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159 comments

Squeeze in the code releases before the launch (5, Funny)

Nadsat (652200) | about 9 years ago | (#12301870)

Concerns about shuttle safety have been largely responsible for 22 major changes in the orbiter's design and as many as 40 more minor changes. "All of the redesign is complete," with a few exceptions, said Wayne Hale, deputy manager of the space shuttle program.

Last minute code release! Always a smart move....

Re:Squeeze in the code releases before the launch (3, Insightful)

lbmouse (473316) | about 9 years ago | (#12302080)

Users always make the best testers... although, the stakes here are a little higher than a wrong account ballance or missing ATM transaction.

Re:Squeeze in the code releases before the launch (0)

khujifig (875862) | about 9 years ago | (#12303221)

Yes, but do we want them working on the patch after it's gone gold?

20:1 say (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12301875)

that it launches on June 2nd/3rd

30:1 says (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12301889)

that the next shuttle to launch will be Atlantis [nasa.gov]

All for the best, I suppose. (5, Insightful)

Flamora (877499) | about 9 years ago | (#12301878)

I mean, true, we really do need to get back to our normal routines of spaceflight, but we also need to make sure it's safe and that we're not going to lose any more shuttles due to microfractures or falling ice or whatnot.

Of course, this is also why I think that more effort needs to be put into commercial space vehicles, so as to make spaceflight more commonplace.

Re:All for the best, I suppose. (2, Interesting)

stlhawkeye (868951) | about 9 years ago | (#12302104)

Of course, this is also why I think that more effort needs to be put into commercial space vehicles, so as to make spaceflight more commonplace.

The time to privatize space travel is long overdue. There's an immense revenue stream available for private/commercial spaceflight. Bush ought to be directing NASA's efforts AWAY from being an agency of construction/launch management/exploration, and towards being an agency of mostly science/research. Another, much smaller agency, is needed to oversee the commercialization of space flight. Some government funds are necessary to manage the transition, but it's overdue now by about 15 years.

Re:All for the best, I suppose. (4, Insightful)

Waffle Iron (339739) | about 9 years ago | (#12302729)

There's an immense revenue stream available for private/commercial spaceflight.

Such as?

The only obvious profitable space-based activities are communications satellites and imaging satellites. Both of these have already been privatized.

To address the usual suspects:

1. The novelty of sending rich people into space for jollies is going to wear off real quick. That's not a basis to support an entire space industry.

2. Mining activities don't make sense. The universe is comprised of chemical elements. There are few if any elements available in space that arent' available on earth or can't be substituted by other materials. The only obvious exception, helium isotopes for fusion fuel, would be great except that we most likely won't be using fusion fuel for decades.

Re:All for the best, I suppose. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12303161)

The pragmatic approach is not as limited as your shallow analysis tends to suggest. Yes, most of the same compounds are also available on earth-however, the shallow deposits have been substantially reduced necessarily as they have already been mined. Costs for mining increase immensely outside of strip mining the deeper the mine must descend to gain the material. Even strip mining is expensive as it imposes immense externalities that are properly paid by the responsible mine owner from regulations and recovery operations afterwards. The promise of mining outside of the earth is that in some cases even with launch, craft, crew, and associated costs that it might still be cheaper to acquire for example uranium or platinum or any other base element from deposits on other planets or asteroids than to mine 100 000 K or so down to possibly reveal a deposit at that level. H3 from the solar wind is almost alone promising enough to warrant industry expanding into space-stored energy from the sun that can be rather easily accessed and shipped once mechanisms are in place.

Re:All for the best, I suppose. (1)

stlhawkeye (868951) | about 9 years ago | (#12303487)

Such as?

Our government said it'd cost $1 trillion to land a dude on Mars and bring him home. That was in the late 1980's, and many of the projects and much of the research that was figured into that $1 trillion figure has already been done. More realistic modern figures place the price tag at $300-$500 billion. Let's be generous and say that it'd cost $450-$750 billion.

Now, that's for the government to do it. Let's not aim so far as Mars, and start with the moon. Cut that figure in half. We're at $225-$375 billion for a manned moon landing. But we want a base on the moon, because that's where our revenue is going to come from. Let's push that back up and just call it $500 billion.

Now! That's the government. Financial analyses of NASA have shown that under 10% of its budget is typically put towards expenses directly related to spaceflight, and the rest is research, bidding, bureaucracy, and government waste. That suggests that the cost for private industry to pull this off is $50 billion. On a side note, the Artemis project has a figure less than a third of this value for a private industry moon base.

The global value of the video game market is well over $20 billion. Business investments of multibillion dollars are not unheard of.

So what are your revenue streams?

Mostly the entertainment industry. Imagine a reality TV show based on people living on the moon. Game shows. Movies. Rights to on-site filming. There's a revenue opportunity for advertising, tourism, the sale of moon rocks, scientific research, all kinds of stuff. The key is having a permanent settlement there.

The key is to get the project out of government's hands, because government is inefficient and has no profit motive to cut costs. In fact, you are on a quest to spend as much money as possible in government so that your budget can be justifiably increased. Let's say a mission to land a guy on the moon would cost half that.

Re:All for the best, I suppose. (2, Insightful)

Waffle Iron (339739) | about 9 years ago | (#12303862)

You want to run a moon base on entertainment value.

