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Discovery Launch a No-Go, Again

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the but-they'll-miss-their-connections dept.

NASA 98

An anonymous reader writes with an excerpt from Tech Fragments that says "NASA has yet again postponed the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery, which was due to launch today, because of a hydrogen leak in the vent line between the external fuel tank and main engines. The vent line is at the intertank region of the external tank and is the overboard vent to the pad and the flare stack where the vented hydrogen is burned off. ... The NASA launch team is resetting to preserve the option of attempting a Thursday night liftoff at 8:54 p.m. EDT depending on what repairs are needed and what managers decide. The Mission Management Team is meeting at 5 p.m. today to discuss the issue." You can watch for updates on NASA's Space Shuttle page, too.

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98 comments

If it can't be fixed with duct-tape (2, Insightful)

spyder-implee (864295) | more than 5 years ago | (#27157939)

It can't be fixed...

Re:If it can't be fixed with duct-tape (2, Insightful)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 5 years ago | (#27157975)

Hence the need for a damn space elevator... We have to let go of our fixation on all things combustion. Let's just take that 800b and put it towards applied sciences and a golden age ye shall have!

Re:If it can't be fixed with duct-tape (0)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158559)

There are so many political, social, economic, environmental and safety concerns with a space elevator, along with the fact that in order to build one, we'd need some pretty big advances in engineering and manufacturing to make one: I don't know, I just don't see us building a space elevator anytime soon.

Re:If it can't be fixed with duct-tape (0)

ravenshrike (808508) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158671)

We might have the materials science on the cutting edge in 100 years. Of course, that means that it would take several years worth of the US's GDP to make it, and that assumes you wouldn't get a whackjob trying to take it out.

Re:If it can't be fixed with duct-tape (0)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159231)

Or hold it hostage. For *pinky raised to mouth* 1 Billion dollars! I'll use raptors -- with friggin' LASERS attached their heads!

Re:If it can't be fixed with duct-tape (2, Insightful)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 5 years ago | (#27161475)

We might have the materials science on the cutting edge in 100 years.

If we devoted proper resources to it we could do it in much less than that. With the focus of the coal industry on carbon sequestration, what better way to sequest some of the carbon? Unfortunately innovation within the coal industry is how best to burn it. Since CNT have to be produced in a hot vapour state what better place to have the industrial process to make them than when the carbon is already hot and burnt?

If the worlds population is to expand any further then a new building material will be needed so we can colonise the oceans *and* space as well as improve our ability to create large land base structures. I would see uses for CNT beyond just a S.E.

Re:If it can't be fixed with duct-tape (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27162759)

...what better way to sequest some of the carbon?

Sequester. Sequestration is a formation of sequester.

A conjugation, if you will.

It is not an ill-fated and poorly written TV program about submarines.

Re:If it can't be fixed with duct-tape (1)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 5 years ago | (#27201255)

We might have the materials science on the cutting edge in 100 years.

If we devoted proper resources to it we could do it in much less than that. With the focus of the coal industry on carbon sequestration, what better way to sequest some of the carbon?

That's pure speculation, and you know it. It might very well come to pass that the materials necessary to build a space elevator are simply impossible (or prohibitively impractical) to create.

Re:If it can't be fixed with duct-tape (1)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 4 years ago | (#27221883)

That's pure speculation, and you know it.

Yeah, so what? The entire space program was speculation when it began. You don't achieve things by speculating why it's impossible, you envisage how to make it possible.

It might very well come to pass that the materials necessary to build a space elevator are simply impossible (or prohibitively impractical) to create.

Have you read Brad C Edward's paper for NIAC? From memory, 13 of the 14 technological engineering achievements needed for putting a space elevator in place have already been completed, even a plan for the first deployment. The achievements came from other heavy industry, in particular, mining. The one that remains is CNT production which has barely had the type of financial support and scientific focus required to create an industrial process to produce them.

So what are you saying, just because we *might* not be able to build a space elevator we should give up on devising a process to mass produce what looks to be the most promising material since the invention of structural steel? We may as well live in caves.

Re:If it can't be fixed with duct-tape (2, Interesting)

lennier (44736) | more than 5 years ago | (#27161529)

"Let's just take that 800b and put it towards applied sciences and a golden age ye shall have!"

Because space is just teeming with exotic lands and spices, right?

How do you construct a golden age from 1) vacuum and 2) rock when we're struggling to do it with a whole planet's worth of biosphere?

