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107 Cameras to Scan Discovery for Damage

Hemos posted more than 8 years ago | from the scanning-for-damage dept.

Space 261

neutron_p writes "We already know that NASA has prepared for space shuttle rescue mission if a crisis arises during Discovery's return to flight. NASA wants to avoid any risk, that's why they also installed 107 cameras which will film and photograph the orbiter's first two minutes of ascent from every angle scanning for pieces of insulation foam or ice fall off during the launch and strike the shuttle, the kind of damage that doomed its predecessor Columbia. Cameras will be installed around the launch pad and at distances of 6 to 60 kilometers (some 3.5 to 35 miles) away, as well as on board of two airplanes and on the shuttle itself."

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261 comments

American miles? (3, Informative)

busman (136696) | more than 8 years ago | (#13032985)

I don't know where the article got their conversions from but I sure hope it wasn't from NASA!

6km is approx 3.7 miles not 3.5 and
60km is 37 miles and not 35

Re:American miles? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13033019)

Flamebait!

The devil is in the details - read the sentence carefully. Approx could mean 6km that is rounded to 4 miles if you want.

Why? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13032992)

What are they gonna' do? Abort after it's 100' off the pad?

Re:Why? (0)

Chess_the_cat (653159) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033012)

AFAIK there is an ejection system.

Re:Why? (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033050)

"AFAIK there is an ejection system."

Nope. The only options are:

1. bail out the side door and ditch the shuttle in the Atlantic.
2. RTLS abort back to KSC, which is probably unsurvivable.

Re:Why? (1)

jbarket (530468) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033153)

I think you just ruined my childhood ;D

When I saw the original post, I went OH NO THERE'S NOT, NOT ANYMORE! OOH OOH OOH! and immediately moved on to your reply, feeling smart.

Then I realized I learned all of this at Space Camp when I was like 11 :D

Re:Why? (1)

Boilermaker84 (896573) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033724)

Actually, the order of options are:

1. RTLS (return to launch site). This is an abort directly back to KSC. It is definately survivable and has always been a contingency option.

2. Trans-atlantic abort. Land in Spain or France where our new TAL sites are at (moved there since we're primarily chasing ISS and they line up better with the trajectories). This also has always been a contingency option.

3. Abort once around. Make one orbit and return to KSC. Not a likely scenario if there is damage to the tile system. This is also a standard abort option.

Which option is used depends one when during ascent the call to abort is made. There is a switch next to the commander that is flipped at each time milestone to indicate the abort option (I apologize for not having the times available).

The bail and ditch is the abort option available for landing.

Of course! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13033057)

Yes, there is an ejection system, it's called a lot of rocket fuel.

Re:Why? (2, Informative)

mgw1181 (214961) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033059)

There *was* an ejection system, but it was removed after the first few flights since it only provided for the pilot/copilot. It was only there for the initial test flights. If they had kept it, the other crew would have been SOL, so they dropped it.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13033071)

It's not an ejection system. It's an escape system with a telescoping pole they slide out on. Just google space shuttle escape pole

Re:Why? (4, Informative)

jaxdahl (227487) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033044)

Then they could ditch aboard the ISS (which is where they're going) then take a Soyuz capsule back to earth.

Re:Why? (2, Informative)

Skellbasher (896203) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033144)

The Soyuz capsule only has a capcity of 3, so there would be no way to get the entire crew back without launching an additional shuttle or Soyuz.

No, maybe they'll pay attention now (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13033223)

This time around, ignoring signs of damage to a shuttle could actually get some NASA fuckwits fired.

Of course not... (1)

Aeron65432 (805385) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033335)

No, we aren't going to abort 100' off the launch pad.

This is to prevent a Columbia-esque thing from happening again. You'll remember the Columbia didn't blow up on launch, but on re-entry. Had we had 107 cameras to decide it's hull was compromised, we might not have sent them down in the Columbia without having repaired it or something.

Re:Why? (3, Informative)

Andy Gardner (850877) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033510)

Funny you should say that because they probably would abort, albeit not 100' off the pad. There are two ascent (pre orbital) abort modes.

The first, RTLS (Return To Launch Site Abort Mode) [nasa.gov] can be initiated upto T+4mintues20 and involves an early ET (External Tank) seperation followed by a powered phase to bleed of excess fuel and a glide phase which see's the orbiter return to KSC at approximately T+25minutes.

The second is the TAL (Transatlantic Abort Landing) [nasa.gov]. This can be initiated in the event of critical failure after T+4minutes20. The orbiter continues in a balistic trajectory downrange across the Atlantic to land at a runway in Spain, Gambia or Morocco. Landing occurs T+45minutes.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13033634)

The orbiter continues in a balistic trajectory downrange across the Atlantic to land at a runway in Spain, Gambia or Morocco. Landing occurs T+45minutes.

Yeah! Suck it Concorde!