Let's compare with one of the largest entertainment driven enterprises in the world: the Olympics. To support itself every 2 years with TV and licensing revenue it generates more hype than most anyone can stand. Their total revenues average out to a couple of $Billion per year. That kind of money isn't going to put a dent in what's required to design, build and run a moon base, whether it's government or private.

The Olympics has the advantage of covering an activity that billions of people have a deep interest in: sports. Only a tiny minority of geeks care about the moon at all. Look at what happened after about Apollo 12: people lost almost all interest.

There is no way that you're going to generate enough hype to support an enterprise many times more expensive than the Olympics that revolves around having a couple of guys kicking around aimlessly in a bubble on the moon. That's just boring, and it's not going to work.

Re:All for the best, I suppose. (1)

Olix (812847) | about 9 years ago | (#12303697)

There is no reason to go into space at all. But we still do, because it is human nature to expand, to grow, to learn and to seek out new places to live and exist in. The human race could happily stay on earth for the rest of its existance. We could prop up all the third or second world countries into the state of europe and America, and then stay at that level of development, for we would be content. But we won't - there will always be pioneers going to live on space stations, or the moon, mars or perhaps the moons of jupiter and Saturn one day, just because they can. We can't justify it, but we will do it anyway.

Re:All for the best, I suppose. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12303978)

The only obvious profitable space-based activities are communications satellites and imaging satellites. Both of these have already been privatized.

Except the ESA is getting the bulk of that money, because a simple rocket going up from a remote island near the equator is even cheaper (and easier for private enterprise to schedule) than a shuttle mission from Florida.

We need to allow US corporations to set up satelite launching facilities, and get in on the gravy train.

The novelty of sending rich people into space for jollies is going to wear off real quick. That's not a basis to support an entire space industry.

No, but it is a basis for supporting a tourist industry, and will drive some of the costs of manned space flight down.

Mining activities don't make sense. The universe is comprised of chemical elements. There are few if any elements available in space that arent' available on earth or can't be substituted by other materials. The only obvious exception, helium isotopes for fusion fuel, would be great except that we most likely won't be using fusion fuel for decades.

Forget mining. Consider energy. Space-based panels on geosynch'd satelites can use microwave transmission to send vast amounts of collected solar power to Earth, meaning we can meet our energy needs while using less oil.

Also consider manufacturing. Some things are far easier to create in a zero-gravity vacuum... so much so that it's almost worth going up there to do it with our current technology. A few decades down the road, and it will be the ultimate "offshoring" option (not for cheap labor, but for the specific operating environment.)

Re:All for the best, I suppose. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12302582)

The shuttle is an experimental vehicle. There will always be inherent risk in flying in. We haven't flown 100 flights with it yet. We have lost 2. Everyone should expect this to happen again. What we should not expect is for there to be problems because of political, managerial or PR reasons. In both of the previous accidents, if engineers had been listened to when they said they could not prove a flight was safe, we would have 2 more shuttles...

Re:All for the best, I suppose. (5, Informative)

joeljkp (254783) | about 9 years ago | (#12302876)

Just for the record, the shuttles have collectively flown 113 missions so far.

The real reason. (5, Funny)

KipCas (872321) | about 9 years ago | (#12301899)

They have to wait because the Google website logo with the little space shuttle in it wasnt ready yet.

Here come the (-1, Troll)

TheKidWho (705796) | about 9 years ago | (#12301901)

NASA is super bloated and the shuttle is the biggest waste of tax payer money!!! Ohh with all that money spent on the shuttle, we could have had 20 cures for AIDS and 42 for Cancer!

Booo NASA, Booo Bush, Go get some good old Russian Hardware because the Russiasn kicks your @ss...

Now that that's out of the way, this is good but seriously are they goign to be doing this on every mission. I was reading before that this is most definetly going to be one of the safest shuttle launchs ever, but will they be using the same stringent safety measures on the 15th flight or the 25flight of the shuttle?

Re:Here come the (2, Interesting)

tiredwired (525324) | about 9 years ago | (#12302004)

The technology created by NASA over the years has saved many lives. Going into space and leaving this planet is the only way mankind will survive the next billion years.

Re:Here come the (5, Insightful)

dAzED1 (33635) | about 9 years ago | (#12302376)

next billion?

2 questions: why does mankind have to surive the next billion years, or rather, why is it the job of an agency of the US governement to assure such a thing?

2) since multi-cellular organisms didn't really take off until almost half that amount of time ago (600million years ago), primates didn't walk on 2 feet until 4 million years ago (1/250th of that billion years), what in the world^H^H^H^H^H universe makes you think humankind will be around a billion years from now? Whatever is around then will be well beyond our capability to understand or predict. I mean, our species is only 50k years old (1/20,000th of that billion) and already in that span of time has evolved *considerably*. We don't even look like we did 200 years ago, much less 2,000. Do you really think we'll be anything like this 50,000 years from now, and that we'll be even remotely the same *species* as this a million years from now (1/1000th of that billion years). If not, who are you to dictate what their survival will require? Maybe within the next few thousand years we'll finally start doing population control, for instance. There's an idea. All other species seem to do just fine...we should be able to figure it out too, being "smarter" than them.

Re:Here come the (1)

Alioth (221270) | about 9 years ago | (#12302717)

I hope we can evolve into something else within the next thousand that allows us to not need fragile, biological bodies. Imagine the possibilities - instead of being in a spaceship you could BE the spaceship. Transfer the mind to a new machine, and then you can be the rover.

It's probably the only way we'll actually have a life off this planet.