Re:If it can't be fixed with duct-tape (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 5 years ago | (#27164839)

Nasa needs to outright lie and say something like we found... space oil or some shit like that on Mars.

We'd have a new shuttle program within a week.

Re:If it can't be fixed with duct-tape (1)

thesnide (640733) | more than 5 years ago | (#27164219)

And if it breaks, we will finally see this black line on the equator that is on globes...

would u fly on that bird (-1, Flamebait)

hviniciusg (1481907) | more than 5 years ago | (#27157979)

if you are an astronaut an the mission has been rescheduled like 3 times because of failiures on the ship would you fly on that? i wont, i guess that bird its to old to fly any more.

Re:would u fly on that bird (4, Interesting)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158187)

Any guesses as to how many times that plane you last flew on was delayed because it needed a repair?

Re:would u fly on that bird (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27158863)

I never took a plane you insensitive clod!

Re:would u fly on that bird (1)

broken_chaos (1188549) | more than 5 years ago | (#27162139)

The last 737 I flew on was delayed for a repair when it was fully loaded, with me sitting on it. Some warning light came on, and it needed some small repair or check (it was never complexly explained exactly what was wrong) before flying. Delayed the flight by about 45 minutes.

So it's definitely not uncommon.

Re:would u fly on that bird (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 5 years ago | (#27164225)

Any guesses as to how many airline planes you have flown on that has a current, known defect resulting in an inoperative system. Hint - pretty much all of them.

Thank God They Aren't Riding On SpaceX! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27158247)

They'd only have a ~20 percent chance of survival compared to the amazing track record of NASA's Space Shuttle!

Re:Thank God They Aren't Riding On SpaceX! (1)

ravenshrike (808508) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158695)

I'm sure if SpaceX went the giant fucking booster rocket route they'd have a much better success rate. Instead, they're trying to find a reliable replacement for the booster/shuttle combo.

Re:would u fly on that bird (2, Informative)

Slumdog (1460213) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158251)

if you are an astronaut an the mission has been rescheduled like 3 times because of failiures on the ship would you fly on that? i wont, i guess that bird its to old to fly any more.

Yes, but NASA also has Astronuts [nasa.gov], many of whom have been flying quite frequently.

Re:would u fly on that bird (3, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158589)

The space shuttle isn't even 30 years old yet. They still fly airline jets older than that.

Re:would u fly on that bird (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27159465)

but airlines don't have to handle the extreme pressures of space flight. a re-useable space craft is a great idea but material science isn't up there yet to handle it well. It's like trying to do super-sponic speeds with cheap metal or wood in an aircraft, it just won't hold up well especially over time.

Re:would u fly on that bird (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27160339)

I could argue that to a degree, but more simply, your point is irrelevant to this latest delay and even more generally to both of the fatal accidents the shuttle program has suffered.

Re:would u fly on that bird (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#27161557)

What pressure? atmosphere is 14.7 psi. Submarines see much higher pressures. The main forces on the shuttle are during the launch and the re-entry. Not during space flight. OK, maybe I'm being a little pedantic; but, those forces are fairly well understood, well modeled, and the craft was designed to handle them. There's nothing wrong with the materials (except for a little corrosion due to the salt air at the Cape).

Re:would u fly on that bird (4, Insightful)

blagger99 (473150) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158893)

if you are an astronaut an the mission has been rescheduled like 3 times because of failiures on the ship would you fly on that? i wont, i guess that bird its to old to fly any more.

You get a chance to fly into freaking space (ok LEO, but it's still space) and you're going to say no because the craft needs some maintenance? I'm going to guess you never bungie-jumped or sky dived.

Re:would u fly on that bird (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#27161621)

You get a chance to fly into freaking space (ok LEO, but it's still space) and you're going to say no because the craft needs some maintenance? I'm going to guess you never bungie-jumped or sky dived.

If I was about to go bungy jumping or sky diving and 3 times they stopped me as I was preparing and told me there would be a delay while they fixed the gear so it was safe, I'd consider finding a different company to get my thrill from. Of course bungy chords and parachutes aren't as complex as the Shuttle, and no bungy or skydiving company has a monopoly so it's not a perfect analogy. However there's nothing wrong with placing a bit of value on your life and expecting gear to be safe when it's literally life or death.

ReiserFS??? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27158007)

Why the fuck would you use a file system created by a murderer?

