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The Shuttle Mission No One Wants

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the no-one-in-my-room-anyhow dept.

Space 404

Fourmica writes "USA Today (by way of TechNewsWorld) has a surprisingly insightful look at the planned 'rescue option' for Discovery's upcoming launch. The plan, which has been mentioned here before, is to have the crew hole up on the ISS until Atlantis can launch to bring them home. My question is, why shove everyone into the ISS? Why not just dock with it, and share the life support supplies between the two systems, instead of cramming everyone into the station?" See this earlier story on the same topic.

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Answer (4, Interesting)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219422)

My question is, why shove everyone into the ISS? Why not just dock with it, and share the life support supplies between the two systems, instead of cramming everyone into the station?"

Because the shuttle is only a supported flight platform for a very narrow range of parameters on a given mission. Yes, even with all the contingencies. We *know* the ISS is a predictable, stable environment, as opposed to a failed shuttle (whatever the failure is) requiring extended docking with the ISS.
Therefore, living in cramped quarters for a while and losing/abandoning a shuttle is far desirable to potentially losing a shuttle due to yet-unknown circumstances, *and* the ISS, and all of the occupants of both.

Better cramped and (relatively) safe than comfortable and (perhaps) sorry, no matter how remote the chances of a catastrophic event caused by unknown/unmanageable failures, even on orbit.

Finally - jokes aside - wouldn't you think NASA knows at least marginally what it's doing here?

Or maybe they can use...

...the *military shuttle*!! (Hello, WW fans.)

Re:Answer (4, Insightful)

mat catastrophe (105256) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219449)

"We *know* the ISS is a predictable, stable environment, as opposed to a failed shuttle."

Yes. Rock solid and *very* predictable and stable [spacetoday.net] , indeed.

Re:Answer (2, Insightful)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219462)

Still more predictable and stable than having a shuttle with a catastrophic enough failure to require crew rescue attached to it.

Re:Answer (1)

mat catastrophe (105256) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219578)

Oh, I agree with you. I was just "sayin'," ya know?

I also agree with whomever made the point about additional mass tied to the station. It would probably require some orbit recalculations and that could even throw off the timing of a rescue launch.

And that's when those food problems become an issue! OK, just kidding again.

Now, here's an interesting question: If the failure is really that serious and catastrophic, how do they intend to get the shuttle to the station - or vice versa? I imagine that neither one of those things really moves all that fast up there, relatively speaking.

Re:Answer (4, Insightful)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219622)

Now, here's an interesting question: If the failure is really that serious and catastrophic, how do they intend to get the shuttle to the station - or vice versa?

Well, this presumes that the shuttle is still functional enough to get to the ISS.

This is just a typical reactive strategy, e.g., the last shuttle completed its entire mission, but just *couldn't land* because of the foam anomaly. So now they'll look for this one-in-a-who-knows-how-many occurrence, and have a "rescue plan", as all the people who don't realize how complex this is asked about last time. It's just a contingency plan, because is something even remotely similar ever happened again and they didn't plan for it, NASA would be raked over the coals and heads would roll.

So, yeah, if something really bad happened, there's no guarantees the shuttle could get to the ISS at all. They just have to plan for the eventuality that it can.

Re:Answer (2, Insightful)

rikkards (98006) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219696)

So now they'll look for this one-in-a-who-knows-how-many occurrence

Kind of like how in the states they make you take off you shoes during an airport security check.

Re:Answer (4, Funny)

mat catastrophe (105256) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219725)

So, do you suppose that somewhere in NASA's big manual of back up plans there is a page that says:

1. Other incidents not yet mentioned...
2. ???
3. Mission saved!

Re:Answer (5, Insightful)

Don Sample (57699) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219657)

The only sort of failure that would have them going to the ISS is something that would make impossible to land, such as damaged tiles. Any sort of life support system failure, they can still probably land the thing faster than they can dock to the station.

Re:Answer (5, Interesting)

snuf23 (182335) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219777)

Hey that's not fair. In this case it's the PEOPLE on the space station who were unpredictable. After all they ate the extra food, not the space station.

Re:Answer (2, Informative)

Cognoscento (154457) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219450)

The damaged shuttle would have to be jettisoned before a rescue vehicle could arrive, because the station cannot accommodate two shuttles.

Maybe I didn't RTFA properly, but I think it means that the shuttle would stay there and be used until they needed the docking port to rescue the astronauts... it would spend most of the month attached, likely.

Re:Answer (4, Informative)

Amiga Trombone (592952) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219601)

Because the shuttle is only a supported flight platform for a very narrow range of parameters on a given mission. Yes, even with all the contingencies. We *know* the ISS is a predictable, stable environment, as opposed to a failed shuttle (whatever the failure is) requiring extended docking with the ISS.
Therefore, living in cramped quarters for a while and losing/abandoning a shuttle is far desirable to potentially losing a shuttle due to yet-unknown circumstances, *and* the ISS, and all of the occupants of both.


Actually, it's probably simpler than that. IIRC, ISS has limited docking facilities, I believe it can only accommodate one shuttle at a time.

In order to accommodate shuttle one, it would need to jettison shuttle one, and make sure it's a safe distance away from ISS.