Re:Here come the (1)

dAzED1 (33635) | about 9 years ago | (#12302804)

we can't do such a thing, since we are our biological bodies.

We can though perhaps create highly-developed AI's, program/train them in our mores, and then set them loose - thereby creating a wholy seperate type of existence. But evolution is a biological mechanism, and (at least, in just the next thousand years) won't allow us to stop being biological.

What you're talking about could happen easily enough in a VR system, though...imagine humans in little pods, fed efficiently, with equiptment connected directly to their brains so that they can think they're experiencing certain things... ;) yet, instead of it being for nefarious purposes, the humans could in theory still be in control of it and aware, and instead simply send out probes to other planets that they can interact through as if they were actually there.

Or, maybe we should get metaphysical about it, and just become balls of energy ;)

Re:Here come the (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | about 9 years ago | (#12302920)

Its called EVE-Online :-)

Or Isaac Asimov's stories of the far far far future =)

Re:Here come the (1)

dAzED1 (33635) | about 9 years ago | (#12303050)

the scary part is that it wouldn't be that hard to keep a body perfectly healthy for a very very long time, if in a perfectly controlled environment. We are already somewhat close to being able to fix a lot of things through GE methods; imagine if you ate the most perfect, healthy food at the precisely perfect times, had your health monitored 24/7, were given only the cleanest air at precisely the ideal mixture of oxygen and other gases, and never had to worry about car wrecks or other such things? The human body is actually designed to age on purpose, for various reasons...and the mechanisms for that are becoming known (and might be stopped, unfortunately)

Re:Here come the (1)

grumbel (592662) | about 9 years ago | (#12303216)

### But evolution is a biological mechanism, and (at least, in just the next thousand years) won't allow us to stop being biological.

Evolution has for most part already slowed down a lot or stoped for humans, so I wouldn't expect any major change any time soon anyway. What however will happen sooner or later is that we ourself construct our future development. We are already growing organs (just little pieces of skin, but its a start), transplanting organs and constructing mechanical prosthesis, its just a matter of time until those things will not only be used as inferior replacments for lost or damages organs or body parts, but will be used to enhance humans with specific abilities. Its also quite possible that computer based AI will take over, not necessary here on earth, but sending out some clever AI todo space exploration isn't that unlickly. All this will not happen in the next few years, but in the next 100 or 1000 years some major advancements isn't that unlikly.

Re:Here come the (1)

dAzED1 (33635) | about 9 years ago | (#12303567)

slowed down? It's gone *insanely* fast. Keep timeline in context; life started 3.5 billion years ago. Humanity's first written language was only 6k years ago - .5Millionth of life's entire time.

There's considerable difference between how we were 50k years ago, and how we are now. That we're the same species means ONLY one thing - that we could reproduce with them, and that our offspring could in turn reproduce with either of us. Horses and donkeys (and Zebras) are not the same species because while they can preproduce and make mules and hinnys (and zedonk/zebrass when a donkey and zebra combine), mules and hinnys can't reproduce in turn. However, a miniture toy chihuahua [animalagency.it] and a newfoundland [andrespamperedpets.com] can can produce fertile offspring (assuming the mother is the newfoundland, and is artificially inseminated...a chihuahua as the mother would just die before birth or something).

Look at those two dogs...same species, their gametes line up at least...why are they so different though?

They were genetically modified. Someone wanted a small dog, so they selectively bred them until they had the insult to nature that is the chihuahua. Sure, it was old-school genetics...but it was genetic modification none the less (aka "selective breeding").

We can do the same to ourselves, but worse - we're already genetically engineering all sorts of organisms, and GE humans have occured in rogue labs. In far less than 100 years, they'll be commonplace...so if you want a 7' tall blonde haired, blue-eyed son with fair skin, that has an extra stomach and a 6-chambered heart...that's not terribly far off, when we're talking about the spans of years in this discussion. I've already been part to making regular bacteria into super-bacteria through splicing and modification, and I'm just a normal guy. Really smart people, in 100 years, will be doing much more.

It's still evolution, though - darwin would still accept it, I'd wager. Dogs evolved, after all - even if we forced them to.

Re:Here come the (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | about 9 years ago | (#12303995)

He was saying that our own scientific meddling will take the place of natural evolution, and to a large part he's right.

The basic reason for evolution: a lack of resources such that members of a species with a distinctive genetic advantage will have a greater chance of surviving long enough to generate offspring.

By that logic mankind no longer does this. We break down work into categories. If you aren't good at growing or gathering food you can do OTHER things that allow you to survive. Even for the people who can't provide for themselves we have created social welfare programs that will help them even though naturally they would starve out. In essence, once a species reaches a level of civilization evolution more or less grinds to a halt, because the forces that drive it are no longer valid.

If we were to place random plants and (nonhuman) animals on a planet and wait a couple million years, we might see something interesting. You put modern humans on that same planet and wait the same amount of time though and all you'll find are modern humans who have better technology (assuming they didn't kill each other).

Re:Here come the (1)

iminplaya (723125) | about 9 years ago | (#12303528)

Maybe within the next few thousand years we'll finally start doing population control, for instance.

Simple population control is not a good idea. I just saw a news story about the declining population in Europe. In the future, that will include the total population, including the immigrants. If we are to survive as a species, we must infest the entire galaxy. We need as many people as possible. The planet can easily sustain 20 billion people. With proper use of technology, there will be no shortages. This will provide us the needed brain power for getting off the planet with little hassle. Remember, we are parasites. We are a virus. We need a host to survive. If we kill the host, we kill ourselves.