Re:ReiserFS??? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27159607)

I recently opened the ReiserFS binary in a hex editor, and it apparently just consists of the following: "I DID IT I DIT IT I DID IT," over and over and over!

is that all? (5, Funny)

JeanBaptiste (537955) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158029)

The vent line is at the intertank region of the external tank and is the overboard vent to the pad and the flare stack where the vented hydrogen is burned off. ...

All you gotta do is reflangulate the intertank, recalibrate the L16 connectors for the overboard vent pad, then halve the current to the flare dampener in the flare stack to compensate for the excess vented hydrogen. Bake on 350 for 20 minutes and allow to cool.

Re:is that all? (2, Funny)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158089)

Or just recalibrate the phasers and fire them for a 5 min burst upon the dilithium crystals. Should work!

Re:is that all? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27163609)

I thought that bypassing the main reactor would always solve any kind of problem.

Re:is that all? (3, Funny)

MxTxL (307166) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158323)

Ah... well, hell. Why didn't you say so??

*picard voice*
COMPUTER! Reflangulate the intertank, recalibrate the L16 connectors for the overboard vent pad, then halve the current to the flare dampener in the flare stack to compensate for the excess vented hydrogen. Bake on 350 for 20 minutes and allow to cool!
*end picard vioce*

Re:is that all? (1)

bami (1376931) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158725)

Why do I actually hear Patrick Stewart saying that in my head?

I think the picard song has something to do with that.

ENGAGE!

Re:is that all? (1)

Slumdog (1460213) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158493)

Wrong, just put back the heart of the heart of gold and feed your score from grand theft cosmo.

Re:is that all? (2, Funny)

Narishma (822073) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158591)

You forgot the most important thing: reverse the polarity. That seems to fix anything wrong with the ships in Star Trek.

Re:is that all? (1)

chekk4 (1367067) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159889)

What they really mean when they say that:
"Try flipping the batteries the other way around."

Re:is that all? (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 5 years ago | (#27161307)

Yes, but did you remember to set the SCE to AUX before rebooting the E-MECs? (hint: only real geeks will get the joke)

Re:is that all? (1)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 5 years ago | (#27161951)

... intertank region of the external tank...

Meaning the vacuum space encapsulating the liquid hydrogen storage vessel (in case there is a leak) or the relief line from the ullage space? Oh wait, it must be the former.

Re:is that all? (1)

ecklesweb (713901) | more than 5 years ago | (#27165611)

I'm gonna' need some pliers, and a set of 30 weight ball bearings (it's all ball bearing nowadays) And I'm gonna' need about 10 quarts of antifreeze, preferably Prestone. No, make that Quaker State.

What do you know, (4, Interesting)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158045)

For the first time I find out about a scrub before the crew loads up from work not /. - or CNN, or Fark, or Fox news.

It's sick but I do ground system maintenance and unless I'm actually watching the screen and listening to DVIS we find out about the scrubs from the news, not the pipeline around here.

Good News for People on the East Coast (5, Informative)

longacre (1090157) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158047)

The shuttle is set to take an unusual course nearly parallel with the east coast for this mission, which will be visible to nearly everyone from Florida to New York [nycaviation.com]. The weather is a bit cloudy today, but should be perfectly clear Thursday night.

Re:Good News for People on the East Coast (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27158685)

I don't think the course is really that unusual. I believe they fly it for about half the launches to the ISS (the other half fly the opposite angle southward). The 51.6 degree orbit carries it pretty close to the angle of the coastline.

The important factors for this launch are that it is the northward initial course, it's a night launch, so the plume is prominent, and the weather looks promising for a good view.

Next launch opportunity will likely be Sunday or Monday, because the part that needs to be worked on has a multi-day re-installation procedure.

Re:Good News for People on the East Coast (2, Insightful)

ZankerH (1401751) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159533)

I believe they fly it for about half the launches to the ISS (the other half fly the opposite angle southward). The 51.6 degree orbit carries it pretty close to the angle of the coastline.

Actually, all launches to ISS from Kennedy Space Center follow that course. For some reason, Cuba doesn't like American stuff in their airspace, so the descending node (southward) launch window is never used.

"again"? (4, Informative)

Cally (10873) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158067)

This is the first scrub of STS-119 since the T-44 countdown start. Colour me pedantic and all but... *shrug*

It sounds to me like they're expecting to have to pull down the stack to fix this, though the clock's theoretically only reset to T+24 in case they decide it's OK to fly with this issue, in which case we'll see the next launch attempt at 01:20 UTC plus a bit tomorrow night, when the ISS orbit's next sync'd with Florida.