Re:Answer (1, Flamebait)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219658)

They'd have to jettison the shu[tt]le for the same reason they'd want to go to the ISS ... would you REALLY want to be on the shuttle after everyone on it has gone "Holy fuck!" and crapped their pants?

Re:Answer (-1, Troll)

lostwanderer147 (829316) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219745)

Honestly, no, I don't think NASA knows what it's doing. Although it has some great achievements (man in space, first man on the moon, etc.), it also has a tremendous share of bloopers. Consider:

Early 90s, I think, there was a mission to Mars, and somebody misprogrammed something, and the mission missed Mars by quite a long shot;

Just a few years ago, there was another mission to Mars, where they again misprogrammed, and the mission crashed into Mars, destroying everything;

When the Hubble Telescope first went up, shortly after, they realized that they had forgotten to put in one of the lenses;

The Columbia tragedy: if they'd looked, they could have seen it coming;

Challenger and the Apollo mission(15?)that both malfunctioned, killing all inside.

And, just recently, the budget for NASA has been cut drastically. I hate to say it, and I wish it wasn't so, but NASA is in a death spiral, and unless something big happens soon, the US space program will soon be history. Sure, there may be some private enterprises that send missions, but there will be an end to government-sponsored and supported space exploration.

Re:Answer (1)

surkol m (726240) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219843)

The Hubble wasn't blind because they forgot to put in a lens. It was because the mirrors, which flexed slightly because of gravity on earth, didn't flex in outer space. Thus, the telescope was useless until a mission was completed to install a lens in it to correct its "vision".

uh...no (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12219775)

"wouldn't you think NASA knows at least marginally what it's doing here?"

No, NASA is terrified of losing life.

Along with too many Americans.

Here's the thing...when the 6 astonauts died in the last shuttle accident it was too bad. Terrible.

But...it was no more terrible than 6 anonymous people dieing in an accident on the interstate. Its the same thing morally.

In people's minds though, its worse...and it is, but mainly because of the loss of equipment. People are cheap and plentiful, shuttles are not.

And shame on NASA and the bureaucracy for not having the b*lls to find a nice way to say the truth.

So to answer your question, no, I don't think they use their best *scientific* judgement; they're concerned about image.

Re:Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12219778)

It becomes dangerous because it is only a supported flight platform for a very narrow range of parameters on a given mission.

Oh yea, that is it; it is a very safe cabin during the 10 days "serving as a supported flight platform for a very narrow range of parameters" and then dangerous otherwise. It is the precision you know.

Re:Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12219868)

Tupping Military Shuttle Nonsense...

Speaking of the West Wing (and not a scenario where 9 astronauts are stranded on ISS), I seem to recall something about ISS having an emergency ESCAPE VEHICLE for exactly the scenario on WW. They almost had to use it once when there was a fire... (Or am I thinking of Mir?) Anyone know more about this?

Fuel (3, Insightful)

Easy2RememberNick (179395) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219430)

Easy, it's the lack of Fuel.

The combined mass will use more fuel to maintain orbit.

Re:Fuel (4, Interesting)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219568)


I thought docked shuttles and supply ships were used to adjust orbits.

According to This Story [mosnews.com] a Russian supply ship was used to move it by 3 kilometers. As long as the shuttles OMS thrusters were working, it should have no problem maintaining its orbit. If the thrusters weren't working, well, they wouldn't be docking in the first place. :)

Re:Fuel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12219577)

Not so. If Discovery has enough fuel to reach the height of the ISS, then it's clear that it has enough fuel to stay in orbit for months or even years if that's what we wanted.

Re:Fuel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12219679)

I'm not the parent, just someone curious....
BR> How the fuck is this a troll?
How can a buch of "geniuses" be so fucking stupid?

Re:Fuel (4, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219757)

First off, the mass is not the critical issue; it's the resistance. In fact, more massive objects tend to decay in orbit slower because cross-sectional area tends to rise O(N^2), while mass tends to rise O(N^3)

At extreme speeds, resistance tends to be proportional to the cross sectional area - it's the main reason that you'll see the fuselage of modern, very fast aircraft/spacecraft often "pinch" near the wings. So if the shuttle is aligned with the orbit of ISS, it won't make too much of difference in terms of resistance. Now, the increased mass will make the ISS's fuel less effective at boosting orbit, but even still, it's not a major issue.

Decay isn't *that* fast or that hard to compensate from. At the very least, the incoming shuttle can provide ample replacement fuel, in addition to boosting the orbit itself. ISS is at a very high orbit, as far as LEO orbits go. It has a long way to go if it is to reenter; I'd imagine that irreversible orbital decay with the shuttle attached would take more than a year, and would probably be closer to a decade.

Re:Fuel (1)

lostchicken (226656) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219791)

In orbit (at the hypersonic velocities experienced, think mach 30 or so with really, really tiny pressure), your drag is proportional to your area, so your orbital decay is proportional to your mass to area ratio. An orbiter is really heavy, but isn't very big, area wise. On the other hand, the ISS is mostly thin solar panel, so it has a much smaller mass to area ratio, and therefore decays faster than the orbiter itself, or even the orbiter+station stack. I know this was true when the shuttle docked with Mir, and I believe that it is true with the ISS.