Re:Here come the (1)

dAzED1 (33635) | about 9 years ago | (#12303594)

while Europe might be declining in pop (I disagree that it is, but it's not important) two countries will have growth in the next 20 years that will make up for it by themselves.

Scratch that...the growth they'll have will be more than the entire population of Europe at it's most populous point.

We're just shifting, we're not declining as a species.

Re:Here come the (1)

grumbel (592662) | about 9 years ago | (#12303144)

The good old sun will continue to burn for quite a while and good old earth would also be able to support us for quite a bit longer. There is really no reason to start to evacuate to other planets any time soon. The problem is that menkind still hasn't even learned to live happily on this one planet, we extingt species, polute the air, wreak havok the eco system, start major wars every few years. If we continue that way menkind will have itself extingt much before sun even starts to cause throuble.

Space travel is still important and should be continued, but the SpaceShuttle as is is really for most part just waste of tax payers money.

Re:Here come the (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12303271)

The problem is that somewhere there is an asteroid with your name on it. Get "happy" and evolve all you want. Cure all the diseases. It can all be wiped out fast. The shuttle is expensive but I would not call it a waste. The US is the only country willing to put money into human space travel. Why haven't the other countries done more?

Re:Here come the (4, Funny)

mrRay720 (874710) | about 9 years ago | (#12302017)

"NASA is super bloated and the shuttle is the biggest waste of tax payer money!!! Ohh with all that money spent on the shuttle, we could have had 20 cures for AIDS and 42 for Cancer!"

That's an even worse waste! What were those other 60 teams thinking?
PHB: "Hey, let's cure AIDS/Cancer"
Bod: "Sir, that's already been done!"
PHB: "STFU, we've got Space Shuttle money to spend!"

Gas Prices (4, Funny)

mathmatt (851301) | about 9 years ago | (#12301935)

NASA is just waiting for their paycheck to clear so they can afford to fill up that gas hog. That Shuttle makes a Hummer look like a Prius when it comes to MPG!

Re:Gas Prices (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12302807)

Shuttle makes a Hummer look like a Prius

In that it uses a completely different fuel source? Yes, yes it does.

Re:Gas Prices (5, Funny)

f0rtytw0 (446153) | about 9 years ago | (#12302848)

I don't know about that. The Shuttle can circle the earth a couple times on a single tank.

Re:Gas Prices (1)

tocs (866673) | about 9 years ago | (#12302980)

I don't know how much fuel the shuttles use on a typical mission but the Atlantis has averaged around 407934 miles a day during its lifetime. On the 11 days of the STS-121 mission the MPG is bound to come out at least as good as my car. Does any one know how much fuel it will use and how it compares with gasoline?

References:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_ shuttle#Flight_ statistics_.28as_of_February_3.2C_2003.29
http:// spaceflight.nasa.gov/shuttle/archives/sts-1 21/index.html

Re:Gas Prices (3, Funny)

CausticPuppy (82139) | about 9 years ago | (#12303677)

NASA is just waiting for their paycheck to clear so they can afford to fill up that gas hog. That Shuttle makes a Hummer look like a Prius when it comes to MPG!

Well the best way to increase the shuttle's average MPG for the entire trip is to just leave it in orbit longer...

creators' ppr/big flash, still on schedule (1)

already_gone (848753) | about 9 years ago | (#12301946)

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Re:creators' ppr/big flash, still on schedule (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12302020)


Do you even read what you type?

Re:creators' ppr/big flash, still on schedule (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12302677)

Really, we need a mod option for "-1, Indecipherable Nonsense"

Delays, delays... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12301976)

Always delays... what are Nasa doing? I mean come on, it's not rocket science...

WTF (2, Insightful)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | about 9 years ago | (#12301992)

This is done in order to give the agency more time to finish paperwork

WTF is it with paper these days? I mean really! We spend more time doing paperwork then we do anything else. Is it REALLY that important to document every little tiny fact of a pointless job? All I hear from the police is "We need more people or we need less paper work" and it seems it applies to everyone.

Would you rather NASA spent hours and hours filling out paper saying how many pins they heard drop this week and how many screws they may have put in the test models or would you rather they spent that time improve technology so we can all bugger off this planet?

Re:WTF (5, Insightful)

TheKidWho (705796) | about 9 years ago | (#12302038)

Would you rather someone be accountable for an accident or people to just go around and say "uhhh I don't know whose fault it was or what caused the problem because we didn't do any paperwork on it"

Re:WTF (2, Insightful)

david.given (6740) | about 9 years ago | (#12302332)

Would you rather someone be accountable for an accident or people to just go around and say "uhhh I don't know whose fault it was or what caused the problem because we didn't do any paperwork on it"

Frankly, I would rather people spent less effort on trying to find a scapegoat when something goes wrong, and instead spend more effort on stopping things going wrong in the first place.

If the shuttle blows up on the launch pad, finding someone who you can point at and say 'It's all his fault!' won't suddenly make things better again.

Re:WTF (3, Interesting)

0123456 (636235) | about 9 years ago | (#12302675)

"Would you rather someone be accountable for an accident or people to just go around and say "uhhh I don't know whose fault it was or what caused the problem because we didn't do any paperwork on it""

But NASA paperwork has been proven to be worthless in the past. In one famous case a few years back there were tools left in the back of the shuttle which could have gone rattling around and caused a fatal accident if they'd hit something vital during the launch.