Re:"again"? (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158557)

This is the first scrub of STS-119 since the T-44 countdown start. Colour me pedantic and all but... *shrug*

What? Delays don't count if they happen before you start the countdown clock? What is this, a tennis game?

Re:"again"? (5, Interesting)

iamlucky13 (795185) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158595)

This mission was originally supposed to launch February 12. I know, because I bought tickets to go see it, and I ended up missing (KSC still makes for a great vacation though).

They got within a week or two of launch, and decided they still weren't happy with the analysis that had been conducted for troubleshooting an issue with the propellant lines that cropped up during Endeavor's STS-126 launch. A valve on a secondary fuel handling line had failed, and while it didn't appear to affect that flight there was concern that it would either result in metal particles from the valve causing issues downstream, or lead to excess hydrogen venting that could cause a fire. They spent the last month testing and quantifying the probability of these concerns, and figuring out additional safeguards to implement for this flight, since making new valves would be an additional two months.

The next possible launch window is about 23:30 after this one, but apparently the expected resolution for the leak is a multi-day process. The launch is now scheduled for no-earlier-than Mar 15 (19:43 EDT), but Mar 16 (19:21 EDT) sounds likely. As I understand it, re-installing the ground support hydrogen line on external tank requires a 30 hour waiting period before applying the final torque to allow the seals to compress...a typical factor when working with torque specs on plastic components. That 30 hours is on top of the time to demate and remate the hydrogen line, do leak checks, and reset to the proper point in the countdown.

Anyway, because they're working against a launch window before the next Soyuz launches to the station, they're losing at least one mission day, and if it slips to the 16th, they'll be losing another day, plus one EVA. That will mean they can get the last solar array installed, but not fully hooked up. I'm not sure if that EVA would be handed off to a future shuttle mission, or if it could be fit into the station crew's schedule. If the launch happens after Mar. 16, they'll have to wait until after the Soyuz mission.

There's a briefing going on regarding all this right now on NASA TV.

Re:"again"? (1)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 5 years ago | (#27162009)

...re-installing the ground support hydrogen line on external tank requires a 30 hour waiting period before applying the final torque to allow the seals to compress...a typical factor when working with torque specs on plastic components.

Maybe it has something to do with cooldown times for components exposed to liquid hydrogen at -423 F.

Re:"again"? (1)

iamlucky13 (795185) | more than 5 years ago | (#27163153)

Maybe it has something to do with cooldown times for components exposed to liquid hydrogen at -423 F.

According to a Mission Management Team memo (not officially published, but there happen to be a couple outlets good at getting details), it's torquing issue. Here's the specific quote [nasaspaceflight.com] I was referencing:

In the reinstallation of the flight seal, there is a 30 hour retorque requirement, that pushes us to a Monday launch. The team is looking to examine if there is some wiggle room in the 30 hr torque requirement, then we could potentially get a Sunday launch attempt.

Cooldown is part of the overall filling process and done during the countdown at T-6 hours. It lasts about two hours.

Re:"again"? (1)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 5 years ago | (#27163415)

My only reference is restarting (bootstrapping) an air separation plant, so you may well be right. I was thinking about re-torquing needed due to component shrinkage, but if everything's kept at or near the low temperature the cooldown time of 2 hours might not be too long. I'm only partially familiar with cryo cooldown procedures (and not how NASA does it) from the perspective of a cold box designer and sometimes customer installation designer for LH2 facilities.

Re:"again"? (1)

iamlucky13 (795185) | more than 5 years ago | (#27163605)

Ahh...good thought, but not the case here.

This area isn't chilled down until fuel loading begins, and I believe that is just done by sending LH2, or possibly a brief helium purge, through at low volumes for a while...I think only 30 minutes. Then they just pumping it in at full volume until its full. I guess that's slow enough that thermal stresses aren't an issue, and contraction is dealt with in the design. The main concern is boiloff, but the thermal mass of the fuel is far greater than that of the tank, and the fuel is kept topped off until just a few seconds before launch. At the time when fueling begins, there's no access to the external tank, so I know for certain that no retorquing is done then.

Re:"again"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27171529)

I'm not sure if that EVA would be handed off to a future shuttle mission, or if it could be fit into the station crew's schedule.

They said in the Flight Readiness Review news conference that if the EVA slips, it will be able to be done by the station crew on stage.