Well (5, Funny)

Quasar1999 (520073) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033031)

If it explodes, we'll have enough angles to recreate an exact 3d model of what happend. COOL. If it doesn't, we still have enough to create a nice 3d model of the launch. This will push the wave of new 3d tv's... hmm... getting ahead of myself again.

If severely damaged.. (-1)

cbelt3 (741637) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033032)

Why would this vehicle be allowed to plunge into the ocean if severely damaged ? Why can't it be used to increase useful space in the ISS ? Typical short sightedness...

Re:If severely damaged.. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13033046)

I guess the words "severly damaged" don't mean much of anything here?

Re:If severely damaged.. (3, Insightful)

TrippTDF (513419) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033132)

I've thought of that, too. When the fleet is retired, why NOT just send at least one shuttle up there, as just another permanent part of the ISS? Just modify it for long-term space use and you have a very large addition to the station at a fraction of what it would cost to build a portion of the same size from scratch. Plus, it could double as a lifeboat should something go wrong with the attached Soyuz lifeboat.

And it would just be cool.

Re:If severely damaged.. (5, Insightful)

jurt1235 (834677) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033166)

1. There is not that much usefull space in the space shuttle. For labwork they had the lab in the cargo bay for example.
2. Dynamics: You can not add random parts to the space station without changing its dynamice properties. Once you add a part, the harmonic frequencies are going to change, and you will have to recalculate the whole thing to check for problematic stress points and fatigue. (Ok, you think: Zero gravity, what stress, it floats by itself. In reality the spacestation is in a degrading orbit, so it has to be lifted once in a while, this uses thrusters which are carefully placed to boost the stations orbit. This also causes a lot of stress on the station!)
The harmonics are already a problem since not everything of the spacestation is in one plane, making it already very complex. The harmonics also dampen out pretty slow since there is not atmosferic friction (there are dampeners though).

Thus a continously added object like the spaceshuttle will be not add a lot in space, but will add a lot in complexity and weight, making the lift of the spacestation more complex and expensive, and will probably reduce the life time of the station.

Re:If severely damaged.. (2, Interesting)

cbelt3 (741637) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033283)

Yes, I'm aware of those basic facts. But it's design methods like this that have made NASA a hidebound organization. There is no flexibility. The direct cost of putting mass in orbit is completely buried in the Bureacracy and Bullsh*t that keeps the people on the ground busy.

Hey, I used to design stuff to NASA specs. I've been there. It's not the cost of the material, it's the cost of the bureacracy. You CAN solve the basic engineering problems associated with increased mass on the ISS. It was originally designed with shuttle parking in mind, at least back when it was conceptualized in the 70's and 80's.

But now that our Congress has saddled NASA with even more stupid rules and regulations, they are less and less likely to be creative with the resources they have. Hence the growth of the 'private' space industry.

Want proof ? Ok, here's my favourite example of rampant bureacracy. I worked for a small company that made satellite subsystems. We met with the lead contractor on this job. We had four engineers on our team. They came with 20 !

Their Thermal effects guy said "OK, we need to review this with your Thermal effects guy. Who is he ?" I raised my hand. And answered his questions.

Their Nuclear effects guy said "OK, we need to disuss Nuclear effects. Who do I talk to". I raised my hand, and gave the right info.

When you talk to NASA, you're talking to a horde of pencil pushers. Creativity is beaten out of these poor guys, and the lead scientists are so busy filling out this report and that that they can't get any real science done.

They need a good space race / space war to put the fire back in their bellies.

Oh, and they need the Germans back too.

Re:If severely damaged.. (1)

jurt1235 (834677) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033370)

I am the structural engineer guy (-:

Anyway: Politics already made the space station more complex: The Russians wanted a module perpendicular to the other modules, thus causing some nice side effects. No way to stop them, and there have been attempts, but politics decided that it not matter that much, so the spacestation got its perpendicular module.

Iow: Been there, done that

Re:If severely damaged.. (1)

CK2004PA (827615) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033717)

You can so add the space shuttle to the ISS without changing "harmonics" you dup-wad!

Dock it as we always have in the past and leave it docked. When another Soyuz comes up, undock the space shuttle and orbit for a bit while the Soyuz unloads its crap.

When Soyuz leaves for Earth, re-dock Space Shuttle.

Kind of like parking in New York City.

Re:If severely damaged.. (3, Insightful)

AnonymousJackass (849899) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033219)

Why would this vehicle be allowed to plunge into the ocean if severely damaged ? Why can't it be used to increase useful space in the ISS ? Typical short sightedness...

Why is this shortsighted? What do you know that hundreds of NASA experts don't? Do you know if it is possible to modify a space shuttle so it can be a useful attachment to the ISS? Is the ISS equipped with the necessary tools to do this, or do we need to send up another mission to supply them? Do you know if it is safe to have the shuttle attached permanently to the ISS?

I don't mean to be mean, and I'm not trolling, but surely if the shuttle experts have deemed that the best option is to plunge it back to Earth, then maybe that is the best option. In the end you have to trust their judgement, regardless of any blemishes on their track record. I'm sure they have weighed up their options with what to do with a broken shuttle.

