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Shuttle Data Recorder May be Key to Accident

michael posted more than 11 years ago | from the aftermath dept.

Space 238

DreamerFi writes "A flight data recorder from the space shuttle Columbia, recovered last week in East Texas, contains readings that continue 14 seconds later than any previously studied data. Those readings are likely to play a crucial role in determining the cause of the shuttle's catastrophic breakup on Feb. 1."

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FISST (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5615136)

FIRSTPOST

Neal (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5615322)

I always used to say "If I looked like CowboyNeal, I'd shoot myself". Now, over the last years, I've really gained some weight. And when I looked into the mirror this morning, I noticed that I indeed look like CowboyNeal, except that I'm going bald.

Does anyone know where I can purchase a cheap gun?

SURVEY: WHO ELSE STANDS UP TO WIPE THEIR ASS? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5615428)

This is the first Troll Survey. Results will be posted in a later post today, attached to a first post like this message.

Q1: After taking a shit do you...
A: Stand up and wipe your ass?
B: Remain seated to wipe your ass?
C: Some combination of the above?

Q2: Are you...
A: Male?
B: Female?
C: Some combination of the above?

Thank you for your time!!

If This Is Not The First Post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5615143)

I will cover my balls with duct tape to protect them from chemical weapons. And then I will rip it off.

As always, links to pictures will be posted.

Re:If This Is Not The First Post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5615227)

So, did it hurt much?

Where are the links to pics?

Re:If This Is Not The First Post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5615232)

^_^ [slashdot.org]

Re:If This Is Not The First Post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5615238)

I will cover my balls with duct tape to protect them from chemical weapons. And then I will rip it off.

As always, links to pictures will be posted.


Anxiously awaiting said pictures...

Re:If This Is Not The First Post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5615264)

Here [cirp.org] is the first one.

More to follow.

Good (2, Insightful)

haedesch (247543) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615147)

Now hopefully after we know the cause, manned spaceflights can continue

Re:Good (4, Interesting)

The_K4 (627653) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615747)

I would like to see manned spaceflights continue, but I suspect that with all the thigns they are finding right now, that we will probably never launch another shuttle. The US government decided a quarter of a century that we wanted to have the world's only reuseable space craft. I have to point this out, but 1-shot equimpent is much cheaper and more flexable for this type of job. You use the ship once and never look back. No matter how much the say it's not, age will ALWAYS be a factor is the safty of this program. Also, i'll point out that rockets are no longer the "way to go". There are many ideas for new launch systems: space planes ships that use magnetic induction track and "shot" up and several other ideas. The shuttle program NEEDS to go. We need to look into using 21st century technology for the space program, not the continually re-vapmed 1975 technology that we use now. The space shuttle was a marvel when it was built, and at the time no-one could have seen that a reusable system would have been more expensive and labor intensive then one-shots, however it's day has come and gone. I hope that the US decides to develop new systems before 2012! I would suspect that if we start launching shuttles again, we will lose another group of amazing people to space within 18 months of re-starting the program.

FP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5615152)

First Po...

Amazing (4, Funny)

Safety Cap (253500) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615156)

~ experts have been cleaning, stabilizing and analyzing the 9,400 feet of magnetic tape within.
Seems that there is a use for old, reliable technologies, huh? :)

Good thing they didn't use DVD-Rs or <cough> Windows Media Player...

Re:Amazing (2, Funny)

Czernobog (588687) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615312)

Jesus, haven't they heard of tar?

Re:Amazing (5, Funny)

addaon (41825) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615541)

Tar is good for preserving some data for a very long time. A good example is dinosaurs, although the technique has also been applied to various small mammals. The problem with using tar for something like the space shuttle missions is that the write bandwidth and latency are both very low. While the write bandwidth scales linear with the surface of the tar (and with the cube root of the volume of the tar), space missions are mass-limited and could carry only a very little tar. Also, the latency is a real issue, as most of the data stored during the mission would not have time to be fully written before the accident occured.

Re:Amazing (1)

mdielmann (514750) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615684)

Yes, we put them in machines that haven't had their design specs updated in 20 years.

first nuke iraq post (-1)

neal n bob (531011) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615162)

Disney has signed a deal with US Strategic command to make Iraq into the world's largest year round ice skating rink. Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding will headline their new show - Mideast Camel Toe on ice!!

sad news (1, Informative)

stonebeat.org (562495) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615171)

A helicopter crashed today, while search for debris. these kinds of accidents slow down the search process, and delay the investigation, which impacts the schedule of futre flights.