Re:"again"? (2, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158823)

They're probably going to move heaven and earth to avoid a rollback - with STS-125 (the Hubble mission) in the batter's box they are in a tight corner... 125 needs both pads, because there isn't a safe haven (as there is for ISS missions). The longer it takes to get 125 off the ground, the longer it is before they can hand over a pad to start conversion for Ares.

Alternative Headline (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27158093)

Discovery Crew Saved From Disaster, Again

Obligatory Onion (4, Funny)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158207)

Skittish (1)

Hordeking (1237940) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158291)

Given all the myriad dangers of space travel encountered over the past 30 years, that have been dealt with or fixed in-flight, NASA is aweful skittish these days about flying shuttles with flecks of paint missing.

Yes, I know a hydrogen leak is potentially far more serious, but that's what it seems like I hear about delaying launches.

Re:Skittish (1)

djupedal (584558) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158711)

Kidding, right?

...'hydrogen leak' is always the cover story for things such as flaky paint.

If nothing else, it follows Scotty's rule (padding his stated times needed for repairs by a factor of four), so you look the pro when you yet again beat the estimate.

Re:Skittish (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27158841)

This issue is one that would likely have resulted in a scrub at any point during the shuttle program. I think they've had sensors there looking for leaks as part of the launch procedure for the entire history of the program, and according the press briefing going on right now, they've had launch scrubs for leaks on this fitting before.

/Managers/ decide? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27158305)

Hopefully it's just poor phrasing in the summary, but rather than a manager, I think I'd prefer it if an engineer decided whether or not the shuttle was safe to fly. In fact I'd probably trust the tea lady before I'd trust a NASA manager.

This is getting silly (1)

glittalogik (837604) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158409)

FFS, that poor shuttle needs to get retired while it's still in one piece or it's going to end up scattered across the North Atlantic, and we'll have to make do with a scale model for the Smithsonian.

Can someone please build us another spaceship before it's too late?

Re:This is getting silly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27158719)

perhaps if NASA didn't have such massive government funding it would mean private space companies would be better able to compete and would push things forward through competition.

Re:This is getting silly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27159089)

Perhaps. But the trend as of late appears to be for the gov't. to INCREASE funding to things that are better left to the private sector.

Your wish is my command (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#27164151)

  1. SpaceX's Dragon
  2. Scaled Composite's SS3
  3. armadillo's aerospace
  4. Blue Origin's New Shepard.

And that is just a few. So, relax, they are coming. In fact, the nice thing is that we have a great deal of the infrastructure for doing the moon with these, combined with Bigelow, within 5-8 years. While Armadillo and Blue Origin does not really make sense for launching heavy cargo on earth, it DOES make LOTS of sense for a moon transporter.

Shuttle not very green... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27158507)

Burning this much rocket fuel can't be very green. Is NASA paying carbon offsets to some company to tear down rain forests and replace them with eucalyptus trees?

Flex hours... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27158629)

attempting a Thursday night liftoff at 8:54 p.m. EDT depending on what repairs are needed and what managers decide. The Mission Management Team is meeting at 5 p.m. today

I'm looking at a career change. Does *anybody* at NASA go home at 4:30 every day?

Re:Flex hours... (1)

Narnie (1349029) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158827)

I think the managers do...
Manager #1: Doesn't look like liftoff will happen before our tee time.
Manager #2: Well, there is that leak issue the engineers were griping about...
Manager #1: Great--blame the leak, scrub the launch, let the engineers do their fix, and let's try again next launch window. Got your clubs with you or do you need to stop by home first?

Re:Flex hours... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27159107)

If you think that's bad, two weeks they had a single meeting that lasted 14 hours discussing an issue that cropped up during the STS-126 launch and whether it warranted a further delay for this launch to finish correcting it.

The race... (4, Insightful)

retech (1228598) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158789)

It would seem that NASA is not as serious about the new space race as China. Someone will end up controlling the skies, just got to wonder whom.

Re:The race... (2, Interesting)

jcnnghm (538570) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159415)

It would seem that NASA is not as serious about the new space race as China. Someone will end up controlling the skies, just got to wonder whom.

Since they'd still be behind even if we wound the clock back to 1969, I don't think we've got a whole lot to worry about.

Re:The race... (1)

retech (1228598) | more than 5 years ago | (#27161917)

I guess we'll have to see how that pans out in the next two years. China may very well win the upper hand while NASA remains grossly under funded.

