is no course correction/adjustment/maintenance going on during the trip. Like firing a mortar, you initially set the angle and power, and fire it. If your math was good, it lands where you wanted it to. "ballistics" (or "dumb firing") more commonly refers to munitions firing.

He said the crew missed the target because they changed their landing plan at the last minute without telling mission control.

Certainly IS scary. You wouldn't expect the astronauts would have an overriding degree of control over their flight plan. Actually, I would have expected it to be nearly 100% determined from mission control. And even if they did elect to "fall different", it's simply amazing they would not notify mission control. I wonder what sort of reprimand the senior astronut is going to receive over this?

"less robust" (2, Insightful)

Swampash (1131503) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127498)

read "Made in America"

Re:"less robust" (0, Troll)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127774)

read "Made in America"
Uh, no. The reason I know this is because we don't make a damn thing here anymore. What's that? Ford Taurus? No, that shit's assembled in America with parts made in Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Japan.

China (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23127844)

You forgot China - many products are 100% made in China and assembled in Mexico. Sometimes, they're actually assembled in the USA.

With the Dollar getting so low (I won't go into the politics of it) even Walmart is getting expensive.

So, economists, aren't we supposed to be better off? Hmmm? Or are you going to have to modify your theories to reflect the modern era?

Speaking of which, I need to start interviewing Elbonian economists - I have to offshore that now, too.

Re:China (4, Insightful)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128376)

With the Dollar getting so low (I won't go into the politics of it) even Walmart is getting expensive.

I think what is happening is goods from China are price correcting. If you think Wal-mart is getting expensive, maybe you should try shopping there on the pay scale of the people who make the clothes you are buying. For many years now the Yuan has been kept artificially low, giving China a strong advantage in international trading. They kept their currency values (read labor cost) low by buying up US debt, which kept the dollar high, Japan may have done the same thing. [treas.gov] In effect, Asia has been subsidizing US consumerism for decades. So the western world moved a huge amount of their manufacturing to China. In 2005 China stopped their policy of keeping the Yuan fixed at 8.28 yuan to the dollar, now it's up to 7 yuan to the dollar so everything made in China costs 18% more. China still maintains some trade advantage as they now have a much better manufacturing infrastructure and labor pool, but the now rising yuan is going to slingshot the standard of living in China up to that of the western world in short order. That means that "Made in China" is soon going to cost just as much as "Made in the USA". Which really just means that the people making it are getting paid a fair living wage, and the item actually costs what it is worth.

Re:China (1)

lessthan (977374) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128470)

Or the manufacturing industry will move to the next third world country...

Re:China (1)

hackingbear (988354) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128742)

That's exactly what's happening, as reported by Chinese and HK media. The clothing factories in southern China are closing in large number and relocated to Vietnam.

I'm sure if that relocations are completed, we will see all criticism of Vietnamese human rights and labor abuses rather than that of Chinese, in our mainstream media.

You can't fight with money!

Re:China (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128624)

Good analysis. Whether Chinese products will cost as much as US products in the long term will depend upon political factors: tariffs and tax burdens and restrictions on production.

Re:"less robust" (4, Interesting)

call-me-kenneth (1249496) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128164)

Well, maybe.

The US hasn't had a man-rated traditional stack since the last Apollo in 1976, but the next-gen Ares launcher will be a traditional inline design with the payload at the top. That, plus the lack of enormous asymmetrical control and lifting surfaces required for (some value of) atmospheric flight pretty much eliminates the sources of danger caused by the shuttle design.

OTOH, the somewhat... controversial? decision to make the Ares first stage an adaption of the existing shuttle solid rocket boosters is proving rather problematic, owing to the well-known pogo oscillation modthrusterse problems of SRB [flightglobal.com] s. (that's just a random story that popped up on google, no doubt there are much better overviews elsewhere.) Basically as designed the vehicle would crush the crew to jelly with high frequency +/1 70G vertical oscillations (shortly before the entire stack shakes itself to pieces.) (This wasn't a problem on the shuttle because there are two SRBs coupled through the external tank.)

Anyway, in a few years' time we'll be able to start comparing the safety of like with like.