Re:sad news (0, Flamebait)

gaj (1933) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615503)

Yeah. The sad parts are the slowed search, the delayed investigation, and the slipping future flight schedule.

The two people killed in the accident obviously don't deserve mention. In fact, they deserve to have died because they contributed to the delays mentioned.

yeah.

um ...

Might I suggest that you GET YOUR F'ING PRIORITIES STRAIGHT?

<sigh>

The truth is... (3, Funny)

Randolpho (628485) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615174)

They weren't searching for the recorder, they just stumbled on it. No, they were out at Hemphill, TX for other reasons.... :D

misleading title? (4, Funny)

carpe_noctem (457178) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615175)

Shuttle Data Recorder May be Key to Accident

I somehow doubt that the data recorded caused the shuttle accident. Perhaps they mean to say "finding the CAUSE of the accident"? ;)

Maybe not... (2, Funny)

twoslice (457793) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615245)

The last bit of information on the recorder could be this.

"You idiot! You pressed the wrong button!!!"

Re:Maybe not... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5615278)

Followed by:

"Three. Two. One. Have a nice day."

Re:Maybe not... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5615321)

*ping*

*A banana milkshake is ejected by the food dispenser*

Re:Maybe not... (1, Funny)

wideBlueSkies (618979) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615313)

Gimme a light.

KABLAM!!!

No! Bud light........

Re:misleading title? (-1)

GhostseTroll (582659) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615374)

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Re:misleading title? (5, Funny)

HorrorIsland (620928) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615520)

I dunno. Every time there is an accident involving air travel, one of those flight recorders is usually somewhere in the vicinity. I'm starting to get suspicious...

Re:misleading title? (1)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615646)

Hmm... I wonder, ... This "Recorder" will self-destruct in 5 seconds...

Data recorder key to accident? (-1, Redundant)

PerlGuru (115222) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615177)

Maybe we shouldn't have had a data recorder then? Perhaps they wouldn't have been able to have the accident had they not had the key?

Or am I missing something here?

Shuttle Data Recorder May be Key to Accident (5, Funny)

GMontag (42283) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615179)

In other news: Water Suspected to be Wet

Re:Shuttle Data Recorder May be Key to Accident (0, Flamebait)

mrscott (548097) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615615)

Bullshit.

Re:Shuttle Data Recorder May be Key to Accident (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5615793)

this is what i love about slashdot. the intellectual aspect of any discussion rises right to the surface.

No, really? (1)

Omkar (618823) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615184)

It's great that they found the recorder, but I hope nobody is surprised that it will be useful!

space is still risky (4, Insightful)

Montgomery Burns III (642155) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615187)


Was it Heinlin or Bradbury who wrote that there there are a thousand ways to die in space?

We have perhaps forgotten the thousands of details needed to go exactly right in order for people not to die.
Moreover, travelling and re-entry at 13,000 miles an hour is downright scary.

Re:space is still risky (5, Insightful)

blakespot (213991) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615651)

We have perhaps forgotten the thousands of details needed to go exactly right in order for people not to die.
Moreover, travelling and re-entry at 13,000 miles an hour is downright scary.


Exactly.

I think it is very tragic, the loss of the shuttle crew, but people really should not react to it as though there is some expected guarantee of a crew's safe return home. Sure, safety is one of the #1 concerns and considerations in the space program, but we are trying to "boldly go where no man/one has gone before." Space has risks and there are unknown variables. Should we turn away from space travel / research because of these risks? Is that what the crew, who you can be sure were well aware of said risks, would have wanted?

I think not.


blakespot

My Crackpot idea... (5, Interesting)

somethingwicked (260651) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615192)

This is an "Ask Slashdot" that I submitted a few weeks back.

Can't seem to find the article that I quoted from when I submitted this to Slashdot, will see if I can dig up...