Re:The race... (2, Insightful)

jcnnghm (538570) | more than 5 years ago | (#27162371)

You honestly believe that in the next two years China can catch up on the last 40 years of NASA R&D? They would have to land a man on the moon, develop and launch a space telescope better than the JWST, they would have had to land and operate rovers on Mars 3 years ago, since we've already operated rovers on Mars for 5 years, construct a global satellite communications network, and a global satellite positioning system. They aren't even close to being near where the US is, nobody is. We've been miles and miles ahead for decades.

Of the 5,736 satellites that had been launched by 2006, China was responsible for a whopping 99, while the US and Former Soviet Union have launched 5,043. The only way they're going to catch up in the next two years is if everyone but the Chinese begins traveling faster than the speed of light. With the relativistic effects, the Chinese may have a shot.

Nice shot at the NASA budget by the way. Were you aware that it was over 10 times higher than the Chinese space budget in 2007? In 2008, the CSNA budget was $1.3B, whereas the NASA budget was over $17B, with another $21B going to the DoD Space Budget. I know that it's vastly easier to follow in the footsteps of somebody else who is actually doing all the tough, expensive research, without performing any real cutting edge research, but if they were to catch up to us, then pass us, wouldn't it require them to spend nearly as much money as us? Even assuming they can just steal all of our designs until they catch up, how are they going to pass us with less than 10% of the budget?

What has you, and so many people like you, so convinced that we're going to be dominated in every field by other countries that are nowhere near catching us? Why do you hate this country so much? It's certainly not rational, we're so far ahead at this point even if we gave them the research and a couple of billion dollars a year, they'd still be dropping further back.

Frankly, it would be great if some other countries stepped up and actually performed some notable space research of their own, rather than taking a free ride courtesy of our taxpayers. In 2009, the whole European Space Agency budget is only $4.85B, the Russian Federal Space Agency budget is only $2.2B, the official China National Space Administration budget is only $500M, and the Indian Space Research Organization budget is only $1.3B. Compared to the NASA budget of $17.3B, these sums are rather paltry. NASA is better funded than every other serious space agency in the world, combined, and you think they're going to catch us. We should seriously consider cutting back NASA funding until the rest of the world does have a chance to catch up, so we no longer have to pay to subsidize their space programs by performing all the hard R&D.

Re:The race... (1)

cyn1c77 (928549) | more than 5 years ago | (#27163081)

You honestly believe that in the next two years China can catch up on the last 40 years of NASA R&D? They would have to land a man on the moon, develop and launch a space telescope better than the JWST, they would have had to land and operate rovers on Mars 3 years ago, since we've already operated rovers on Mars for 5 years, construct a global satellite communications network, and a global satellite positioning system. They aren't even close to being near where the US is, nobody is. We've been miles and miles ahead for decades.

I do believe that the Chinese can catch up with us very quickly. They have already achieved manned spaceflight. They aren't stupid people, they are incredibly motivated (by their power-seeking government), and they have gotten a lot of help from the Russians. Plus, they are really really good at reverse engineering other countries successful designs.

Also, they don't really need to catch up to 40 years of manned spaceflight. We started trying for space in when? 1959? And our last lunar mission was in 1973. So that's 14 years of technology development that occurred over 35 years ago... Since then we have been driving a bus in low earth orbit and sending remote control vehicles to other planets.

I also take issue with your cost analysis argument. NASA's budget may be much larger than the Chinese budget. But I worked for NASA; they waste a TON of money. There is incredibly high overhead, thousands of unmotivated government employees who have been beaten down by the bureaucratic machine and are just waiting for retirement, and miles of red tape to do anything because of safety, equal opportunity, buying from small and disadvantaged businesses... etc.

You think the Chinese are going to waste their time with that shit? I don't. They'll fire or shoot the employees that aren't performing, buy/requisition whatever they need from their massive cheap labor force, pick the best candidates regardless of race (they'll all be Chinese :) and steal whatever technology they need form their spies in the US. Any astronauts that die from a mission failure will be declared heros and replaced immediately without any stop-work procedures. I have no doubt they can accomplish what NASA can at 1/10th the price.

Keep patting yourself on the back about how great US technology is though. In my opinion, we were great, but we have been resting on our laurels for at least 30 years now. Our government doesn't have the drive to support multiyear projects for science and technology and we barely have enough homegrown scientists to support our defense and space programs. All we have is a small percentage of motivated individuals trying to make progress and being bogged down by unmotivated colleagues and extremely short duration projects that require immediate results or they are canceled.