Here's another way to think about it. if you drop a cardboard box, will it not fall faster with a bowling ball duct taped to it? Similarly, the shuttle/ISS will "fall" around the earth faster than the ISS alone.

moon (0, Offtopic)

lposeidon (455264) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219432)

to the moon and back.

Retiring the shuttle program (3, Insightful)

gangofwolves (875288) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219435)

I thought they were retiring the shuttle program [slashdot.org] ? Personally I am to the point where these shuttle flights are a big waste of money "if" they are not doing anything innovative to help the next breed of space capable crafts.

It's all political now (2, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219740)

It looks like the primary objectives of the current shuttle flights is to "prove" that NASA is still in the race and that the shittle is not a complete has-been. It is important for NASA to prove - if only to themselves - that the shuttle can make its way to the ISS and back.

This is /., so a sports analogy is probably wasted here, but it is a bit like the aging football player taking shots and hobbling through a season to prove he's not dead yet.

In Soviet Russia... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12219436)

In Soviet Russia.. The Becks actually pull in 35+ hours a week work!

NASA has no choice (5, Interesting)

redswinglinestapler (841060) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219442)

They may hate the shuttle but due to the short sightedness of the last few administrations they have no other viable space lift vehicle available. And they have contractual obligations on the International Space Station. The poor Russians (bankrupt as they are) are pulling more than their share and might get fed up soon if NASA doesnt start pulling its weight. After all the Russian part of the ISS is built independently. They can just close the doors and jettison all the US modules.

Re:NASA has no choice (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12219827)

Bankrupt Russians, no shit... Wealthy Americans, in national debt up to their noses, thanks, Mr. Bush...

double dock and share? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12219448)

Sounds good to me. It ain't like this shit is rocket science

Re:double dock and share? (1)

Ayaress (662020) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219824)

I imagine their plans are a bit more detailed than the sumbitter makes it sound. Certainly sharing resources has been planned for in a "minor" issue (something that would prevent reentry and/or landing, but not operation in space), but they have to plan for a worse case scenario where the shuttle can no longer be trusted to safeguard the people on board.

If we both go into the woods, and our plan is to meet up if something happens to one of us, it's great if we plan to share food and water in that case until our third friend can bring the truck out to get us, but then what happens if my pack is damaged and inedible, or even lost? If we didn't plan for that, and you don't have enough food for both of us, we're in serious trouble.

Of course, there's a worse scenario in which neither the shuttle nor the station can be trusted to keep their crews alive. That's one of those things that can't be feasibly handled with what we have up there now, I think, so... it's something to remember, but we just have to cross our fingers and hope it doesn't happen until we're prepared for it (if we ever will be).

Burt Rutan: 4 Days. NASA: 2 Years (0)

gangofwolves (875288) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219451)

What does it tell you about the state of NASA when it takes Burt Rutan 4 days to get his ship back into orbit, while it takes NASA two years? Granted, the Shuttles goes into a much higher orbit, and carries a lot more payload, but the difference is still ridiculous.

Despite the fact that there are many extremely smart and talented people at NASA, it, like every bureaucracy, has become an entrenched special interest, more concerned with preserving its budget than in actually moving the cause of space flight forward. The Space Shuttle, no matter how many times it has been retrofitted, is still 1970s technology. It's hideously expensive to launch and requires a vast support army to operate. But that vast support army is precisely why it exists. The space shuttle exists to serve the International Space Station. The International Space Station exists to be serviced by the space shuttle. Both provide lots of aerospace industry jobs and this is, in fact, their primary function. Turf and caution have become the watchwords at the highest echelons of NASA, who are more concerned with protecting their bureaucratic empire than moving the exploration and colonization of space forward. The shuttle monopoly has strangled the development of alternative launch vehicles, something the X Prize has only partially offset. A lot of people had predicted we'd not only have launched a manned mission to Mars by now, but set up a colony. See any sign of that?

Until there's a serious shakeup among the upper echelons of NASA bureaucrats, expect for the U.S. manned space program to creep along rather than soaring.

Re:Burt Rutan: 4 Days. NASA: 2 Years (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12219476)

rutan hasn't reached orbit he has just barely scraped the edge of space on an up and down

for orbit you need LATERAL velocity as well as vertical velocity (with just vertical you will either escape completely or go up and back down you will not orbit).

Re:Burt Rutan: 4 Days. NASA: 2 Years (0, Troll)

dvnelson72 (595066) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219533)

Your analysis is completely flawed. Burt Rutan doesn't have Congressional hearings every time there is a failure. He also hasn't lost lives, that I know of.

The difference isn't that NASA is a bunch of bungling eggheads. The difference is that the eggheads get their money from a bunch of bungling blowhards in the gov't.

Re:Burt Rutan: 4 Days. NASA: 2 Years (2, Insightful)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219860)

He also hasn't lost lives, that I know of.

He hasn't lost lives, he's only temporarily misplaced them. But it's okay, they'll be in the last place he looks.

You've got it wrong (5, Informative)

dsanfte (443781) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219572)

Burt Rutan never got his ship into orbit. Not even close.

Re:Burt Rutan: 4 Days. NASA: 2 Years (5, Insightful)

JonGretar (222255) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219587)

Also remember that Burt Rutan (a personal hero of mine) is able to do this BECAUSE of the shuttle and other accomplishments of NASA. As he himself has pointed out. All the variables have been found out. You can't make cheap things without somebody making an expensive version of them first. Do you think Ford would have been able to make cheap cars without other people having made cars before him.