'Under the conditions of a normal return to earth, the shuttle flies on autopilot until it is traveling more slowly than the speed of sound. But pilots train to take the shuttle all the way down in case the autopilot malfunctions, and so it is possible one of the pilots was trying to take control of the yawing craft in its final moments. 'It is relatively easy for the autopilot to be turned off by accident, which in fact happened just minutes before the problems with the Columbia started to become apparent. In the recovered segment of flight deck video of the waning minutes of the flight released by NASA, Colonel Husband is heard to exclaim, "Oh, shoot," and to tell mission control that "we bumped the stick earlier," briefly disengaging the autopilot. He quickly and calmly corrected the error'
What this all leads me to is this, and I have not seen this suggested in anything I have read as an important concern: Is it possible that this accidental disengaging of the autopilot CONTRIBUTED to the loss of the Shuttle? Although the pilots are trained to fly the Shuttle without the Autopilot, if they were unaware that it was turned off then the "minute" adjustments that either one would make would be missed. All accounts I have seen suggest that the slightest details on the approach make HUGE differences in the results. Add to this the fact that it has been reported that the Autopilot, when on, was acting to correct the flight path anomalies caused by the damage outside. If the autopilot is off, then what other consequences were being experienced?
Is it possible that this with the likely outside damage and other factors may have COMBINED have caused the loss of the Shuttle where any issue ALONE would have not? With all the speculation I have seen in the media, I am not sure this is any less of a possibility...
BTW, I personally am not trying to lay blame on the astronauts themselves. Much like a Cruise Control that starts to mysteriously disengage on a vehicle, I would not be surprised if the Autopilot may have "sensed" a disengage as simple as moving the stick, and the pilots assumed that one of them must have done it."

The Shuttle is *extremely* difficult to land ... (5, Interesting)

torpor (458) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615459)

... hands-on.

Nobody has done it except for the first crew. If I remember correctly, the first Shuttle pilot (dunno his name, some ex-Navy pilot) attempted to manually guide the Shuttle during its landing approach, and did so for a few minutes only to give up and let the auto-pilot take over, mid-way through.

I could have this story wrong (hey, it happens) but I do remember that there's little reason - other than extreme catastrophic failure of onboard systems - for a Shuttle pilot to attempt to override the autopilot. Such catastrophic failures of the onboard systems would definitely have been detected by NASA on the ground previously ...

So, I'd say, there's little chance that an autopilot-override was performed by the crew which lead to the failure.

But then, I dunno. I get most of my understanding of the Shuttle landing procedure from the X-Plane sim, which makes it very clear that it's extremely difficult for a human being to land the Shuttle...

Bumped the stick (4, Interesting)

reality-bytes (119275) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615535)

Husband reporting to mission control that "we bumped the stick earlier" suggests an autopilot disengage on pilot input.
Although I don't know, it would seem reasonable that the shuttle's autopilot could be disengaged like this (much like any other aircraft). If during short-final, the pilot decides that the autopilot is leading the shuttle off the approach, a simple grab of the stick for control would seem the safest override method.

Does anyone know any more on this? - Does the shuttle allow pilot-input overrides?

Re:The Shuttle is *extremely* difficult to land .. (1)

somethingwicked (260651) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615569)

I THINK you are reinforcing my point somewhat, though I am not sure if you meant to or not.

Yes, there is little reason for the crew to try to land the Shuttle. But if you look at the link I have included and IF I could find the original link you would see that for WHATEVER reason, the autopilot WAS turned off.

AND it is clear this has happened before and that apparently all it takes to occur is the stick getting "bumped" or some other minor detail

Re:The Shuttle is *extremely* difficult to land .. (4, Insightful)

Hektor_Troy (262592) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615813)

Actually ...

I heard one of the pilots in the USAF with the most air time comment something like

"Landing is easy. Landing without dying is a bit more tricky. Landing without damage is tricker still."

In related news (-1, Offtopic)

leviramsey (248057) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615201)

They discovered that the tape actually contained a goatse link in disguise, thanks to the use of the latest Slashcode, which only displays the domain name of links on the status bar.

Black box?! (4, Interesting)

gpinzone (531794) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615202)

When the shuttle broke up, people like myself asked about a black box and were told "there is no such device due to the near impossibility of the device to re-enter the atmosphere." Nw all of a sudden there IS a box. Why were we mislead?

Re:Black box?! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Cowtard (573891) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615259)

Let's see the choices:

a) It was a vast conspiracy by the evil alien empire with the earth combined with the Republican national committee to divert attention from a meeting of their evil cabal.

b) Some talking head on the news didn't do his research worth a damn.