We're already being surpassed in some fields. Do you really think it is that ludicrous that other counties could technologically surpass us while our government is busy funding bailout packages to rescue banks and poorly planned mortgages instead of investing that money in science and technology?

Re:The race... (1)

jcnnghm (538570) | more than 5 years ago | (#27165881)

You're assuming progress stopped in 1973. US space budgets still represent over 80% of global space spending. Going further than the Moon is significantly harder than going to the moon. Nobody had ever done that engineering (landing and surviving on mars) before, and it wasn't easy. You're also totally discounting our satellite arrays, like the space telescopes, of which there are several that do different things, and our earth monitoring and GPS satellites. All of these were difficult, expensive engineering projects. You're also discounting our probes, which have been further into the universe in every direction than anyone else. There isn't a single area where we aren't ahead, except perhaps choosing the Shuttle over something more similar to the Soyuz, which we're working on now. The number of spacecrafts NASA has built and launched since 73 is staggering.

If you think they're going to catch up, lets take a look at their plans. They're looking to build a space station to launch between 2019 and 2020. The project seems closest to Skylab, our space station from 1973, except that Skylab launched 36 years ago and was 4 times larger than the proposed Chinese design. Perhaps they'll be able to steal our plans and shrink it down to something that they can afford to meet their goal. Then there is their lunar exploration plans. They don't plan to land men on the moon until around 2024. If nothing goes wrong, and they achieve their goal, they'll have accomplished what we did 55 years before. That's largely the extent of their space ambitions.

Compare to NASA's plans (from Wikipedia):

It is the current space policy of the United States that NASA, "execute a sustained and affordable human and robotic program of space exploration and develop, acquire, and use civil space systems to advance fundamental scientific knowledge of our Earth system, solar system, and universe."[8] NASA's ongoing investigations include in-depth surveys of Mars and Saturn and studies of the Earth and the Sun. Other NASA spacecraft are presently en route to Mercury and Pluto. With missions to Jupiter in planning stages, NASA's itinerary covers over half the solar system.

An improved and larger planetary rover, Mars Science Laboratory, is under construction and slated to launch in 2011, after a slight delay caused by hardware challenges, which has bumped it back from the October 2009 scheduled launch.[9] The New Horizons mission to Pluto was launched in 2006 and will fly by Pluto in 2015. The probe received a gravity assist from Jupiter in February 2007, examining some of Jupiter's inner moons and testing on-board instruments during the fly-by. On the horizon of NASA's plans is the MAVEN spacecraft as part of the Mars Scout Program to study the atmosphere of Mars.

So the Chinese go to the Moon, and we go to Mercury, Pluto, Mars, and Saturn. I don't know if you've seen the MSL, but that is going to produce some phenomenal research, and is about the size and weight of a Mini-Cooper. Nobody has ever landed anything that size on the Martian surface before, so we had to develop all of the technology to make it possible. In addition to that NASA, plans to begin building a permanent moon base in 2020, and have it fully functional and inhabited by 2024.

Perhaps before we declare China the winner in space, it would be prudent to wait until their plans are at least as ambitious as our own and they develop any real, innovative, never been done before, technology. At present, even with their spending levels, they're falling behind. They may be great thieves and reverse engineers, but they're not going to catch us, and certainly not pass us, any time soon.

Re:The race... (1)

retech (1228598) | more than 5 years ago | (#27163689)

much? It's certainly not rational, we're so far ahead at this point even if we gave them the research and a couple of billion dollars a year, they'd still be dropping further back.

Bit of a leap there. I actually thought pointing out and criticizing obvious flaws in system was an inherent duty of a citizen. You seem to think that makes me a turn coat and a hater.

I'll never blindly support anyone. Sorry I stepped on your flag with my comment.

Re:The race... (1)

jcnnghm (538570) | more than 5 years ago | (#27165295)

Calling for the death of NASA when our space budgets represents 80% of global space spending is delusional. Non-U.S. space budgets only represent about 5 percent of global space economic activity. With figures like that, you've got to be wishing that America will fail, because the odds sure seem to be pointing the other way. Wish in one hand, and shit in the other, and see which fills up first.

Can we ground this POS yet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27159209)

It's over and done, put a fork in it, outsource to someone capable of handling the job and be done with it. It's time for private industry to take over.