No-one outside the space geek community seems to have noticed, but the Ariane-V launched ATV cargo vessel (payload: ~20 tons) has now launched human flight-rated hardware (the ATV, now docked to ISS), albeit without humans in it when it went off. I suspect there are some interesting things being doodled on napkins at cafes and bars all over Darmstadt.

How far exactly? (5, Funny)

MagdJTK (1275470) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127524)

According to the first paragraph of the article, the distance by which they were off was 400km, which Slashdot claims is 300 miles.

Perhaps the calculations were done by the same person who worked out the re-entry trajectory?

Re:How far exactly? (4, Informative)

whoda (569082) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127582)

It says 420km, which gets rounded down to 400 in the headline paragraph.

420km in miles is 260, which gets rounded up to 300 for the Slashdot article.

sort of off-topic (5, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127630)

This is one of the reasons that material/websites are listed as inaccurate sources of data. Rounding is good when you are talking about 1.300056000 billion dollars as 1.3billion. But in the case of simple math that the reader can do on their own rather quickly, it is imprudent to do any rounding.

A professional news reporter would know that there have been trouble with the US space program regarding conversions to and from metric units. Therefore it is professionally prudent to make sure you are not lumped in with the same idiots who made those mistakes.

It's not that hard, really. Such things are the stuff of journalism classes from the 50's or sooner. How not to look like an idiot when reporting the news!

Re:sort of off-topic (1, Insightful)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127992)

"Such things are the stuff of journalism classes from the 50's or sooner."

Spoken like a true foreigner.

Re:sort of off-topic (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128008)

Out of curiosity, how does that statement make me a foreigner? What country do you think I am from? I'm truly interested in how writing styles or indeed simple phrasing can be used to determine where I am from.

Re:sort of off-topic (5, Funny)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128126)

Out of curiosity, how does that statement make me a foreigner?

You've made an intelligent point without threatening anyone.

That's downright unamerican.

Mod parent funny please (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128160)

I hope that someone with points mods your comment funny... nearly brought tears to my eyes.

Re:sort of off-topic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23128204)

Such things are the stuff of journalism classes from the 50's or sooner
I think that should be the 50s or *earlier*. The fact that you make good sentences and spell correctly, but use the wrong word in a place where no native speaker would ever use it is probably what lead the GP to his conclusion

I don't think it gives a real indication of where you're from, unless your native language (like Dutch and possibly German) does not distinguish between sooner and earlier ("vroeger"). It's the same with much/many, large/tall, etc.

(Spoken like a true fellow foreigner... :-) )

Re:sort of off-topic (1)

flimflam (21332) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128280)

Out of curiosity, how does that statement make me a foreigner? What country do you think I am from? I'm truly interested in how writing styles or indeed simple phrasing can be used to determine where I am from.
I think because it makes absolutely no sense. "50's or sooner"? Seriously, what does that mean?

Re:sort of off-topic (2)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128436)

I was actually agreeing with you, implying that if you think that journalists have learned these things, then you couldn't possibly be from America, as American journalism has none of these things. Obviously, you missed the joke, and so did the mods, who gave me -1 flamebait :(

I shall endeavour to make my humour more obvious from now on. Knock knock...

Re:How far exactly? (1)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127678)

That, or they used MS Excel to do the calculations ;)

I wouldn't be /. (0)

WED Fan (911325) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128252)

That, or they used MS Excel to do the calculations ;)

Well, hell, it wouldn't be /. if someone didn't find a way to get an anti-MS comment in on every story. Congrats. But you don't get extra points until you can make it anti-Bush and anti-Christian and then mention Cuba and the holy prophet RMS, holiness is his name, at the same time. Oh, and you also need to remember to correct someone's grammar, and call dupe on Taco, while exhorting others to RTFA and then taking the poster to task for not linking to the printable version or find a version that is not copyrighted.

Did I forget something?

Oh, yeah, you need to mention how your grandmother can install and configure Ubuntu in 3 mouse clicks.

Re:How far exactly? (4, Insightful)

SteveDob (449830) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127698)

In both cases the figure was rounded to 1 significant figure, which is as relevant as is needed for the audience.