Personally, I think it was a.

Re:Black box?! (1)

gpinzone (531794) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615324)

I'm not implying it was a conspiracy either, but when the NASA representative doesn't even know something basic about the shuttle like the existence of the black box, my confidence about their investigation on why the shuttle exploded begins to wane.

Re:Black box?! (1)

FatAlb3rt (533682) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615369)

my confidence about their investigation on why the shuttle exploded begins to wane

Mine too. Especially since it didn't explode. heating and dynamic pressure --> vehicle breakup

Re:Black box?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5615268)

Yeah I remember hearing that too. I cant find a source.

Re:Black box?! (4, Insightful)

foistboinder (99286) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615299)

It's not really a black box like those found on airliners. It's simply a data recorder lucky enough to survive relatively intact.

BTW, the telemetry sent by the shuttle, in theory, provides more information than a black box.

Re:Black box?! (0)

KMAPSRULE (639889) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615311)

I believe that Columbia was the only shuttle in the fleet to have this "black box", it was used mainly during the inititial testing of Columbia. It records takeoff and landing data in addition to the live broadcast of telemetry. I'm answering this from memory so pardon any errors -- If I get a chance Ill try to dig up the articles I read on this.

Recorder not strengthened like black box (4, Informative)

MyNameIsFred (543994) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615443)

There is a difference between a black box and a data recorder. A black box is specifically designed to withstand fire, water, and crashes. It contains beacons to help locate it after a crash. Whereas the shuttle recorder has none of these. It records data.

During one of the original news conferences, a reporter asked if there was a black box, similar to those on aircraft. He was told no because NASA did not believe that they could design a black box that could survive a shuttle disaster. Did NASA lie? No, they told the truth, there are no black boxes designed to withstand a shuttle disaster.

Re:Recorder not strengthened like black box (3, Funny)

whimdot (591032) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615640)

The shuttle, which was designed to survive re-entry, broke-up.

Nasa say they can't design a black-box that could survive a shuttle disaster.

The data-recorder, which was not designed to survive re-entry, survived.

Nasa should get the design of their next re-entry vehicle from the designer of the data-recorder!

Re:Black box?! (2, Informative)

Sebby (238625) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615506)

You weren't "mislead"; it's true that the shuttles don't have 'black boxes'.

However Columbia did have extra monitoring recorders (to supplement the ground feed) because it was the first shuttle built and flown in space. They later removed some of that equipment, but did leave some of it, including this piece (fortunetly)

Re:Black box?! (1)

AzrealAO (520019) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615613)

It's not a "Black Box" in the manner in which a commercial aircraft has a black box. It's not designed to survive a crash, it has no beacon to aid in recovery, it's an artifact of the test flights, and as such, no other shuttle has one. They just never ripped the thing out when they didn't need it anymore. It's more of a lucky accident than anything.

Accident cause (3, Funny)

guacamolefoo (577448) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615206)

Shuttle Data Recorder May be Key to Accident

Well, the solution is simple -- remove the data recorder from the remaining shuttles, and *presto* exploding shuttle problem solved.

GF.

Re:Accident cause (2, Informative)

addaon (41825) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615561)

Heh. Yes, I know you're joking, but a bit more info for you: I'm pretty sure that Columbia was the only one with a data recorder, or at least a data recorder of this type. It was a 'leftover' from the testing process, and not standard equipment on later shuttles.

However (4, Insightful)

Chardish (529780) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615211)

It's time for us to move beyond the space shuttle for our regular space missions and develop something that works a lot better, a lot cheaper, and a lot more exciting. The shuttle, unfortunately, is necessary at this point to finish the ISS *cough*WASTEOFMONEY*cough* but it's not too late to go to the drawing board and develop a space vehicle (preferably with long-range capabilities) that does not involve getting off the ground by blasting itself off the ground with hundreds of pounds of fuel.

-Evan

moron perl diving in a cesspool (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5615212)

everything in there has turned to sh!t.

SHINGTON, March 27 -- Richard N. Perle resigned today as chairman of an influential Pentagon advisory board in the wake of disclosures that his business dealings included a recent meeting with a Saudi arms dealer and a contract to advise a communications company that is seeking permission from the Defense Department to be sold to Chinese investors.