Hydrogen leaks a real problem (2, Insightful)

lenehey (920580) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159549)

..not just for NASA but for the "hydrogen-based economy," which could be nothing but a pipe-dream but for which a great deal of research is nevertheless ongoing.

Hydrogen is not an easy gas to contain -- the atoms are so small they can penetrate most materials. Hydrogen is odorless and colorless, so leaks can go undetected. This can cause unknown problems. For exmaple, once released into the atmosphere hydrogen could increase greenhouse gasses due to uptake of hydroxyl radicals, which would otherwise react with and remove the greenhouse gasses.

Solving problems in containing hydrogen is an important step and we have NASA to thank once again for being among the first to meet new technological challenges.

Re:Hydrogen leaks a real problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27160061)

For exmaple, once released into the atmosphere hydrogen could increase greenhouse gasses due to uptake of hydroxyl radicals, which would otherwise react with and remove the greenhouse gasses.

I'm sorry, do you have any proof of this or are you talking out your ass? What is the correct "green house" portion the planet should have?

Thanks,
 

Re:Hydrogen leaks a real problem (1)

theurge14 (820596) | more than 5 years ago | (#27162613)

Easy, dye the hydrogen red, see the venting red gas, solve leak problem.

Re:Hydrogen leaks a real problem (1)

Archimonde (668883) | more than 5 years ago | (#27164173)

And/or give him artificial smell so you can smell the leak. The gas we have in metal tank in our kitchen is naturally odorless but they added a smell so you can know when it leaks.

Re:Hydrogen leaks a real problem (1)

AI0867 (868277) | more than 5 years ago | (#27165553)

Except that the dye/odorant will be composed of bigger molecules than the hydrogen, so many materials will filter out everything but the hydrogen.

Crappy submissions... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27159855)


The vent line is at the intertank region of the external tank and is the overboard vent to the pad and the flare stack where the vented hydrogen is burned off

Its the fucking hydrogen line from the storage tank to the engine. How hard was that to write?

I tried to call NASA to see if they needed my 32ft aluminum ladder to replace the line but they said they had it covered.

Re:Crappy submissions... (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 5 years ago | (#27162443)

The vent line is at the intertank region of the external tank and is the overboard vent to the pad and the flare stack where the vented hydrogen is burned off

Its the fucking hydrogen line from the storage tank to the engine. How hard was that to write?

Actually, it's the line that runs from the tank to the outside, and matches up with a line on the pad to safely vent away boiled off hydrogen. But you're right, they didn't need to bury it in technobabble. Hell, this is the Shuttle, not Star Trek. They're not trying to win an Emmy or anything...

But from the description, they are worried about the problem, as boiled off hydrogen in the space between the tank and the wall of the craft can be a Bad Thing, especially if it mixes really well with air. Could explode the whole damned thing.

It's ready when it's ready. (2, Insightful)

synthesizerpatel (1210598) | more than 5 years ago | (#27160035)

The manta of 'It's ready when it's ready' should always apply in scientific efforts like this -- it's a life and death gamble with millions of variables for the astronauts not to mention the far less important but still relevant raw costs of researching, constructing, testing the shuttle.

It's worth the time to make sure everything is working right. Everyone who takes the risk to go into space and work on the tax-payer's dime deserves to come home to their family.

"yet" considered harmful (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27160037)

Every time I see the word "yet" in a news item concerning a delay in launching a shuttle, I'm taken back to Dan Rather's words the night before NASA launched the Challenger for the last time.

"Yet another costly, red-faces-all-around space shuttle-launch delay. This time a bad bolt on a hatch and a bad-weather bolt from the blue are being blamed. What's more, a rescheduled launch for tomorrow doesn't look good either. Bruce Hall has the latest on today's high-tech low comedy."

There was a lot of talk and reports about NASA being pressured to launch this mission and the resulting slack in decision making. No excuse for that, of course, but I worked at NASA at the time and Dan Rather was on the s**t list for a long time afterwards.

Re:"yet" considered harmful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27164051)

Oblig disclaimer: Sorry Dick, I will perhaps make you turn in your grave but this is not supposed to be deference to higher authority, just trusting someone who did his homework.

Read Feynman's Appendix to the commision report on Challenger. Pressuring, even if present, was immaterial. The management was mostly deluded. You can't launch if there are unresolved issues in critical systems. Management believed there were none. That's it.

I think the shuttle program is ended (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 5 years ago | (#27166345)

Broken, old rockets combined with a hyper-cautious NASA means we wont be seeing shuttle launches again.
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