The worker signed to say they'd taken the tools out of the shuttle. Their supervisor signed to say the tools had been taken out of the shuttle. Their supervisor signed to say the tools had been taken out of the shuttle.

Three people, lots of paperwork... but the tools were still left in the shuttle in spite of it. What's the point of paperwork if three people can sign to attest to something which is blatantly untrue?

Re:WTF (1)

joeljkp (254783) | about 9 years ago | (#12302932)

Sounds like a personnel/cultural problem. Because a set of people abuse the paperwork doesn't mean the paperwork should be done away with altogether.

In a large enterprise like NASA, there needs to be documentation that certain actions are performed. If that documentation is false, well, you've got another problem on your hands.

Re:WTF (2, Insightful)

grumbel (592662) | about 9 years ago | (#12302915)

### Would you rather someone be accountable for an accident

If you are going to blame 'someone' you are already doing the wrong thing. Humans make errors, so replacing the human that did the error with another one that will do a similar random error will do nothing to improve the overall situation. To really fix a problem you need to find out how to avoid it in the future, not who is to blame for it. If Jim forgot some screws, the solution is not to replace Jim with Bob, but to let Bob cross check that all screws that Jim placed. It of course can still go wrong, but it requires that both Jim and Bob make an error, which is quite less likly then only one doing an error.

So yes, paperwork is important to track who did what, when and why. The solution to fixing problems lays however in the procedure and much less in the people performing the procedure.

Re:WTF (1)

pilgrim23 (716938) | about 9 years ago | (#12303524)

As it clearly states in form A22-31025b-001a sub paragraph 15 the responsibility for this massive screw up occured in a whole different department. Our exhaustive overhaul of the paperwork used in the Shuttle Program (see descriptive Powerpoint presentation scheduled at 12:00), resulted in 14 worker's comp claims for paper cuts. So, as you see, we are right on top of the safety issue..

Re:WTF (1)

Craig_P92669 (875776) | about 9 years ago | (#12302092)

I don't think anybody at NASA is in a big hurry to be the scapegoat if something goes wrong, so I'm sure they are going over everything to make sure nothing got overlooked. But you really couldn't pay me a billion dollars to go up in that thing unless they put SpaceShipOne in the cargo bay in case of emergency. Even then, it would take a 10 pound Xanax to calm my nerves.

Re:WTF (1)

mobilemic (842967) | about 9 years ago | (#12302185)

Why waste the Xanax? You'll burn up on re-entry anyways. Don't forget that SpaceShipOne didn't have to deal with any *real* re-entry issues.

Re:WTF (1)

gilliboo (791294) | about 9 years ago | (#12302516)


This might have nothing to do with the delay but there has been some pressure on NASA from the Canadian government to change the launch direction (I know... not easy) due to concerns of debris hitting the Hibernia oil platform. They predicted debris landing around 25 miles from the platform. Since this is a non-movable platform it caused some understandable nervousness.

While I trust NASA's numbers, I can still understand the concern.

Re:WTF (1)

outlineblue (472351) | about 9 years ago | (#12303056)

The shuttle launch has nothing to do with the debris hitting the Hibernia oil platform. Those debris concerns are for a USAF satellite launch and sparked a mass evacuation of 3 oil platforms in that area when it was announced. Now they don't know when they'll be launching it due to a "technical" problem

Re:WTF (3, Informative)

rhadamanthus (200665) | about 9 years ago | (#12302102)

As someone who works at NASA on the SSP, let me tell you a well known axiom:


"Every shuttle launch entails putting roughly 4.5 million tons of weight into orbit - and closing out about twice as much weight in paper."


Jokes aside, most of the paperwork is there for a good reason. Every single component on the shuttle is certified for the entire flight envelope. It's quite a challenge.

Re:WTF (3, Informative)

FatAlb3rt (533682) | about 9 years ago | (#12302305)

Except your number is off by a factor of 2000 (lbs not tons) and only about 250k lbs actually makes it to orbit (as someone who formerly worked SSP and now ISS). :) Not to discount your point though - isn't bureacracy great?

Re:WTF (1)

twiddlingbits (707452) | about 9 years ago | (#12302727)

Last time I worked at NASA, Shuttle was called STS and Station was ISS. When did the insiders start using SSP? Other than that I agree, more paperwork goes on than real work. In fact if you do some real work your paperwork goes up! :(

YES (5, Insightful)

bluGill (862) | about 9 years ago | (#12302161)

As annoying as it is, that paperwork is important. We cannot make another saturn V because some of the paperwork has been lost. Of course if you wanted to create a new Saturn V you would start from scratch because you want modern technology, but still it would be helpful to know how any why the Saturn V was done the way it was, and what problems they had to work around.

Even when the paperwork is obsolete it is useful to get a picture of where you were.

Paperwork is your checklist. Many times in my life I thought everything was done until I went through the checklist. If you don't do the paperwork you don't know if you checked everything. It would be really a bummer to find that the main fuel tank was never filled, only "topped off" to replace evaporation/leakage while waiting on the pad. (that is just enough fuel to get off the pad, but not enough to get into space) Only by running through a checklist can you be sure that step was done.

Remember the saturn Moon probe of a few months back where they forgot to put turn the radio on in the checklist? The radio wasn't turned on. There are plenty of major mistakes that only doing the paperwork (annoying as it is) can prevent. Of course doing the paperwork won't find problems that aren't in the checklists. The sheare volume of things that need to be done mean that for minor things you sometimes hope someone did it, but live with it when someone forgets.