Re:How far exactly? (2, Insightful)

FlyByPC (841016) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127740)

In both cases the figure was rounded to 1 significant figure, which is as relevant as is needed for the audience.

You're trying to explain significant figures to /. ? You must be new here. Good luck, sir.

Re:How far exactly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23128300)

In both cases the figure was rounded to 1 significant figure, which is as relevant as is needed for the audience.


Mod parent up +0.05 informative!

Re:How far exactly? (1)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127788)

Let me guess - you work for NASA?

Re:How far exactly? (5, Funny)

call-me-kenneth (1249496) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128198)

Story submitter here... I used 300 miles because the NASA press release (the second link in the story) says:

"The landing was approximately 295 miles from the expected landing site"
...which I rounded to 300 to try to make the story sound more exciting than it really is, just in order to flatter my inadequate sense of identity and self-esteem. Little did I reckon on the elite mental arithmetic of the Slashdot readership! I hang my head in shame.

Re:How far exactly? (1)

r_jensen11 (598210) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128714)

So, how does this relate to german school boys [slashdot.org] ?

Deja vu (1)

DanWS6 (1248650) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127540)

The glitch that caused a Soyuz space capsule to come to Earth more than 300 miles from its intended landing point early this month has still not been identified, Russian officials said today.

The head of a panel that investigated the off-course landing said at a news conference that although the exact flaw was not known, its chances of recurring were small and future Soyuz passengers would be at no extra risk.

Published: May 27, 2003

I wonder if they've upgraded the chances of recurring.

Full Manual Re-entry is Possible in Soyuz (5, Interesting)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127550)

There is an interesting article [space.gc.ca] , written by a Canadian, in which he discusses the manual descent training that he received as part of cosmonaut training. Apparently, one of the back up computer systems is your brain itself (i.e. full manual control or renentry with analog controls and instruments). Queue the Soviet Russia jokes now...In Soviet Russia the re-entry computer is YOU!

From TA: "Under nominal end-of-mission situations, an automatic re-entry system will return the Soyuz vehicle and crew from space safely back to the ground. However, the crew must be familiar with the several backup modes that exist in instances when the automatic system fails. One of the backup re-entry modes is the crew themselves! For certain hardware and software malfunctions, the crew will be required to manually fly the Soyuz back to Earth through the atmosphere."

Re:Full Manual Re-entry is Possible in Soyuz (2, Informative)

Phanatic1a (413374) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127612)

But at 10G, the crew's probably not going to be conscious to operated that manual system. 10G is enough to cause G-induced loss of consciousness (GLOC) in anyone, even physically fit, properly trained, and prepared personnel. Even fighter aircraft, where the pilot is in a properly reclined position and is wearing a g-suit, limit maneuvering to 9g, because after that, that pilot's asleep.

Re:Full Manual Re-entry is Possible in Soyuz (4, Insightful)

johnny cashed (590023) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127644)

I would think that once you're experiencing 10G, your course has already been set. It is a space capsule, not a maneuverable atmospheric vehicle. The only control I could imagine is the decent burn, just prior to "falling out" of orbit. Once that happens, it is like going over the hump on a roller coaster, gravity takes over from there.

Re:Full Manual Re-entry is Possible in Soyuz (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127666)

I concur. However, there would also be important functions like retro-rockets and parachutes to consider. If you are operating the craft manually, you'd better be conscious to activate them.

Re:Full Manual Re-entry is Possible in Soyuz (3, Interesting)

johnny cashed (590023) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127694)

I agree, but I think that operating the craft "manually" is overstated. I would think that things like the retro ("soft" landing) rockets and the parachutes would be operated automatically. Not only automatically, but I would bet that the cosmonauts wouldn't be able to activate them if they wanted to. Especially since the landing rockets are supposed to fire 1 meter off the ground. If it lost battery power, I'm sure they are screwed regardless.

Re:Full Manual Re-entry is Possible in Soyuz (5, Informative)

johnny cashed (590023) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127742)

Addendum:

According to this link: http://www.astronautix.com/flights/mireo23.htm [astronautix.com] the landing rockets failed anyway, which resulted in a hard, but survivable landing.