The departure, announced by the administration, came after growing criticism of Mr. Perle's business ties while he was serving as chairman of the Defense Policy Board, a collection of experts and former government officials who have access to classified information and are unpaid advisers to the defense secretary on military issues. The Pentagon said Mr. Perle, who has many friends in the senior ranks of the administration and was appointed to the chairman's post in 2001 by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, would remain on the board.

The communications company, Global Crossing, also announced that Mr. Perle had decided to sever his ties with it.

Earlier this week, Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, asked the Pentagon to conduct an examination of Mr. Perle's business dealings. And on Wednesday, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, wrote a letter to Mr. Rumsfeld urging him to force Mr. Perle to choose between his job on the Defense Policy Board and his business.

In a letter to Mr. Rumsfeld dated Wednesday, Mr. Perle said he was "dismayed" that criticism of his business ties was distracting Pentagon officials while they were grappling with the war in Iraq.

"I have seen controversies like this before, and I know that this one will inevitably distract from the urgent challenge in which you are now engaged," Mr. Perle wrote. "I would not wish to cause even a moment's distraction from that challenge. As I cannot quickly or easily quell criticism of me based on errors of fact concerning my activities, the least I can do under these circumstances is to ask you to accept my resignation as chairman of the Defense Policy Board."

Last week, Mr. Perle defended the appropriateness of his fee arrangement with Global Crossing, which had agreed to pay him $600,000 on top of his $125,000 retainer if the Pentagon and other government agencies approved its sale. But in his letter, Mr. Perle reversed himself and said he would not accept any compensation resulting from completion of the deal. He also said that "any fee for past service would be donated to the families of American forces killed or injured in Iraq."

In a brief phone conversation this afternoon before the Pentagon's announcement, Mr. Perle sounded angry. Asked whether he had resigned, he replied: "Let me just tell you something. If I had, you'd be the last person in the world I'd want to talk to." He then slammed down the phone.

Yes, but will it bury the "mysterious beam" theory (4, Interesting)

Theodore Logan (139352) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615221)

You might want to read this [commondreams.org] .

Re:Yes, but will it bury the "mysterious beam" the (0)

pldms (136522) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615291)

Might even support it:

"Stay on target. Stay on target..."

strange heavy breathing

mysterious beam

recording ends

Re:Yes, but will it bury the "mysterious beam" the (1)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615309)

Has there ever been any real news publised at that site (Commondreams)? It all looks like made up FUD stories and conspiracy theories.

Re:Yes, but will it bury the "mysterious beam" the (1)

arkanes (521690) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615404)

It claims to be a reprint of an article by the Chronicle, which is at least a reputable news source. I suppose you could do some research on the names in the article and see what came up.

Re:Yes, but will it bury the "mysterious beam" the (2, Interesting)

Theodore Logan (139352) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615422)

Commondreams [commondreams.org] do run some questionable stories, yes, but this one has actually featured in respectable media as well. I just picked the first link I could find.

If you think this theory is "out there," believe me, you haven't seen shit [bakutoday.net] .

Missing Data (4, Insightful)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615225)

"Kilroy was here" :)

How much drastically could this tape change the reconstruction of the problem that is already done. There are even timelines of how things happened, when the problem started, what sensors stopped to report, and almost all that happened till it was too late. Thit last 14 extra seconds will only show the last parts of destruction, but should not change what is already know about what happened, what caused all, and most of how it propagates in the ship.

Re:Missing Data or launch data captured? (2, Interesting)

jeepliberty (624159) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615667)

In an article in the Florida Today newspaper Florida Today On line here [floridatoday.com] it states that:

"The device contains 9,400 feet of magnetic tape that permits up to two hours recording time. It was turned on 10 minutes before Columbia's Jan. 16 launch and then turned off about six minutes after the shuttle reached orbit.

The recorder was activated again 15 minutes before Columbia began its ill-fated, 45-minute plunge through the atmosphere.".

Is it possible that the impact of the foam on the left wing (or other launch time anomoly) was caught on tape?

patrix (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5615229)

patrix is a dude who is british and plays diablo alot but now he plays neverwinternights

No reason to probe the accident! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5615234)

The reason why Columbia has exploded is that God STOPPED TO bless America !!
We (americans) are doomed !!