Re:YES (3, Informative)

willith (218835) | about 9 years ago | (#12302917)

We cannot make another saturn V because some of the paperwork has been lost.

This is incorrect. The Saturn V blueprints are safe and completely intact [space.com] on microfilm at MSFC, where they have been since the 1960s. Nothing at all has been lost. From the link:

"The Federal Archives in East Point, Georgia, also has 2,900 cubic feet of Saturn documents," he said. "Rocketdyne has in its archives dozens of volumes from its Knowledge Retention Program. This effort was initiated in the late '60s to document every facet of F 1 and J 2 engine production to assist in any future restart."

Re:YES (2, Informative)

grumbel (592662) | about 9 years ago | (#12302988)

### We cannot make another saturn V because some of the paperwork has been lost.

This is incorrect, the reason why we can't build another Saturn V is not because lost papers, all those are still available, but because there are no longer vendors for mid-1960's hardware. See:

http://www.faqs.org/faqs/space/controversy/

This is also the reason why we can't just build another shuttle, while the papes are there, the tools and factories to manufactor them are not. Thus the cost would be higher then a build from scratch.

Re:WTF (5, Informative)

blueturffan (867705) | about 9 years ago | (#12302223)

Would you rather NASA spent hours and hours filling out paper saying how many pins they heard drop this week and how many screws they may have put in the test models or would you rather they spent that time improve technology so we can all bugger off this planet?

I suppose it's a matter of perspective. If I'm strapped to the top of a rocket, I want to be sure that every seemingly trivial detail has been documented and double-checked.

By the way, one of the reasons that NASA was able to return to flight so quickly after the Apollo 13 incident was that they were able to go back and determine exactly what had caused the oxygen tank in the SM to explode. In looking back through the "paperwork", they were able to determine that there were two separate events (tank dropped two inches, and relays not updated to new pad voltage reqirements) that contributed to the explosion. By the way, the tank dropping incident happened two years before the crew was named!

In the Apollo days, they used to joke that they weren't ready to launch until the pile of paperwork matched the height of the rocket. (363 feet)

Re:WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12302346)

Von Braun himself thought Apollo was plagued by paper. He said something to the effect that soon we'll be able to stack the paper up and walk to the moon. Another manager on the project said that when the weight of the paper equals the weight of the booster, you'll know we're ready to launch.

Re:WTF (1)

crawling_chaos (23007) | about 9 years ago | (#12302787)

These days? The joke in the days of Apollo was that a Saturn V wasn't cleared to launch until the pile of completed paperwork was taller than the launch stack. This isn't new, and may actually be a good sign that NASA is going back toward getting all of the details right prior to launch.

They are smarter than you! (0, Troll)

wildgoatboy5 (745918) | about 9 years ago | (#12302033)

Have you ever heard the expression "I'm no rocket scientist..."? Well, I'm not, and more importantly either are you. Seriously people, try to remain within the realm of your expertise. Trust that the people at NASA are more intelligent than you, and taking necessary precautions and following necessary protocols.

Re:They are smarter than you! (5, Funny)

PriceIke (751512) | about 9 years ago | (#12302902)

The shuttle Commander is a babe [nasa.gov] , too.

Re:They are smarter than you! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12303279)

But what's with that Princess Leia look?

Re:They are smarter than you! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12303406)

Correction: used to be (see flight suit). I'm not sure I'm down with that Barbara Bush blue dress and 'do, though. If she still is a babe, they coulda picked a better "today" picture.

The most stunning astronaut (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12303805)

Is Julie Payette [nasa.gov] .

Speaks six languages. Played with the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra (one of the foremost in the world). Commercial pilots license. More scholarships and honourary degrees than you can shake a stick at. Diver's license, and deep-sea diving operator. CAPCOM op. Fighter pilot.

And she's damned cute on top of it all.

About time... (2, Insightful)

kniLnamiJ-neB (754894) | about 9 years ago | (#12302041)

I'm glad to see we're heading back to space. I hope they can start working on more exploration now... like maybe we can send some people to the moon for the first time in my lifetime. The space program needs to really take off (no pun).

Re:About time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12302584)

And you think NASA is going to do that? Take a look at what NASA does- scientific research, not space tourism. If you want to see people on the moon (let alone if you want to one day go to space yourself), hope the private enterprise gets it done. As far as maned spaceflight goes... In a decade or two, NASA will likely be purchasing a privately built craft developed for the commercial space tourism industry to replace the aging shuttles.

I know why!...I know why!... (3, Funny)

IdJit (78604) | about 9 years ago | (#12302089)

They were all hung over from the Apollo 13 ground crew party [slashdot.org] !!

Re:I know why!...I know why!... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12302289)

Nice sig link you tit. The same user id is signed up under every conga. Start a conga site, set yourself up as the first user id and get a ton of free stuff.

Re:I know why!...I know why!... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12303284)

Idjit is old enough a UID to be operated by someone with plenty of /. nicks. It doesn't take much to mod yourself up to (5) funny every time. I41 don't think most of his(her) posts are all that great. Besides, where's the typical /. rage against the lame 'free stuff' links in sigs? I will continue to mod those posts offtopic, metamoderating 'unfair' be damned.

Some phb needs more time for new ways to screw up (5, Interesting)

pg110404 (836120) | about 9 years ago | (#12302359)

As far as I'm concerned, nasa does not really have a good track record for safety, despite all their efforts.