And according to this: http://www.jamesoberg.com/soyuz.html [jamesoberg.com] the crew has no control over the parachute deployment. (This is written in entry 6 B under "Special Questions)

Re:Full Manual Re-entry is Possible in Soyuz (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128018)

the crew has no control over the parachute deployment.

That is probably a good thing, given than an incapacitated crew might not be in able to deploy. They are probably simple, robust systems based on altimeters.

Re:Full Manual Re-entry is Possible in Soyuz (1)

zyklone (8959) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127722)

The Soyuz TMA actually does generate some lift, not so much but enought to prevent rock-like behaviour usually.
But not this time apparantly.

Re:Full Manual Re-entry is Possible in Soyuz (2, Insightful)

DieByWire (744043) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127784)

But at 10G, the crew's probably not going to be conscious to operated that manual system. 10G is enough to cause G-induced loss of consciousness (GLOC) in anyone, even physically fit, properly trained, and prepared personnel. Even fighter aircraft, where the pilot is in a properly reclined position and is wearing a g-suit, limit maneuvering to 9g, because after that, that pilot's asleep.

In an aircraft, the pilot's head is necessarily somewhat higher than the rest of his body so that he can see outside, especially forward. That's why high G's result in a loss of blood flow to the brain.

An astronaut doesn't have that limitation. I wouldn't be surprised if their seating position makes them less vulnerable to GLOC than a pilot.

Re:Full Manual Re-entry is Possible in Soyuz (1)

dogmatixpsych (786818) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128502)

Pilots who are exposed to high Gs (i.e., fighter pilots) wear special pants that basically squeeze the blood out of their legs to increase blood pressure in the head.

Re:Full Manual Re-entry is Possible in Soyuz (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23128818)

Pilots who are exposed to high Gs (i.e., fighter pilots) wear special pants that basically squeeze the blood out of their legs to increase blood pressure in the head.
And also have the fortunate side effect of providing artificial bladder control if they DO pass out!

Re:Full Manual Re-entry is Possible in Soyuz (2, Insightful)

berashith (222128) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127796)

I would also think that having just spent some time in a much less than 1 G environment, that the 10G is even more severe by relativity. Aren't the astronauts a bit wobbly when they return to a normal G load?

Re:Full Manual Re-entry is Possible in Soyuz (2, Informative)

J05H (5625) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127944)

Ballistic reentry like this is still under computer control. Manual reentry is for an even-worse condition Soyuz. IIRC ballistic reentry is for off-nominal or main computer crashing. Article says they altered course before reentry without telling MCC so they were either having trouble or screwing around. This is another testament to Soyuz robustness - still the safest spacecraft around.

Heavyside Layers (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23128320)

Alan Shepard hit over 11g during re-entry, and he didn't pass out and could still hit switches. The early astronauts training- had them routinely hitting 10g or more and they didn't pass out.

There's a difference between the eyes-down load on a fighter pilot sitting in an ejection seat (even the semi-reclining versions, which aren't really very reclined) and the eyes-in loading on a astronaut laying on their back. The main difference is that the person on their back isn't having their blood trying to fill their boots when the Gs strike like the person sitting in a chair.

The two don't really compare. I'd advise you to do a little research before trying to make that case.

Re:Full Manual Re-entry is Possible in Soyuz (1)

jovius (974690) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127680)

Sounds reasonable. If everything else fails there would at least be a chance to try it yourself.

Re:Full Manual Re-entry is Possible in Soyuz (1)

jalet (36114) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128384)

In Soviet Russia the re-entry doesn't make the vehicule explode.

-20 Not funny.

In Soviet Russia (0, Offtopic)

GroeFaZ (850443) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127570)

Soyuz misses YOU!

Genie in a Bottle (4, Funny)

skeeto (1138903) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127594)

They didn't come back with any beautiful, belly-buttonless genies, did they?

Horse shoes and hand gernades (3, Funny)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127598)

Hey give them some credit they hit the right planet.

Re:Horse shoes and hand gernades (1)

fuego451 (958976) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127932)

"Hey give them some credit they hit the right planet."

And, the right continent and country within 250 miles of the desired touchdown point in spite of a glitch. Pretty damn good, I'd say.

