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Endeavor Launch Pad Being Rebuilt Piece By Piece

samzenpus posted about 8 months ago | from the one-piece-at-a-time dept.

NASA 48

dangle writes "The Exposition Park museum in LA is working to rebuild the Endeavor launch stack, a display that will take thousands of pieces to complete due to parts that are scattered at NASA facilities, museums and other places across the U.S. Most are one of a kind and impossible to replicate. Dennis Jenkins, who spent his entire 30-plus year career sending the shuttles into space, is playing a key role in locating essential parts using his own and his colleagues' institutional memory. Employed by NASA contractor Martin Marietta, he helped write the software used in loading and controlling the liquid oxygen needed to launch the 2,250-ton shuttle assembly into low Earth orbit. Now, with the program part of a bygone era of exploration, the 57-year-old works for the California Science Center, helping officials figure out how to rebuild Endeavour."

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Shuttle was OK, I suppose. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46506003)

As compared to past programs and potential future programs, the Shuttle era just wasn't very interesting to me.

Re:Shuttle was OK, I suppose. (2)

Jhon (241832) | about 8 months ago | (#46506253)

Considering that it was how we moved big stuff in to space and current relations with Russia going south (with Russia being our only ticket to the ISS), we better get to those "potential future programs" pretty damn fast.

Re:Shuttle was OK, I suppose. (1, Troll)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 8 months ago | (#46506355)

Considering that it was how we moved big stuff in to space and current relations with Russia going south (with Russia being our only ticket to the ISS), we better get to those "potential future programs" pretty damn fast.

Here is - quite literally - a fu*king rocket scientist devoting his time and energy NOT towards building a better world or improving the advancement of our society. Instead, he's spearheading a massive effort to construct a self-congratulatory museum-piece.

If you want a textbook illustration for the meaning of "decadence" in the context of a civilization, you can read it in the above.

Re:Shuttle was OK, I suppose. (5, Insightful)

scotts13 (1371443) | about 8 months ago | (#46506427)

Here is - quite literally - a fu*king rocket scientist devoting his time and energy NOT towards building a better world or improving the advancement of our society. Instead, he's spearheading a massive effort to construct a self-congratulatory museum-piece.

If you want a textbook illustration for the meaning of "decadence" in the context of a civilization, you can read it in the above.

This rocket scientist has had his career, he's put in his 30. If he wants to devote his retirement to helping make sure people don't forget what we were once capable of, more power to him.

Re:Shuttle was OK, I suppose. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46511643)

Here is - quite literally - a fu*king rocket scientist devoting his time and energy NOT towards building a better world or improving the advancement of our society. Instead, he's spearheading a massive effort to construct a self-congratulatory museum-piece.

If you want a textbook illustration for the meaning of "decadence" in the context of a civilization, you can read it in the above.

This rocket scientist has had his career, he's put in his 30. If he wants to devote his retirement to helping make sure people don't forget what we were once capable of, more power to him.

Dennis has done a bit more than "his 30". He also authored or co-authored 33 books which you can find on Amazon.
It's not surprising that he is interested in the work at Exposition Park since his interests encompass aviation in many forms, not just the the Shuttle.
His photographs of the last flights of the remaining shuttles to their new homes are stunning. You may not appreciate the things he does and that is ok but it doesn't make his body work any less interesting, including his 30 years on Shuttle.

Re:Shuttle was OK, I suppose. (1)

SoCalChris (573049) | about 8 months ago | (#46508691)

This is a textbook illustration of trying to get people, and especially kids, interested in science. If people can't see things like this, they will lose interest. Kids won't study with aspirations of doing things like this. Adults won't approve taxes to help fund the sciences. Our economy will continue to lose ground to the countries that are making science important.

Seeing pictures and videos of the shuttle in action is impressive. Actually seeing it in person, and the displays set up at the Science Center are even more impressive.

Re:Shuttle was OK, I suppose. (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 8 months ago | (#46509121)

Seeing pictures and videos of the shuttle in action is impressive. Actually seeing it in person, and the displays set up at the Science Center are even more impressive.

If you are easily amused by big pieces of metal, more than big ideas. If you honour past achievement more than future possibility. Yes, then you are right.

Re:Shuttle was OK, I suppose. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46509815)

or because a govt decided to cut back on an aspect of advancement the only hope is to inspire the next generation to reverse the mistake.

Re:Shuttle was OK, I suppose. (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 8 months ago | (#46511201)

Shuttle was a corporate boondoggle - not an advancement.

Who reaped benefit? Not many. Tiny payload, infrequent launches, marginal utility, except as a transitional step that was never followed up in a quarter-century. DynaSoar Dinosaur. [wikimedia.org]

The STS was a tax funnel to Rockwell, Martin (Lockheed), etc.