Before challenger blew up, the engineers tried to scrub the launch citing a possibility of the o-rings leaking. Pressure at the highest levels made sure it went as scheduled because before then, they had a flawless record and it was just a possibility and they had their image to maintain.

Of course, there was the investigation and they ultimately had to go lick their wounds. Years later and especially 9/11 later with budget cuts and the space program being scoffed at due to being essentially a money pit when it could be 'better spent', it's not surprising that a few years ago columbia vaporized on re-entry.

It may very well be damaged heat tiles by sheets of ice falling off the main fuel tank during launch which is the official story, but (...dons tin foil hat...) what might not be official is that due to such cuts and possibly a bit of politicking, pressure was put on all sectors of the space program including the 'garage' that inspects and repairs the heat tiles. If it's possible that the garage was under enormous pressure to get the aging columbia ready on time, they might have let a few suspect tiles go which they might not normally have let got and had they been replaced properly, they might have withstood the impact of the ice falling.

The russian space program seems to take the licking, learn from it and move on. Nasa to me seems to shuffle their feet for a while saying to themselves, 'how can we stop *THIS* from happening again?', but should instead ask the question, 'How can we stop accidents from happening again?'.

Hole in leading edge, not "heat tiles"... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12302740)

... is what doomed the Columbia. The carbon-carbon composite leading edge structure of the wings is not really "tiles", and it has been determined for virtually positive certain that a hole knocked into the carbon-carbon structure on the leading edge of the wing is what caused the disaster since the aluminum and stainless steel framework inside the wing melted and burned from within. The only thing that would do that is the superheated plasma gasses being let inside the wing, and the burn patterns of the inner wing components recovered from the wreckage have now revealed that the plasma gasses came straight at the interior structural parts from an angle that could only have come from a hole knocked directly into the leading edge. The unusual nose-left yaw exhibited by the craft right before the total loss of directional control which cause the craft to tumble out of control and break up, also is indicative of a hole in the left wing leading edge.

Re:Hole in leading edge, not "heat tiles"... (1)

pg110404 (836120) | about 9 years ago | (#12302842)

Ahh. The last I had heard on this subject (or cared to hear on this subject) was a heat tile around the location of the landing gear. That's where their attention was focused at the time, but the leading edge of the wing explanation makes more sense.

Thanks for the info. Now my argument doesn't quite hold as much weight.

Re:Some phb needs more time for new ways to screw (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12302781)

Don't get me started on Federal money pits. How many strictly local projects in their home districts do the Congress Critters add to the budget each year?

Re:Some phb needs more time for new ways to screw (1)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | about 9 years ago | (#12303417)

How many strictly local projects in their home districts do the Congress Critters add to the budget each year?

From the CAIB Report [www.caib.us] , Volume I, Chapter 5, page 104:

EARMARKS
Pressure on NASAs budget has come not only from the White House, but also from the Congress. In recent years there has been an increasing tendency for the Congress to add "earmarks" - congressional additions to the NASA budget request that reflect targeted Members interests. These earmarks come out of already-appropriated funds, reducing the amounts available for the original tasks. For example, as Congress considered NASAs Fiscal Year 2002 appropriation, the NASA Administrator told the House Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the NASA budget that the agency was "extremely concerned regarding the magnitude and number of congressional earmarks" in the House and Senate versions of the NASA appropriations bill. He noted "the total number of House and Senate earmarks ... is approximately 140 separate items, an increase of nearly 50 percent over FY 2001." These earmarks reflected "an increasing fraction of items that circumvent the peer review process, or involve construction or other objectives that have no relation to NASA mission objectives." The potential Fiscal Year 2002 earmarks represented "a net total of $540 million in reductions to ongoing NASA programs to fund this extremely large number of earmarks."

Re:Some phb needs more time for new ways to screw (2, Informative)

cowscows (103644) | about 9 years ago | (#12303182)

About a hundred shuttle launches, and only two failed. That's not a bad record if you ask me. The space shuttle is one of the most complicated things people have ever done, both technologically, and politically. The fact that it ever flew at all, much less 100 times, is pretty amazing to me.

Not to say that there hasn't been some silly mistakes (you can make a pretty good argument that the basic design of the shuttle wasn't very practical), but I think NASA's safety record is something for them to be proud of.

The political nonsense and bureaucratic mess has certainly made NASA far less useful than that large a group of intelligent engineers should be. There's plenty to criticize them on, but their safety record is pretty darn good.

Your last paragraph doesn't make any sense. They can stop accidents from happening again by shutting down. Other than that, you're going to have to accept that when you're firing rockets up into space, it's dangerous. There's a lot of trial and error on the forefront of technology. How many planes crashed before the Stealth Bomber was developed? A whole lot more than wrecked space ships.

Re:Some phb needs more time for new ways to screw (1)

iminplaya (723125) | about 9 years ago | (#12303392)

Complexity is no excuse. The Concorde is the most complex airliner ever flown, to this day. That aircraft flew for over 30 years(!) without a single crash. NO other vehicle of any type has ever accomplished that. The engineers expected Challenger to be destroyed on launch. They were off by a little over a minute. Management overruled them. In addition to that, Reagan wanted to have a civilian in space to talk about during the State of the Union Address. The delays were becoming intolerable. Politics destroyed Challenger directly. It stank from the beginning. It did so a little lees directly with Columbia with the very nature of its design. Better designs were rejected due to budget constraints.