Also remember that the Burt Rutan space ship is a LOT more dangerous than the Shuttle. The Shuttle's track record is better than anything humans have ever designed before. And that is one of the reasons why it is expensive. In government spending a fatality is unacceptable. In private industry well... Shit happens.

Re:Burt Rutan: 4 Days. NASA: 2 Years (2)

CapnRob (137862) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219789)

In what way is the Shuttle's track record better than anything humans have ever designed before? Two lethal failures per - oh, let's be generous - thousand uses is *better* than, I dunno, anything up to actual kamikaze missions?

Re:Burt Rutan: 4 Days. NASA: 2 Years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12219799)

"Do you think Ford would have been able to make cheap cars without other people having made cars before him."

Eh? Mass production + supply and demand made Ford's model Ts cheap. In fact, ford is most commonly accredited with assembly line mass production and its advantages.

Re:Burt Rutan: 4 Days. NASA: 2 Years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12219588)

I think this post of yore answers that question:

http://www.brouhaha.com/~eric/editorials/nasa_pr ob lem.html

You're a stupid one, ain't ya... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12219589)

rutan didn't go into orbit, that takes way more energy...

NASA:Shuttle=Microsoft:Windows (1)

rkmath (26375) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219644)

Despite the fact that there are many extremely smart and talented people at NASA, it, like every bureaucracy, has become an entrenched special interest, more concerned with preserving its budget than in actually moving the cause of space flight forward. The Space Shuttle, no matter how many times it has been retrofitted, is still 1970s technology. It's hideously expensive to launch and requires a vast support army to operate. But that vast support army is precisely why it exists. The space shuttle exists to serve the International Space Station. The International Space Station exists to be serviced by the space shuttle. Both provide lots of aerospace industry jobs and this is, in fact, their primary function. Turf and caution have become the watchwords at the highest echelons of NASA, who are more concerned with protecting their bureaucratic empire than moving the exploration and colonization of space forward. The shuttle monopoly has strangled the development of alternative launch vehicles, something the X Prize has only partially offset. A lot of people had predicted we'd not only have launched a manned mission to Mars by now, but set up a colony. See any sign of that?

Doesn't that sound familiar? Despite the fact that there are many extremely smart and talented people at Microsoft, it, like every software behemoth, has become an entrenched special interest, more concerned with preserving its marketshare than in actually moving the cause of software forward. Windows, no matter how many times it has been renamed (DOS/95/98/NT/2k/ME/XP), is still 1980s technology. It's hideously expensive to run (vis-avis hardware) and requires a vast tech support staff to operate. But that vast support army is precisely why it exists. Windows exists to serve Microsoft. ... (Analogy breaks down, stumble along for a few meaningless phrases, and amazingly recover) ... Both provide lots of IT jobs and this is, in fact, their primary function. Turf and caution have become the watchwords at the highest echelons of Microsoft, who are more concerned with protecting their marketshare than moving innovation forward. The Microsoft monopoly has strangled the development of alternative operating systems, something Linux/OSX has only partially offset. A lot of people had predicted we'd not only have complete server dominance, but also have cornered the desktop market. See any sign of that?

Re:NASA:Shuttle=Microsoft:Windows (1)

nxtw (866177) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219783)

Windows, no matter how many times it has been renamed (DOS/95/98/NT/2k/ME/XP), is still 1980s technology.

As are most other modern operating systyems.

Re:Burt Rutan: 4 Days. NASA: 2 Years (1)

SpiralSpirit (874918) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219677)

" What does it tell you about the state of NASA when it takes Burt Rutan 4 days to get his ship back into orbit, while it takes NASA two years? Granted, the Shuttles goes into a much higher orbit, and carries a lot more payload, but the difference is still ridiculous. " Two different animals. To compare a shuttle to Rutan's ship is like comparing a car to a bicycle. Rutan's ship had some serious acceleration for a relatively short period of time, just like a shuttle. What it didnt have was long term needs for fuel and life support. The shuttle is MUCH more complex.

That's easy. (2, Informative)

raehl (609729) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219707)

The shuttle is 1960's and 1970's technology. That's 40 years older than any present day efforts.

And the reason we're still using 1970's technology is that the cost of developing and deploying new technology has always been prohibatively more than the cost of making the 1970's technology continue to work.

It is only now that the cost of keeping the shuttle program going (or, more likely, not being able to keep it going with another loss of a shuttle) is beginning to appear prohibatively expensive in comparison to the cost of developing and deploying a new alternative.

The question is whether we can develop and deploy a new alternative before we're no longer able to maintain the current program.

It's looking pretty bleak.

Re:That's easy. (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219770)

The question really is, whether NASA has to have another shuttle lost before it realizes the obvious.

Re:Burt Rutan: 4 Days. NASA: 2 Years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12219748)

When Rutan manages to send two robots to the surface of mars and remotely control them, let's talk again.

That's the JPL part (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12219800)

Please...the unmanned missions are the only thing NASA does right. I wish they would break JPL off from NASA and force the manned program to do better.