Re:Horse shoes and hand gernades (2, Insightful)

mysticgoat (582871) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128048)

"Any landing you walk away from is a good landing."

Ancient quotation from the early days of airplanes... and still appropriate.

Good to have the cosmonauts back in one piece.

In Soviet... (0, Troll)

etinin (1144011) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127618)

In Soviet Amerika, you kill space shuttles.

I'm impressed (5, Insightful)

Whuffo (1043790) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127638)

They came down in a space capsule on a ballistic trajectory - in other words, dropped like a rock.

The fact that they survived the experience is amazing. Say what you want about Soviet technology, this was a very, very neat trick.

Re:I'm impressed (-1, Flamebait)

aliquis (678370) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127670)

Which indeed are what most of us would say about soviet technology.

Re:I'm impressed (2, Funny)

JockTroll (996521) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127720)

Spoken like a true loserboy nerd. For Soyuz capsules, ballistic reentry is a viable backup reentry mode that is planned for. Lifting re-entry is preferred because it greatly reduces the G-forces experienced by the crew, but the craft CAN re-enter on a ballistic trajectory. Vostok, Voshkod and Mercury capsules all re-entered ballistically. TMA-10 (october 2007) also made a ballistic reentry.

So shut the shithole you're talking out of, loserboys. For all your bragging about "science" and "technology", you know jack. You only look at the pictures while we jocks beat you up and shit on your faces.

I'm not impressed. (4, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127748)

The fact that they survived the experience is amazing. Say what you want about Soviet technology, this was a very, very neat trick.

When it comes to Soviet technology only one thing needs to be pointed out: This brings the re-entry failure rate of the current mark of Soyuz to 20% and trending upwards. (This report [jamesoberg.com] on Soyuz landing safety with the older marks is sobering reading.)

Re:I'm not impressed. (5, Insightful)

EsonLinji (723693) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127856)

Of course, this is still a lot better than what happens to a space shuttle that has problems on re-entry.

Re:I'm not impressed. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23127882)

One such failure happened last year. Apparently for this launch they changed all analog control stuff (that apparently failed last time) to digital, would be interesting to see if the problem will be traced again to this thing. Effectively ballistic re-entry is a fall-back scenario for this capsule, it is never a good scenario especially for people not trained for it. It is safe to say that safety of Soyuz re-entry is quickly becoming very questionable.

Re:I'm not impressed. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23128118)

This wasn't a re-entry failure at all. It landed and the crew is fine. Ballistic re-entry is a contingency for the Soyuz, and it functioned exactly as it was meant to.

The Soyuz are rugged little buggers, far more so than any other re-entry vehicles. Their failure rate is excellent considering how long they have been in service.

It comes down to this: If you were undergoing a re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere and there was a problem, would you rather be in a Soyuz capsule which has proven effective fall-back measures, or would you rather be in a shuttle that have the unfortunate tendency to completely breakup?

Re:I'm not impressed. (4, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128408)

This is incorrect. The reentry was successful. Using a fallback mode is not a failure of reentry, it is a failure of the primary mode of reentry. For example, burning up in the atmosphere or "lithobraking" (slowing down only when you leave a smoking crater in the ground) are failures of reentry. Reading through Oberg's report, he indicates that there were few actual reentry failures and most of these occured early in the program. Further you seem to be counting things like a capsule landing on its side as a "failure". I'm not interested in playing semantics games with the several posters here who claim otherwise. But a failure in a reentry system isn't automatically a failure in the process of reentry. The capsule and crew arrived intact. In my book, that makes the reentry successful no matter how many systems failed on the way down.

Re:I'm impressed (3, Insightful)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128022)

The fact that they survived the experience is amazing. Say what you want about Soviet technology, this was a very, very neat trick.
Despite the pointless profanity which makes his comment appear to be a mindless rant, JockTroll actually made a good point in his response to you [slashdot.org] .

He's right, there's nothing amazing about the Soyuz surviving a ballistic re-entry, since that's what it was designed to do. This isn't the shuttle we're talking about - you can't compare the two. It's like saying that it's amazing that a 747 can continue flying with one broken engine, while a Cesna can't. You'd be comparing two completely different things.