Re:Shuttle was OK, I suppose. (1)

slapout (93640) | about 8 months ago | (#46509689)

It's like "2010" only a few years late.

"Impossible to replicate" (2)

Calydor (739835) | about 8 months ago | (#46506057)

Did we get these from another space-faring civilization with whom we've lost contact or something? I'm betting the launch pad isn't going to be holding a new rocket, so making a copy of a piece in plastic shouldn't be THAT disastrous, or am I missing something?

Re:"Impossible to replicate" (2)

Sockatume (732728) | about 8 months ago | (#46506219)

It's the launch stack, not the launch pad: the goal is to present the shuttle in ready-to-launch configuration, so plastic simacula will not do in some instances. The example they give is a bolt that would've taken a "six figure" sum of dollars to reproduce to its original specifications, which is used to fix the shuttle to its external tank.

Re:"Impossible to replicate" (1)

erebus2161 (3441365) | about 8 months ago | (#46506281)

So what they really meant was impracticable.

Re:"Impossible to replicate" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46506301)

It's the launch stack, not the launch pad: the goal is to present the shuttle in ready-to-launch configuration, so plastic simacula will not do in some instances. The example they give is a bolt that would've taken a "six figure" sum of dollars to reproduce to its original specifications, which is used to fix the shuttle to its external tank.

Yea, but creating a bolt that is sufficient for holding the stack together in a static display and not for flight might be a bit less expensive. It might also be desirable to take some of the components and simulate them with things that look real, but are not. Some of the components in the stack where downright dangerous things to handle. Explosive bolts would not be necessary or desirable. Some of the more stressed components might find suitable low quality substitutes given that we will NEVER load the fuel or try and launch.

Re:"Impossible to replicate" (4, Insightful)

OzPeter (195038) | about 8 months ago | (#46506373)

Some of the more stressed components might find suitable low quality substitutes given that we will NEVER load the fuel or try and launch.

Until the day comes when the plucky hero/heroine realizes that a "nearly ready to launch" Space Shuttle is located at Exposition Park museum in LA, which will do very nicely for ramming the mother ship of the baby elephants, thereby forcing them into submission.

Re:"Impossible to replicate" (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about 8 months ago | (#46507273)

Until the day comes when the plucky hero/heroine realizes that a "nearly ready to launch" Space Shuttle is located at Exposition Park museum in LA, which will do very nicely for ramming the mother ship of the baby elephants, thereby forcing them into submission.

Hey, I read that book once. WTH is the title?

Re:"Impossible to replicate" (2)

OzPeter (195038) | about 8 months ago | (#46507391)

Hey, I read that book once. WTH is the title?

Footfall [wikipedia.org]

Re:"Impossible to replicate" (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about 8 months ago | (#46507951)

Merci.

Re:"Impossible to replicate" (1)

volmtech (769154) | about 8 months ago | (#46509495)

I went and saw Ender's Game, Footfall would be 10 times better.

Re:"Impossible to replicate" (1)

fgodfrey (116175) | about 8 months ago | (#46508517)

In the article it barely mentions the issue that causes the 6 figures of expense, which is earthquakes. The museum exhibit has to be certified as safe in an earthquake (since it's in LA). Presumably, there is *TONS* of data explaining the exact forces that the Shuttle stack will stand up to using all original parts. If the parts are replicas, you'd need to certify that the replica wouldn't fail in an earthquake, which would involve quite a lot of engineering work.

Re:"Impossible to replicate" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46506341)

Why do they have to replicate the bolts to original specification?
Unless they plan to actually launch the thing it only has to look like it could, not actually be capable of it.

Re:"Impossible to replicate" (1)

gerardrj (207690) | about 8 months ago | (#46507377)

The "six figure bolt" was probably a dichotomy of incredibly strong and incredibly explosive. It was designed to hold the shuttle to the tank no-matter-what until the exact moment it needed to stop holding them together and then it needed to not exist, immediately and safely and with 100% reliability.
Any bolt holding anything together in a static, simulated display does not need those tolerances or requirements and I'd bet that a $15 grade 8 bolt of similar size would achieve all the holding power and longevity the new project requires. You could just welds and simulate the bolts as well.

Re:"Impossible to replicate" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46506313)

Probably better to replace "impossible" in that line with "impractically awkward." Without knowing the details, those are probably components manufactured as special orders from metalworking facilities that may or may not still exist in a legal sense, and that the design specs were either inaccurate or lost or destroyed (maybe all 3). In that sort of case, reproducing the pieces would require getting the existing ones, measuring them accurately, and then having the replacements milled.