Re:Burt Rutan: 4 Days. NASA: 2 Years (5, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219760)


Granted, the Shuttles goes into a much higher orbit,


If by that you mean AN orbit. Spaceship one is a dinky little 3 man craft that didn't achieve orbit in the slightest. The space shuttle on the other hand is a giant bus that can haul tons of payload into orbit. It's like the difference between a bicycle and a Mack Truck.


it, like every bureaucracy, has become an entrenched special interest, more concerned with preserving its budget than in actually moving the cause of space flight forward.

Nasa has quite a small budget, and more than just a mission of space flight. The main mission Nasa is pursuing is one of science. The secondary (and FAR more costly one) is manned flight. Nasa simply doesn't have the budget to develop next-gen spaceflight (Rutan is pursuing yesterdays spaceflight at cheap prices, a VERY different goal). No politician in there right mind wants to give Nasa the huge amounts of money it'd take to develop these new technologies.

The shuttle monopoly has strangled the development of alternative launch vehicles,

The shuttle has done about nothing either way to the development of alternative launch vehicles. Satelite launch technology has been steadily developed. If you're talking about manned missions, lack of public interest in the whole endeavor is what killed that. Public interest == money. No bucks, no Buck Rogers.

A lot of people had predicted we'd not only have launched a manned mission to Mars by now, but set up a colony.

A lot of people are idiots and don't realize how much more difficult Mars is compared to the moon.

Until there's a serious shakeup among the upper echelons of NASA bureaucrats, expect for the U.S. manned space program to creep along rather than soaring.

No, until the majority of the public gets motivated to dedicate massive funding to Nasa the manned US space program will creep along. During the 50s and 60s the US was motivated by the Cold War. We reached the moon, and defeated the "bad guys". After that everything was just anti-climactic. Now that we've been to the moon and the Cold War is over, what's motivating the public?

Re:Burt Rutan: 4 Days. NASA: 2 Years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12219856)

"No bucks, no Buck Rogers."

The point is that for a few million, Burt Rutan gets to the edge of space. NASA is accomplishing perhaps 5 times as much on 100 times the budget.

Scrap the d**n thing! (1)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219841)

I use to be a big supporter of NASA, back in the days of the 60's and 70's, but since the Challenger, I would rather they scrap the shuttle. It is just too much for the bloated idiots at NASA to keep running. The glory days of NASA are over. With tightning budgets, they just can't keep up. There is too much waste, as with most government run operations. There really isn't any accountability for them to do a good job. The guys on the line, for the most part, do a good job, but their management stinks. Go back to expendible launch vehicles

New tech needed (5, Interesting)

redswinglinestapler (841060) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219453)

The shuttles are masterpeices of engineering.... circa 1980. Unfortunatly they invested $$$ in a short production run vehicle that seems to still serve the original purpose. If you were to start building one new replacement it would take a long time and cost big bucks.

If they were to start off with a new design they could apply modern techniques/materials to create a lighter, stronger, more reliable system (i.e. a carbon monocot frame, carbon heat shield skin, computers that have more than 640k of ram, etc)

After working out the kinks on paper they could build a few dozen (price per unit should go down with increased volume) and launch more regularly. But then again, I'm just smoking crack here, NASA will never see that kind of budget again. Unless we can convience the public that Bin Laden is camped out in his secret moonbase.

Re:New tech needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12219488)

He is! And I hear he has a LASER with him so that he can blow up the earth.

Re:New tech needed (1)

coma_bug (830669) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219714)

Unless we can convience the public that Bin Laden is camped out in his secret moonbase.

This shouldn't be difficult, considering the last few years of public gullibility.

Re:New tech needed (4, Insightful)

XorNand (517466) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219721)

Everyone likes to point out that a first gen Palm Pilot is more powerful than the systems on the space shuttle. However, keep in mind that these machines are highly specialized, unlike a general computing platform. While a Swiss Army knife might be more "advanced" than a hunting knife, which would you rather have when the only thing you need a blade for is field dressing a whitetail deer? Furthermore, more often than not, a system's reliability is inversely proportional to it's complexity.

You make a valid point that the shuttle program (or it's successor) could hugely benefit from new tech. However, to imply that it's on it's way to being a usless antique is a mischaracterization.

Re:New tech needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12219809)

I would like to point out that IT'S is not ITS.

Political (3, Interesting)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219779)

Even in the 80s it was apparent that the shuttle had some basic conceptual flaws. Everyone else uses cargo craft to launch satellites etc while NASA used a far more expesive shuttle: (it's a bit like flying airfreight in the first-class cabin of an aircraft - it can be done, but it is far more effective to use a cargo plane for that purpose).

So, instead of spending the 80s and 90s designing better and more suited craft, they kept up the sham that the shuttle is the best way of getting stuff into space. If someone had had the balls to admit a mistake back then, things could have moved along a lot faster.

Re:New tech needed (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219796)


circa 1970. They designed it and started building. It took a few years to get the designed product built.

From what I understand, they did finally upgrade the computers with ones that had color screens, and ran faster than 1Mhz. :)

NASA would never build shuttles in bulk. Their price doesn't go down with volume. You forget, these are government contracts. $14,000 hammers, and the whole mess. They don't even put two in orbit at once, I'd never expect them to have a 'fleet' of them. It won't happen until they discover gold on the moon, or alien artifacts (like, a spaceship) on Mars.