Live radio (1)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615236)

I'm indeed no rocket scientist, but, why not have live, continuous transmittal of those very data by radio etc?

I'm sure there is a reason, but it does not make sense in cases like these. Cyberterroism? Military reasons? Whatever, black boxes do not stand everything.

Re:Live radio (2, Interesting)

PerlGuru (115222) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615263)

They actually do. All of the data analysis so far has been based on the live telemetry that was captured. The significance of this tape lies in that it has an additional 14 seconds of data. Which as someone else pointed out, I'm not sure that would necesarily be a big help if it was already too late. Perhaps there is also more details of the time leading up to that 14 seconds.

Re:Live radio (1)

borgdows (599861) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615285)

>I'm indeed no rocket scientist, but, why not have >live, continuous transmittal of those very data by >radio etc? It would make sense for spaceships and also for planes! I really don't see why it is not the case (?)

Re:Live radio (2, Informative)

ConeFish (216294) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615286)

There is a period during the descent through the upper atmosphere when radio communication often is interrupted. Other than that, there is always telemetry being sent back home to mission control.
It is just those few minutes during the radio blackout time that things seemed to go wrong.

Re:Live radio (1, Informative)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615288)

Radio interference. There's a blackout for a few minutes. I forget the exact reason for this, but I think it has to do with the atmosphere heating up around the outside of the ship, turning into a plasma, and giving off lots of radio waves which interfere with transmissions.

Re:Live radio (4, Interesting)

CharlieG (34950) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615360)

Actually, on a NORMAL STS re-entry there is no longer a radio blackout! That is part of what the TDRS system is for. You see, the ionization of the air around a re entering spacecraft usually blocks the radio, BUT there is a BIG hole in the ionized layer - right behind the shuttle - you can transmit to space FINE, so they transmit to the TDRS, and it transmits to the ground.

The problem is that at 32 seconds before the final breakup (estimated), the signal to the TDRS was lost. This seems to be when the STS yawed enough that the tail antennas could no longer point up the non ionized track. You'll not that they got some partial data a few seconds (off the top of my head, it was 7 seconds of data 14 seconds later) after the first contact loss - this is estimated to be the time when the STS had yawed FULLY through 360 degs - aka, the shuttle actually spun fully at least ONCE. During this spin is when the shuttle lost the engine pod, and you can see the fragments coming off in the videos

Re:Live radio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5615618)

there is a BIG hole in the ionized layer - right behind the shuttle - you can transmit to space FINE, so they transmit to the TDRS, and it transmits to the ground

that is really fscking cool

I'm going to hell... (-1, Flamebait)

Pop n' Fresh (411094) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615269)

I think I know what may be contained on the recording:

"uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuccckkkk!!!!!"

Yeah, I know it's the data recorder they recovered and not the voice recorder...

No kidding. (2, Funny)

hafree (307412) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615298)

Shuttle Data Recorder May be Key to Accident

...and in other news, the pope is catholic. Brilliant headline.

Re:No kidding. (1)

Snarfy (27790) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615455)

I was going to make fun of the headline too. But you did is much better than I would have. Bravo!

"Black Boxes" on Shuttles (5, Interesting)

Fenris2001 (210117) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615305)

This is really a great find, and an unintended one at that. Shuttles don't carry "black box" flight data recorders like commercial aircraft do. A data recorder, while useful in an accident, was thought unlikely to survive re-entry in a catastrophic event.

Why, then, does Columbia have the OEX recorder? Simple - Columbia was one of the first Shuttles to fly to orbit, and the engineers at NASA wanted a data recorder on board so they could examine and validate some characteristics of the vehicle design.

The OEX recorder contains far more information than a simple "black box". Finding it, intact, will greatly aid the understanding of what went wrong, and hopefully lead to increased safety on future Shuttle flights. Perhaps, something similar to the OEX recorder will be integrated into the other Shuttles, since it looks like a data recorder can survive re-entry.

"Black Boxes" on Aircraft (-1, Redundant)

skinfitz (564041) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615343)

Perhaps, something similar to the OEX recorder will be integrated into the other Shuttles, since it looks like a data recorder can survive re-entry.

Why dont they simply make aircraft out of the same material that they make flight recorders out of?