As for the idea of making the parts out of plastic, it will depend on how load-bearing the pieces are. Those launch assemblies were not trivial constructions.

Re:"Impossible to replicate" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46512239)

from the article:

One of the most critical items, the 30-pound bolt that attaches the nose of the shuttle to the external tank, was one of the most difficult to track down. Jenkins couldn't find any in Florida; they had either been scrapped or sent back to Texas, where they were made.

Creating a replacement would have been a "major undertaking," Jenkins said. The bolt was manufactured with specialized metals and equipment. Extra bolts would have been needed for engineering and seismic testing. All in all, he guessed, it probably would have been a six-figure project.

Missing is the "why" here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46506079)

It seems like a big job for no real purpose.

Re: Missing is the "why" here. (2, Insightful)

tysonedwards (969693) | about 8 months ago | (#46506263)

You mean spending $250 million dollars to restore Endeavor to its original flight worthy condition through the use of original, certified parts so that it can be on display for middle schoolers for their field trips to the Science Center may not be a particularly sound idea when "this ship has been in space dozens of times" would still have them saying WOAH! even if a 30lb retention bolts shown connecting the shuttle to its fuel tank couldn't really hold the sheering force of a launch?

Re: Missing is the "why" here. (4, Insightful)

djlemma (1053860) | about 8 months ago | (#46506425)

You... don't really get "museums," do you? They're trying to preserve history. Are you really saying a museum shouldn't try to use the original historic parts when they're available, just because it's harder to acquire a few of them? Do you really think middle schoolers are the best metric to rate the value of a preservation effort?

Re: Missing is the "why" here. (1, Redundant)

timeOday (582209) | about 8 months ago | (#46506531)

I think you are really mis-characterizing what happened there. $250M is for the entire shuttle exhibit, including a new building to house it - not just this restoration. And here's the passage on the bolt:

One of the most critical items, the 30-pound bolt that attaches the nose of the shuttle to the external tank, was one of the most difficult to track down. Jenkins couldn't find any in Florida; they had either been scrapped or sent back to Texas, where they were made.

Creating a replacement would have been a "major undertaking," Jenkins said. The bolt was manufactured with specialized metals and equipment. Extra bolts would have been needed for engineering and seismic testing. All in all, he guessed, it probably would have been a six-figure project.

Jenkins traveled to Texas a few times to look for the bolt but had no luck. About a year after he began his search, he got a call. Someone in Houston had found a spare. It was sitting in a desk.

He hunted down the bolt and finally found it. How is this bad?

Re: Missing is the "why" here. (1)

jythie (914043) | about 8 months ago | (#46507979)

Because there is no profit in it? Public museums and history are for takers....

This sounds amazing (1)

djlemma (1053860) | about 8 months ago | (#46506109)

I never got to see a space shuttle launch, and it's one of those things that I'm going to regret forever. On the flip side, I've been able to get up-close and personal with 2 shuttles now, the Enterprise and the Discovery, thanks to the awesome displays in NYC and DC. Getting a chance to see the entire stack on display would just blow my mind, so I really hope this project comes to fruition. I'm probably going to make the trek to the west coast at some point to see the shuttle, but it'd be so much cooler to see the whole stack.

It will certainly confuse future archaeologists (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46506293)

Thousands of years from now archaeologists will uncover the previously unknown LA launch site and will confuse the hell out of them.

"The discovery of this launch site is extraordinary in that we never knew of this location being used for launching the Space Shuttle. It doesn't appear in any NASA records we're found so perhaps this was a top-secret location. We are, however, puzzled as to why they would have a launch facility in the middle of such a large sprawling city. One theory we have is that this was a decoy launch site used to confuse the Japanese during the second world war. This finding may rewrite history!"

Re:It will certainly confuse future archaeologists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46507275)

Oh, for an Insightfully-Funny mod point...

Re:It will certainly confuse future archaeologists (1)

Solandri (704621) | about 8 months ago | (#46509727)

Vandenberg AFB [goo.gl] is just a couple hours northwest of Los Angeles. It handles the country's launches into polar orbit [spacearchive.info] (stuff like spy satellites and scientific monitoring satellites - polar orbits cover a greater percentage of the earth's surface area). The viewing is not as good as Kennedy Space Center (most of the launch platforms are behind foothills inside a restricted access military base). But about 10 seconds after launch the rocket is above the hills and the show is the same.

Re:It will certainly confuse future archaeologists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46513807)

Is Assburger's hard to live with?