NASA's ability to recover (5, Interesting)

gangofwolves (875288) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219466)

NASA has a good record of recovering after a tragedy.

If you take the Apollo program as an example, the very first Apollo mission was a disaster with three astronauts killed. And yet after that, the Apollo missions were great successes (although Apollo 13 was a close call, of course).

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched with a faulty mirror, but this was fixed and Hubble's become a great success, too.

This program will probably go the same way.

Re:NASA's ability to recover (1)

shmlco (594907) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219636)

the very first Apollo mission was a disaster with three astronauts killed

Strickly speaking, Grissom, White, and Chaffee were not killed on the first Apollo "mission", but during a launch pad test in prep for the first Apollo flight. Since they hadn't launched...

Easy solution (3, Funny)

natrius (642724) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219469)

There's an easy solution to the funding problem. It normally would hurt to throw away a $3 billion shuttle, but not if you take the right precautions in advance.

Pass a law giving NASA the sole movie rights to the rescue mission.

That by itself won't even be enough to cover the cost. But wait... there are 293,027,571 Americans according to Google. At $10 a ticket, that pretty much covers it. But how do you get everyone to watch it?

Pass a law that revokes the citizenship of anyone who can't present the ticket stub for the movie on request.

I really need to get into policy work.

Re:Easy solution (0, Troll)

Picass0 (147474) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219603)

At $10 a ticket, that pretty much covers it. But how do you get everyone to watch it?

  1. Video Camera
  2. Natelie Portman
  3. Shuttle Robot Arm
  4. Directed by the Dark Brothers
  5. Profit

Re:Easy solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12219655)

2a. Hot Grits
2b. Breasts

Uh... (4, Interesting)

Moby Cock (771358) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219470)

How many shuttles can dock with the ISS? If its one , do they draw straws to see who moves Discovery so Atlantis can dock?

Re:Uh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12219573)

Don't you watch movies?

It'll be the black dude. Black dude always dies first.

If Mohammed cannot come to the mountain... (4, Funny)

abb3w (696381) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219667)

On the one hand, re-entry is the most dangerous part of the mission after initial launch, and most of the scenarios involve discovering that the shuttle has developed a defect that will not allow it (and the crew) to survive that reentry. On the other hand, the shuttle's computer can probably be programmed to do a timed minimal dock-and-move-off burn without a human aboard. On the gripping hand, the space station also has thrusters for minor maneuvering; it might be possible to undock, and then move the station.

Mind you, that last wouldn't be pretty, but this is already an emergency scenario. In such cases, people think way outside the box, equipment gets used for alternate purposes, and plans get modified. Sometimes literally.

"All right, Aquarius, this is Houston. do you have the flight plan up there?"

"Affirmative, Andy. Jack's got one right here."
"Okay, we have a... an unusual procedure for you here. We need you to rip the cover off."
Disclaimer: I am not an astronaut, I just work with one.

Re:Uh... (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219680)

According to This Page [marscenter.it] there are two airlocks, one for the Americans, and one for the Russians. I believe the shuttle itself only has one, so if the disabled one is docked up, you'd either have to EVA through the other airlock, or keep the working one in orbit near by while they work on it.

I believe the door on the side is strictly an emergency escape, not an airlock. If they open it, it would purge all the inside air.

Switching shuttles on the ISS is a much more involved than rearranging cars in your driveway. It takes them quite some time to dock up. They don't want much velocity when approaching. The lack of friction makes things interesting. Think of trying to gently make contact with an egg, without stopping first.. With a snowplow.. On an frozen lake. 1000 miles from the nearest help if you screw up, and if you break that egg, it's your life.

Re:Uh... (1)

ScottyUK (824174) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219769)

There are facilities on both the shuttle and ISS for extra-vehicular activity. Whoever moves the shuttle can suit up and leave it, using the MMU suit to move back to the ISS or the rescue shuttle.

Meanwhile in Russia (4, Interesting)

redswinglinestapler (841060) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219472)

The Russians seem to have started building their Kliper [mosnews.com] lifting body [wikipedia.org] space craft.

Re:Meanwhile in Russia (1)

kryogen1x (838672) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219635)

In Soviet Russia, Kliper Lifting Bodies build you!

Sorry.

Japan is moving ahead with plans [usatoday.com] for space travel as well.

very simple answer (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12219475)

Why not just dock with it, and share the life support supplies between the two systems, instead of cramming everyone into the station?

Because the ISS is Russian-made and thus works, and the space shuttle is American-made, and thus is a POS.

(I am a proud yet frustrated US citizen.)

Re:very simple answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12219621)

The ISS is not a Russian design by any means. And every part of it that Russia has been scheduled to build has been late and required the U.S. to fund its development.

Canada's contribution to the ISS is much less retarded. If you want to talk smack, why not call it Canadian-made?

dock (2, Informative)

CSfreakazoid (873190) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219479)

There is one simple reason for this decision. There is only one dock for the shuttle on the ISS. Therefore, they must remove the first shuttle before the second shuttle can launch. Until they have confirmation that Discovery is in the ocean, Atlantis will not launch.