Re:Some phb needs more time for new ways to screw (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12303452)

That aircraft flew for over 30 years(!) without a single crash. NO other vehicle of any type has ever accomplished that.

Actually, be for they retired the Concorde there were crashes, at least three if I remember correctly.

Re:Some phb needs more time for new ways to screw (1)

cowscows (103644) | about 9 years ago | (#12303472)

I think complexity is a pretty darn good excuse. The concorde is another impressive engineering feat, no doubt, but I think there's at least one order of magnitude of difference between it and that space shuttle.

I'm not arguing that NASA hasn't made any mistakes. Not even that they haven't made really foolish mistakes. But I think, that overall, the fact that more people haven't died in the space program is rather amazing.

Re:Some phb needs more time for new ways to screw (1)

iminplaya (723125) | about 9 years ago | (#12303618)

I'm comparing the Concorde to other much less complex aircraft, which crash quite regularly. Usually due to human error. But even with a mechanical problem, that would be due to human(the mechanic or designer) error also. You can bet that part of the Concorde's safety record was due to political pride also. They were super careful with it. Same goes for NASA. The whole world watches ever little move it makes. Nobody wants their name on the next accident.

Re:Some phb needs more time for new ways to screw (1)

pg110404 (836120) | about 9 years ago | (#12303483)

The political nonsense and bureaucratic mess has certainly made NASA far less useful than that large a group of intelligent engineers should be.

I'd hoped people would see that being my point to begin with. I wasn't trying to say that space launches were inherently safe or unsafe or anything like that.

As for the first disaster, my memory of challenger was that when the dust settled, it was the top dog who said "launch" when the engineers said "don't launch". I wasn't entirely sure about the second, but last I heard of it, it was the heat tiles and if it was I suggested the possibility that it might have been yet some other bureaucratic mess.

There was an airplane whose cockpit window blew out and the pilot got sucked out. The cockpit crew managed to hold on to him long enough to get on the ground, which he miraculously survived. What ultimately caused that was the mechanic who had to work on that windshield, was under enormous pressure to get that plane out that night. In his haste he used bolts that looked the same but were not rated with the same strength. When the first one failed, they all popped like dominoes until cabin pressure blew out the windshield.

Accidents do happen, and it is unrealistic to overreact preventing it from happening in the first place (Although I could have an accident today, I should not drive to work. But then I could be on the bus and the bus could crash into a pole, so I should just stay home).

What I find inexcusable is the political nonsense that goes on in any industry. Crysler for example continued to sell their minivans knowing there was a flaw in the rear hatch latch and months later a kid was killed because that and another flaw caused the back seat he was in to be launched out the back. I can cite example after example of how some PHB sits in his nice ivory tower and works out how much a life is worth in lawsuits and will only fix foreseen problems when that outweights what it would cost to fix the original problem.

If I make a widget that breaks down and I knew it would break down ahead of time, as long as that flaw did not or could not cause loss of life, big friggin whoop, the only thing at stake is my reputation. When people are strapped onto a rocket like wile-e-coyote, the people who make or assume responsibility for said rocket, in my opinion, need to accept political fallout for playing it safe if there is sufficient cause for alarm for safetly.

After all, how much is a life worth anyway? Aparently, a fixed amount or something tangible in most industries.

shuttle vs. soyuz (3, Insightful)

cybpunks3 (612218) | about 9 years ago | (#12302908)

I find it amusing that at the same time everyone is hand-wringing over the safety factors of the pending shuttle launch, Soyuz is flying to ISS again without fanfare.

I think that says everything there is to say about the US space program.

We're putting a lot of effort to put a lame duck platform back in orbit that is going to be decommissioned in 5 years or so anyway with no clear successor and we just kind of ignore the fact that Russia has a time-tested (but not glamorous) platform with a far better safety record.

Re:shuttle vs. soyuz (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#12303440)

Soyuz is flying to ISS again without fanfare.

Goes to show that the US program is more about fanfare than it is about space. Hey, what can you say? Hollywood rules. All glitz and no go.

Re:shuttle vs. soyuz (1)

hpulley (587866) | about 9 years ago | (#12303575)

Safety-wise, the capsule has many advantages to an orbiter. The shuttle is not at the top so parts of the craft may hit it. Getting the Soyuz capsule away from its booster is fairly simple. It can land ballistically which means aborts don't need to worry about landing strips. The new Crew Vehicle being worked on is another capsule on top of the rocket, like they should have continued using after Apollo, instead of the shuttle programme which has been flawed from the start.

Re:shuttle vs. soyuz (1)

joeljkp (254783) | about 9 years ago | (#12303990)

Except Soyuz doesn't have the same capabilities as the Shuttle. It's not like you can just replace the Shuttle with Soyuz and do the same things.

Don't believe the Hype (3, Funny)

Johnny Fusion (658094) | about 9 years ago | (#12303750)

This is an obvious cover story. The real reason for the delay is that they want to close NASA on May 19 [starwars.com] .

I hear the astronauts were refusing to fly until they find out how Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader.

This would not be a problem except members of the crew have already taked the "spoiler free" pledge.

Despite Initial protests from Mission Control, they decided that they rather watch fake spaceships blow each other up instead of blowing up another real one.

This is a good thing, actually. (1)

Shag (3737) | about 9 years ago | (#12303937)

With the original launch date, I wasn't sure whether I should watch the launch, or go see Revenge of the Sith.
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