Re:I'm impressed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23128628)

I think this just shows that Russian technology is build very very robust and not necessary advanced, just like the AK-47.

Re:I'm impressed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23128782)

You're right: you're comparing a craft that was designed to fail in about the safest way possible all things considered, and a craft where it's apparently assumed that absolutely everything in a giant Rube Goldberg sequence of events goes absolutely perfectly.

If you're planning on landing, which would you rather ride in, a Soyuz which might make for a bumpy landing, or a Space Shuttle which is likely to explode and kill you rather than make it safely down?

That's what I thought.

Space launches are routine now (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127696)

It's nice to know it takes a mishap to make news.

ObSovietRussiaJoke (1, Funny)

FlyByPC (841016) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127752)

...In Soviet Russia, questionable navigation systems report on *you*!

Something is missing from this story... (4, Interesting)

DieByWire (744043) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127872)

Mr Perminov said the craft followed the back-up landing plan, a so-called "ballistic re-entry" - a plunge with an uncontrollable, steep trajectory

He said the crew missed the target because they changed their landing plan at the last minute without telling mission control.

Astronauts don't just don't go changing re-entry profiles willy-nilly. If they did it, there was a reason they needed to.

Remember the collision between the Progress supply ship and Mir during the manual docking? The first thing the Soviets did was blame it on the Russian cosmonaut. It turned out the whole operation was poorly planned, rehearsed and was an accident waiting to happen.

There's a lot more to this story than we've heard yet.

Re:Something is missing from this story... (3, Informative)

kriptonus (1176987) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128722)

Yep; Switching to a Ballistic trajectory would tend to make you fall short of your target and land early; yet they overshot by almost 300 miles and landed 20 minutes late. There had to be a failure that caused them to spend too much time in the upper atmosphere, not losing momentum quickly enough. Once they realized they were overshooting they must have switched to plan B.... and without a time consuming chat with ground control.

We've been thrown off course just a tad (1)

nightfire-unique (253895) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127930)

Miss, are you telling us absolutely everything?!

Not exactly. We're also out of coffee.

[Ok, PANIC!]

Uh, wait a sec here... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23127950)

Soyuze descent trajectories are planned so that a safe ballistic option is always available, no matter what happens to the control system. But excuse me, isn't this the THIRD ballistic re-entry of the TMA series?

TMA-1 : ballistic
TMA-10 : ballistic
TMA-11 : ballistic

If you ask me, I think there's going to be a few more people going ballistic over this... I don't think the previous Soyuz generations had this many ballistic returns.

Oblig (3, Insightful)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 6 years ago | (#23127966)

"Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?
That's not my department," says Wernher von Braun.

Astronauts. (2, Insightful)

radarsat1 (786772) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128054)

Wow. Stories like this remind me of the huge BALLS it takes to strap yourself onto a rocket and fly straight into orbit, and then come back down again. We like to think that technology has progressed so far that things like space travel are safe, and to a large extent it is. But with the shear number of things that can go wrong and the calculations that have to be *just so* in order to get back safely, I am seriously humbled to remember that astronauts are still explorers, and, frankly, still Heroes to mankind. Let's not forget it.

Re:Astronauts. (5, Funny)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128222)

Stories like this remind me of the huge BALLS it takes to strap yourself onto a rocket and fly straight into orbit, and then come back down again.

Maybe you should say huge nads or something else that's more unisex, considering both of the astronauts in this case were women. :)

Re:Astronauts and Cohones (1)

abarrow (117740) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128234)

I too am humbled. It really does take cohones to do all that.

Sooo, what does it tell you when two of the astronauts that came down at 10Gs and one of the ones who has the longest time in space than any other human being, do not, in fact, have cohones...

Re:Astronauts. (1)

call-me-kenneth (1249496) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128312)

As a matter of fact, two-third of the crew were women.

If I remember correctly.. (1)

BigGerman (541312) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128060)

.. the difference is 8-10G vs. normal 2-3G on re-entry. What a ride.