Star Trekin' Across The Universe (3, Insightful)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219481)


My guess on the docking question would be that the Shuttle has a relatively short period where it's life support is designed to operate. While the shuttle is operating sufficently, that's fine, but once it's systems start failing (like, running short on power, oxygen, etc), then it's an additional load on the ISS.

Also, this sounds like a last resort choice, so they'd only be docking up once they're relatively close to running out of supplies.

Also, if I remember correctly, the shuttle's solar panels are deployed from the cargo bay, which would be impossible to deploy while docked with the ISS. At very least, it would make it impractical to move the shuttle into a more favorable attitude for good exposure to the sun.

Myself, if I knew I was floating around in a big tube in space, which was the only thing keeping me alive, leaving a big crippled airplane tied to the site through a narrow tube, I'd rather not keep the door open very long. If something happened, I'd rather it peacefully float away, rather than risking that narrow tube become a relatively big hole in the side of my big tube I called home.

When floating inside a helium balloon, avoid pins.

Re:Star Trekin' Across The Universe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12219619)

The shuttle has no solar panels. It gets its power from fuel cells powered by hydrogen/oxygen in cryogenic tanks.

The open cargo bay doors are used dissipate excess heat, and are pointed away from the sun always.

Re:Star Trekin' Across The Universe (4, Informative)

frdmfghtr (603968) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219699)

They're not solar panels, they are radiators. The shuttle must have the cargo doors open while in orbit to radiate the excess heat generated onboard.

Re:Star Trekin' Across The Universe (1)

covertlaw (599559) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219713)

Also, if I remember correctly, the shuttle's solar panels are deployed from the cargo bay, which would be impossible to deploy while docked with the ISS. At very least, it would make it impractical to move the shuttle into a more favorable attitude for good exposure to the sun.

Um, the space shuttle doesn't use solar panels. They have to have the bay doors open to keep the heat exchangers for all the systems cool at all times while in orbit, even while attached to the ISS. That brings up yet another issue, the docking port for the ISS is also attached to the shuttle's main airlock, which is accessible only if the CBDs are open. The shuttle does not dock via the main cabin door on the side--there is no airlock there and it is actually padlocked for the duration of the mission. So as you can see, the shuttle must indeed keep the CBDs open to prevent overheating and actually be able to dock with the ISS.

There are many reasons why you'd want to scuttle the Discovery before the Atlantis launched. The biggest two are the need to keep the ISS in orbit for the 30 days it would probably take to get Atlantis up there, and the other is to prevent a collision with an orbiter that may be potentially out of control from the ground.

On a similar note... (3, Interesting)

crow (16139) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219484)

If the shuttle's crew compartments are sufficient for long-term habitation, even if it requires borrowing power and such from the ISS, then wouldn't it make sense for the end of life plan be to leave them up there? Sure, they would need extra docking ports for the next generation system, but it might be a good way of providing more habitable space up there.

Re:On a similar note... (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219836)

Would a broken down, 30 year old rusty car be of any use to you, in your home improvement project?

Public Choice raises its ugly head. (1, Flamebait)

redswinglinestapler (841060) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219491)

This is a kluge, made by the lowest bidder that would build facilities in favored politicians districts, hamstrung by bureaucrats and inane regulation at every turn. The design was loaded with "everything for everyone" until it was a miracle that if flew at all.

I admire the individual scientists and engineers that could make progress in this environment. No wonder they burn out at such a rate.

Scrap the entire system, sell off NASA to the highest bidders, and have done with it. Putting more lives at risk on those craft is pointless. Any private effort wouldn't be able to afford the liability insurance for craft like those, aren't you glad it's your tax money being spent to kill people instead?

If there is overwhelming support for such efforts, there is no need for taxes to taken at gun point to fund them. If the programs do not have such public support, there is no mandate for government to be doing it in the first place.

You did read your own submission, right? (4, Informative)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219508)

My question is, why shove everyone into the ISS? Why not just dock with it, and share the life support supplies between the two systems, instead of cramming everyone into the station?

The ISS can only dock one shuttle at a time. Discovery would stay there, and be remotely undocked prior to Atlantis getting there.

Seems someone else [technewsworld.com] has thought of this:
"If Discovery were damaged during launch or in orbit, Mission Control would determine whether the shuttle is capable of safely bringing the crew home. If not, the astronauts would be forced to take refuge aboard the space station and wait five weeks for Atlantis and its crew of four to come get them.
The damaged shuttle would have to be jettisoned before a rescue vehicle could arrive, because the station cannot accommodate two shuttles. Mission Control would command Discovery to unlock from the station and fire its steering jets, which would send the vehicle plunging down into the atmosphere. If all went as planned, the remnants would splash into the Pacific Ocean far from any land."

Reason... (1)

stuffman64 (208233) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219513)

My question is, why shove everyone into the ISS? Why not just dock with it, and share the life support supplies between the two systems, instead of cramming everyone into the station?


Perhaps because the shuttle may be too damaged to safely sustain life. For instance, what if there is a slow oxygen leak, or a damaged fuel valve/line venting vapors into the shuttle? I'm sure they planned for many contingencies- after all, they are NASA scientists, and we're not...

RC Landing? (4, Interesting)

eingram (633624) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219519)

If I remember correctly, the Buran had the ability to land under remote control. Does the Shuttle have that ability? If the crew must ditch, it'd be neat to try to bring the Shuttle in with no one in it to see if it would make it or not.