Re:"Black Boxes" on Aircraft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5615453)

mini shuttle?

I think the design of the 'box' is more compact than the shuttle...and therefor can take the impact better.

I found two books on the subject
flight data recorder [seriousshopping.net]

Re:"Black Boxes" on Aircraft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5615477)

I'll bite....

Because it would be TOO FRICKIN HEAVY!

Look. Airplanes are mostly thin-walled hollow tubes of aluminum with some structural bracing.

A flight data recorder can be made with walls an inch thick, and the overall size isn't all that big.

If you made a plane with proportionately thick walls, you wouldn't have to worry about it breaking up in a crash. Of course, it also wouldn't be able to get off the ground....

Stating the obvious, no? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5615308)

This is like saying .. the key in my hand might be the key to my front door, on the other hand, it might not. and?

More info about OEX recorder (5, Informative)

slashd'oh (234025) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615310)

<karmaho>
I came across an article [spaceflightnow.com] at Spaceflight Now which contains basically the same news, as well as a link to the OEX specifications [nasa.gov] in the NSTS 1988 News Reference Manual.
</karmaho>

No insight here, move along...

14 seconds after? (4, Interesting)

{tele}machus_*1 (117577) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615327)

Doesn't NASA need to know what happened on lift-off and whether a piece of space junk hit the shuttle during the mission? I thought they already knew that the break-up began in the left wing even before communication was lost. Why would finding out more about the continuing disintegration tell NASA more about what caused the break-up (an event that occurred, presumably, days before the actual disaster)?

Re:14 seconds after? (1)

glesga_kiss (596639) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615775)

You should always keep an open mind and never get stuck on one theory. Any extra data is good, if anything it will probably confirm the existing thoughts on what happened.

It has to be said... (-1, Redundant)

Rudy Rodarte (597418) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615365)

Why don't they just make the whole shuttle out of the data recorder.

*ducks*

Last 14 seconds not important (5, Insightful)

obiwan2u (600477) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615387)

Actually, the article makes the point that information recorded earlier in the flight could be more important than the last 14 seconds.

Concentrating on the last 14 seconds seems to play to the morbid sensational factor. Ie., finding out exactly how the shuttle broke up and thus imagining the exactly how the astronauts felt, etc. But then again, the emotional factor (ie. national pride) is the only reason why the shuttle is flying (IMHO).

Also, this article doesn't mention that this flight data recorder contained more detailed information than was available on the radio downlink data. See Critical Data Recorder is Unique to Shuttle Columbia [space.com] for more details.

Ben
"Don't be so humble. You may not be that good"

Re:Last 14 seconds not important (3, Insightful)

dacarr (562277) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615579)

Remember, though, Ben, this is the media. They want sensationalism. Don't accuse them of being sensible.

What I noticed in the article too is that there was some mention that they could use the OPX for filling in some gaps. Remember, there was missing data during the yaw, seven seconds of static, and that was it. Fill in that missing gap with the OPX, see what happened during and beyond that seven seconds, and use the OPX to fill in any other gaps and gather some more tourist information.

Fourteen more seconds but..... (1, Redundant)

dmanny (573844) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615391)

While obviously the entire dataset contained in the recorder will be valuable, I wonder whether the additional time covered will really be of much importance. From the telemetry feeds it is already known that abnormal things were happening prior to this last time slice.

Rather I am hoping that the recorder proves of exceptional interest in the timeframe before. Unless the telemetry feeds off the shuttle completely duplicate the recorder, I would suspect that it might offer more detailed information on the data during the start of the incident. After all, what needs to be understood is the source of the problem because it is unlikely that a design will ever be possible that will cover all possible modes of failure. The constraints of weight are just to stringent. This is true of even normal aircraft, although cost is more of a concern there.

FIRST VIETNAM! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5615432)

oh whoops...

second vietnam!

It's just NASA Negligence... (-1, Flamebait)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615482)

They KNOW the shuttle was damaged before re-entry. They declined to have it properly inspected before re-entry. Now they try to make it appear that it's some big mystery.

Suffice to say, having any damamge (her than a few heat tiles) should bar it from re-entry. I'm no NASA expert (one wonders if they exist these days...) but I know that wind damage, particularly a deforemed wing's leading edge surface would cause exccessive friction what would result in heat build up enough to liquify metal.