Nice Spin (2, Insightful)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128098)

I love the "spin" in this line:

Soyuz capsules have previously saved the lives of the crew even after severe malfunctions that might have lead to the loss of a less robust vehicle.
Well yeah, it's not surprising that the Soyuz is built more robustly than other spacecraft, given that it has a 20% malfunction rate. It's a classic Soviet design philosophy: when quality and precision are unavailable, substitute brute strength.

Re:Nice Spin (1)

kinabrew (1053930) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128150)

How many Soyuz shuttles have not survived re-entry? And what percentage of launches have not met with a successful landing?

Re:Nice Spin (2, Informative)

whitehatlurker (867714) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128286)

Well, slightly higher in the wikipedia page referenced is a section on accidents [wikipedia.org] . Count the number there. I think the most infamous was Soyuz 11 [wikipedia.org] , where the interior was vented to space.

It's rather a case of "we make them rugged, 'cause we got a lot of other problems we have to overcome."

Re:Nice Spin (1)

call-me-kenneth (1249496) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128430)

Exactly... 1971, the last fatality in a Soyuz capsule. How many fatal accidents have the US had since 1971?

Did you ever read up on how close STS-1 came to disaster? Go look at some footage of John Young at the post-landing press conference. Seem a little perky? No wonder, he's just flown the thing in manually after the aerodynamic models failed to predict the hypersonic airflow at re-entry correctly. The point of degeneracy (the hottest spot, right on the nose cone) moved off to the side of the orbiter, the sideslip meter pegged at off-scale high at +4 (twice the maximum expected value), at which point Young took manual control and flew Columbia back to Florida himself. Oh yeah, and a bug in the aerodynamic body flap forced it all the way upwards during the launch, which should have wrecked the hydraulics. Young also said afterwards that had they known that was happening, they'd have flown to SRB separation and ejected. Don't get me started on the manual override of an error condition that the textbook said would result in the orbiter ditching in the eastern Atlantic, which was not expected to be a survivable accident. A ground controller decided the signal was spurious, overrode it, and waited to hear if an SSME exploded...

Anyway - the Soyuz 11 accident was in fact caused by a first-flight glitch; although Soyuz was proven design by then, this was the first mission to Salyut 1, the forerunner of Mir. (Arguably the lineage of the ISS runs straight back to Salyut 1, but that's another tangent.)

Re:Nice Spin (5, Informative)

mlyle (148697) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128642)

Taken from a web forum, but I've seen similar stuff before:

http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/military/read.main/54404/ [airliners.net]

Soyuz (1967-Present)
Flights: 95
Failures: 4 (2 non-fatal)
Failure Rate: 4.21%

Cosmonauts Flown: 228
Fatalities: 4
Fatality Rate: 1.75%

Shuttle (1981-Present)
Flights: 116
Failures: 3 (1 non-fatal)
Failure Rate: 2.59%

Astronauts Flown: 692
Fatalities: 14
Fatality Rate: 2.02%

This is a statistical dead heat. There is simply not a big enough sample size to distinguish between a 1.75% and a 2.02% fatality rate. And the "who had an accident more recently" does not establish it either.

Both are good systems, each has respective advantages (simplicity and low-cost vs. a lot of on-orbit assembly and payload capability). It's good the world has both, and we may never know which would be safer with infinite flights.

Re:Nice Spin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23128506)

As a pilot, I would rather have something that can survive an accident than something that is guaranteed never to have one. The reason is because you can never avoid all accidents, so the guarantee is worthless. Give me something robust which will save me in the event of a catastrophe, not something slick with empty-headed promises about never screwing up.

Re:Nice Spin (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23128606)

Wow 20%?!

The U.S. has 5 space shuttles, and two have blown up.

I may be no Rocket Scientist; but I think they are doing pretty well!

Re:Nice Spin (0, Redundant)

barzok (26681) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128640)

20% of Soyuz missions have resulted in failure.

Fewer than 2% of Space Shuttle missions have done the same.

Female Driver (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23128446)

He said the crew missed the target because they changed their landing plan at the last minute without telling mission control.
No turn signal. Probably putting on make-up too.

All I have to say is .... (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128544)

... get off of my lawn!!!

When it comes to orbital re-entry... (3, Insightful)

Abies Bracteata (317438) | more than 6 years ago | (#23128808)

...nothing beats the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) approach.
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