Re:RC Landing? (2, Informative)

eingram (633624) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219582)

Nevermind, I just found the answer here [wikipedia.org] . It looks like the Shuttle is mostly automated, except for the deployment of the landing gear. I wonder if there is some sort of override so they'd deploy automatically?

Re:RC Landing? (1)

benchbri (764527) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219681)

Easy fix. By the time landing gear deploy, the shuttle will be out of comm blackout. This allows ground controllers to remotely lower landing gear in real time. Patch a solenoid into the ground link. Connect to the button with duct tape. Cost = $20.

Re:RC Landing? (5, Informative)

covertlaw (599559) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219771)

Not so easy. It would require a complete redesign of the entire landing gear system and compartments. The reason why they never designed the LG for remote deployment was in case of a systems failure that would cause the doors to open too early causing loss of the vehicle.

Re:RC Landing? (0)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219734)

From what I heard from some NASA folks a while back, humans aren't really required on the shuttle. Everything can be managed by the onboard systems, and by ground control. We keep sending people up because it's better PR. If we send a rocket up, big deal. If we send a rocket up with people onboard, they're all hero's.

No offense was intended for the astronauts that *DO* fly it. That's a job that takes some balls. I wouldn't ride in a plane that crashes every few hundred flights, and has significant parts falling off on a regular basis.

Ok, that's a lie. I'd fly on it in a heart beat, if they would let me. They could tell me they forgot to install a couple windows, and I'd duct tape some sheet metal over the hole, and go along for the ride. :)

Re:RC Landing? (5, Insightful)

ShnowDoggie (858806) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219593)

The shuttle will only be abandoned if there is damage. What if that damage causes the shuttle to blow up and a large chunk lands on a building, or several, in Texas? It would be neat to see a damaged unmanned shuttle safely land, but the risk of killing a lot civilians is most likely to great.

Re:RC Landing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12219628)

Hmm... land at Edwards AFB instead.

Re:RC Landing? (-1, Troll)

mp3phish (747341) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219859)

I don't really think people care too much if it lands in Texas. Maybe NY or California... Or Arkansas...

But who cares if it kills a thousand or several in Texas? Would be a relief.

Re:RC Landing? (3, Funny)

porp (24384) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219614)

I hope if they do try such a neat thing as land a damaged Shuttle under remote control that they do it over your house instead of mine. I like my roof and all my stuff inside.

porp

Re:RC Landing? (1)

Oriumpor (446718) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219743)

Or better still, why fire the rockets *down* towards earth at all? Why not move it into a higher orbit by Radio and not risk losing the shuttle at all? The shuttle could maintain it's orbit until repairs could be completed (with any needed materials brought from earth) with less risk than a tricky RC re-entry process.

Re:RC Landing? (2, Informative)

RedWizzard (192002) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219752)

If I remember correctly, the Buran had the ability to land under remote control.
The Buran was capable of fully automated takeoff and landing. In fact it's only flight was fully automated.

Re:RC Landing? (2, Insightful)

solios (53048) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219807)

If not, it damned well should.

The Buran is essentially an aerodynamic copy of the shuttle and was test launched, orbited, and landed by either remote control or automation, I forget which.

Soviets figured the thing was worthless so they stuck with Soyuz.

Took us, what, ~110 launches to start to figure that out? :)

what do you mean "no one wants"? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12219536)

considering nasa and the military have worked together to put satellites in orbit that enable remote cruise missile bombardment and american-style hyperwar, there are quite a few people globally who wouldn't mind seeing a few more nasa mission failures, thanks very much

republican warmongerers feel free to mod this down

Re:what do you mean "no one wants"? (0, Offtopic)

covertlaw (599559) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219793)

Well, we could go back to using B-17s and atomic weapons to blast giant holes in your crappy little country and kill a lot more people in the process. Would that make you happier?

Flamebait Turd.

Why ISS? Because the pizza guy makes deliveries. (2, Interesting)

csoto (220540) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219599)

ISS is capable of receiving routine and emergency visits from automated Soyuz and Progress vehicles. They can stay up there indefinitely, get parts to fix the shuttle, etc. A shuttle can only really "doc" with the Science Lab.

On another note.. (2, Interesting)

eingram (633624) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219753)

FTA: By working around the clock seven days a week, technicians could have Atlantis -- which is scheduled to fly in July -- ready about a month after Discovery's liftoff. In such an emergency, NASA would consider setting aside some of the safety rules instituted after the Columbia accident. A requirement for good lighting conditions during launch, to ensure clear photos of liftoff, could be waived.

So, who would rescue the rescuers if something happens to Atlantis? Endeavour? And after that? I seriously hope it never comes to that, though. The whole world will be watching this, let's hope everything runs smoothly.

Re:On another note.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12219832)

About your sig... You can save one character if you stop using an apostrophe to make a plural.

Because (2, Interesting)

tankd0g (875636) | more than 9 years ago | (#12219792)

Why shove everyone into the ISS and why only a backuup shuttle for the next two launches? Because there is a life boat, it's docked with the ISS, or at least it will be, hopfully by the time flight three comes around. First it will free fall captules, later to be replaced by sort of a "mini shuttle" if it is ever finished.
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