When I see this... (1)

bferrell (253291) | about 8 months ago | (#46506319)

And I think about the semi-snarky comment "If we build buildings like we build software, the first woodpecker would destroy civilization", I find myself wondering how anything get's accomplished for real. It seems the really BIG stuff, is a huge one-off and not replicable

Saw it last week (1)

heezer7 (708308) | about 8 months ago | (#46506369)

It looked good even if it was a temporary location. I have to say it was a bit sad buying the kiddo a shuttle toy knowing she now a days can't really realistically dream of being an astronaut in the US. Maybe a few years from now the outlook will be more positive (Not to discount what companies like SpaceX are doing. Just without an active NASA manned space program it just doesn't seem the same.)

Re:Saw it last week (1)

thrich81 (1357561) | about 8 months ago | (#46507323)

NASA had a selection for a new astronaut class just last year. Selected eight new candidates/trainees.

Wasteful (1)

JeremyGNJ (1102465) | about 8 months ago | (#46506439)

This is a worthwhile endeavor. Suuuuure. With the shortage of funds for the arts these days, is THIS what a museum spends money on?

Re:Wasteful (2)

djlemma (1053860) | about 8 months ago | (#46506615)

TFA says the money was raised through a $250 million campaign. Donors WANT this. The parts are free, they just have to be found, and the museum just has to cover the shipping and paperwork costs. Doesn't sound wasteful to me, sounds like the obvious and worthwhile thing to do. Or would you prefer these parts to be sold wholesale for scrap?

Cargo cult? (1)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about 8 months ago | (#46506929)

Really? We are going to spend money building a launch pad for a rocket that will never fly again, rather than on rockets that will? I'd be a lot more tolerant of this sort of thing if we had something now that replaced the shuttle.

How is the plan to pay the Russians to put our astronauts in space looking now.....

Re:Cargo cult? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46507469)

Posting AC, as have modded in this thread.

It's precisely this keeping of things that is allowing a new generation of rocket scientists to uncover the design and operation of the Saturn V F1 engine. See http://arstechnica.com/science... [arstechnica.com] . Understand that back in the day those things were designed, not much was known about why they worked. Sure there was good theoretical understanding, but knowledge lags vastly behind theory, especially with those monsters.

Because they were kept as display pieces, the F1 engine is now better understood than when it was flying. For example (from the article), the early engines had a tendency to blow up. This was tracked to turbulence in the ignition chamber so fins were added and they stopped blowing up. Being the space "race", with the problem solved the designers moved on to the next problem without really getting to the bottom of why this happened in the first place.

Re:Cargo cult? (3, Informative)

gerardrj (207690) | about 8 months ago | (#46507673)

That's the rub... the museum can rais $250M to install a shuttle exhibit but if you asked those same people to pay that much in taxes that was guaranteed to go to NASA they would balk.
Most people labor under the false impression that NASA has a tremendous budget, perhaps almost as large as the military budget when in reality NASA's portion of US spending is about .75% of the total budget (historically it has been as high as 4.5% and is currently about .5%). If the government as a whole could operate as efficiently as NASA does we'd have solved world hunger, provided free healthcare to all Americans, and have free mass transit in every city.
Over the SST program lifespan NASA spend about $192B on the entire thing. For comparison: the US Air Force's F-35 program is expected to cost $857B over its life span (figure you need to double that to get to the number we'll actually wind up at).
The US spends about $220B on interest payments, so we could re-build the entire SST program for the price of 1 year of interest payments!

Re:Cargo cult? (1)

khellendros1984 (792761) | about 8 months ago | (#46507909)

"We" aren't going to spend the money; donors to the $250 million fundraising campaign are. It's not like public funds are going into paying for the display.

Impossible to replicate? (1)

msobkow (48369) | about 8 months ago | (#46509529)

If it was made once, it could be made again. It's not art -- it's engineering.

The orbiter's name is Endeavour with a u (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46509719)

because it is named after a British navy ship, HMS Endeavour. Could you correct the headline?

Dennis Jenkins' book, please can we have a 2nd ed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46511537)

For anyone interested in the shuttle technology and history, his book is the best you'll find. The only shortcoming about it is that it was published before the Columbia accident. I would very very very much like Mr Jenkins to release a second edition covering Columbia right through to the final shuttle flight in 2011 and the end of the program. I know I'd buy it in a heartbeat! If anyone knows Mr Jenkins personally, please mention this to him :)

FFS America (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46512783)

Yes, the money could be better spent on the latest whiney new age hippy fad. Fact is, this exhibit, despite the shuttles many problems, should be something that you folk can stand up and say: we did this. In my book, the shuttle program is equally as important as the moon program. Both have given us libraries full of useful research and data, as well as a thousand more practical things which have made our lives easier, and saved lives all across the globe for decades (and will continue to do so for quite some time to come).

Be proud of it. Take your kids to see it. Remember that in as small a way as paying your taxes, you helped create one of the greatest achievements the world has ever seen.

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