I don't know why there isn't a nelgigence suit against them. With all the offers they declined, it's pretty clear cut.

Re:It's just NASA Negligence... (2, Insightful)

kinnell (607819) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615596)

Suffice to say, having any damamge (her than a few heat tiles) should bar it from re-entry

They had no means to repair the damage, and insufficient life support to wait in space for a repair mission to be sent. They chose to try landing a damaged shuttle (which enginners said would probably be OK anyway) instead of suffocating in orbit. What would you have done?

Re:It's just NASA Negligence... (0)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615819)

Transer crew to the ISS, and send up another shuttle full of air and repair/dismantle equipment. Throw it into orbit and if it can't be repaired, bring it down bits at a time for recyling in another shuttle. Or leave it up there for spare parts.

Not trying to be an ass here, but ... (1)

JSkills (69686) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615508)

How can a person with the title of "Space Analyst" use terms like "glitches" and "funnies" in referencing reports specific to the technology for the behavior of the shuttle's flight navigation system?

In an e-mail exchange, Oberg said there have been various reports about glitches or "funnies" that might have been occurring aboard Columbia even before the spaceship crossed the California coastline.

Also, I was hoping this report had some insight as to what was on the additional seconds of data that was recovered. I supposed I shouldn't expect tech details on msnbc.com.

Ok mod me down now - I'm just complaining anyway ...

OH yeah blackbox... (1)

kc8ioy (640909) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615584)

Oh that blackbox WM for *nix. I always knew there was something powerful about it.

Re:OH yeah blackbox... (1)

samhalliday (653858) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615739)

and windoze...

Blackbox4Windows [desktopian.org]

...but i'm a linux/bsd/sun user.

Columbia FAQ (5, Informative)

MondoMor (262881) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615601)

This being Slashdot, there's a lot of people talking about things they know nothing about, and acting like experts.

There's an excellent FAQ [io.com] , that will clear up a lot of misconceptions, and hopefully shut up some of the ignorant pedants.

If you're afraid it's a hidden goatse link, here it is naked:

http://www.io.com/~o_m/home.html

Don't Villianize the Space Program (2, Insightful)

totallygeek (263191) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615626)

Remember, this is the most dangerous job in the world, yet there are many people that dream of reaching the heavens. While tragic, we cannot make space flight safer than it is. Seven people died in the most well-maintained, fastest travelling, farthest travelling piece of machinery in the world. Countless people die in our safe automobiles daily on their way to eat lunch at speeds the shuttle reaches in less than 2 seconds after launch.


Most astronauts are adrenaline junkies anyway, flying experimental jets, climbing mountains, sky diving, etc. Many cadets in the space program and military personnel wishing to join the space program when their duties are up die before they join NASA. We have lost less than 20 people total defying gravity, and I call that a wonderful sucess.

Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5615659)

HEADLINE ON SLASHDOT SHORT.

Headline on slashdot are shortened to lead you to a completely different meaning. That's real news information people.

Slashdot rumors for the lunix nerds.

NTSB investigagors help Shuttle probe (3, Interesting)

lent (164114) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615691)

The National Transportation Safety Board pulled investigators pulled people [newsday.com] from the Flight 587 [newsday.com] probe to help out on the Columbia investigation. NTSB Field Investigators, unfortunately, are experienced with finding the cause from many sometimes grisly pieces of data.
They also know what to bring, what to do, where to go and what to ask [erau.edu] . And of course, they known how to extract data from Flight Data Recorders [ntsb.gov] Interestingly, the NTSB issued recommendations [ntsb.gov] that Require retrofit after January 1, 2005, of all cockpit voice recorders [ntsb.gov] (CVRs) [...] [be] fitted with an independent power source [...] that provides 10 minutes of operation whenever aircraft power to the recorder ceases. Just one of the things the NTSB fights the FAA [ntsb.gov] over :-)

But remember the "Black box" (OEX recorder) on the shuttle is very different [io.com] from a CVR.

Recorder May Have Ascent Information Also (3, Interesting)

ec_hack (247907) | more than 11 years ago | (#5615701)

The data on the recorder may also give insight as to what did or did not happen on ascent, as it records the same sensor data during the climb to orbit. This could give insight as to how strong the foam impact was and where it hit on the wing.
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