Re:If severely damaged.. (1)

stinky wizzleteats (552063) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033399)

I'm sure they have weighed up their options with what to do with a broken shuttle.

Who says you have to dock it to anything? Just roll it out in the front yard, set it up on concrete blocks and presto! Crazy Ivan's used space part emporium!

Invasion of privacy. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13033042)

It's easy to say it's a good thing. Especially when it's not you that is having their privacy invaded. But, imagine if you were the shuttle. Would you really like being scrutinized by 10 cameras?

Re:Invasion of privacy. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13033734)

...naked...erect...thrusting...

Bullet time (4, Funny)

anandpur (303114) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033052)

Bullet time is a concept introduced in recent films and computer games whereby the passage of time is displayed as hyper slow or frozen moments in order to allow observe imperceptually fast events such as flying bullets.

In The Matrix, the camera path was pre-designed using computer-generated visualizations as a guide. Cameras were arranged on a track and aligned through a laser targeting system, forming a complex curve through space. The cameras were then triggered at extremely close intervals, so the action continued to unfold, in extreme slow-motion, while the viewpoint moved.

from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullet-time [wikipedia.org]

Re:Bullet time (1)

jurt1235 (834677) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033211)

So you say just launch the shuttle slowly, since it is impractible to put the camera's around the same way as in the matrix?

Re:Bullet time (2, Funny)

boingyzain (739759) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033591)

Karma whores are individuals, or messages themselves, that attempt to receive feedback in the form of karma points. Often these will be needless information (such as a link to a wikipedia article relevant to the subject being discussed), or a message of a political nature that is in alignment with the groupthink so that it will be moderated upwards by people who agree with the stance expressed in the message.

from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karma_whore [wikipedia.org]

107 cameras? (1, Troll)

Da Fokka (94074) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033053)

With so much footage, in case of another explosion at least they will be able to compile a cool Matrix shot of the event.

Re:107 cameras? (3, Insightful)

Necroman (61604) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033194)

I only wish I could mod this as "-1: Bad Taste".

Re:107 cameras? (1)

La Gris (531858) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033513)

Facts sometimes tastes realy that bad. Discarding talks about it, does not makes them better. It just makes them sound better.

Great....but what if the worst happens? (1, Insightful)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033062)


It's great that so many eyes are going to be on the shuttle this time around, but do we have a plan for actually dealing with a catastrophe, past verifying that it exists? Do we have a rescue mission planned if something bad happens? And what happens when the rescue mission gets a hole in their wing???

I want to see the Shuttle go up again as badly as the next guy, but they're going up without satisfying the recommendations of the committee. More cameras isn't going to help much, apart from letting the astronauts know they're doomed.

Not accurate .... Re:Great....but what if the w (1)

redwoodtree (136298) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033239)

There is a plan, and in a nutshell, if something happens where the shuttle can not return, it is to dock with International Space Station. At that point a Soyuz capsule can be used for the astronauts to return to earth.

To quote from one article:
"If they find major damage, NASA might have the seven shuttle astronauts use the Space Station as a lifeboat until a new shuttle arrives - a worst-case scenario that would involve dumping the stricken shuttle in the Indian Ocean."

http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0712/p01s01-stss.htm l?s=eee [csmonitor.com]

Re:Great....but what if the worst happens? (1)

russianspy (523929) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033617)

Here is an idea. Why not have some emergency landing capsules already in the orbit? Nothing fancy, just a capsule with minimal electronics that can land in the ocean. Proven technology from many years ago. Leave enough fuel so the capsules can stay for a decade in desired orbit. Heck, make them reusable - refit and shoot them up again.

If a similar damage happens to a shuttle - transfer people to the capsule and bring them bacak safely to earth. Decide whether to leave the shuttle in orbit for possible repairs or to bring it down as well (remotely?, crash it in an ocean?).

Re:Great....but what if the worst happens? (1)

part_of_you (859291) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033622)

Since this is still experimental, the flights carrying the cameras will, of coarse, be maned by monkeys.

That's great, but... (4, Insightful)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033066)

Let's say the cameras spot something fishy, like another strike to the tiles during liftoff.

What next?

Re:That's great, but... (1)

LucidBeast (601749) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033148)

I read yesterday from Finnish newspaper (Helsingin Sanomat) that NASA has some sort of gluegun to fix spots that are missing tiles

Re:That's great, but... (1)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033369)

The other question is, are they just fixing the last problem? OK, great, wonderful, now we can watch out for debris. But what if the bigger problem is that the design is just inherently more dangerous than it needs to be, so now, instead of the O-rings or tiles failing, something else will go catastrophically wrong?

Re:That's great, but... (3, Informative)

decipher_saint (72686) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033427)

Let's say the cameras spot something fishy, like another strike to the tiles during liftoff.

What next?

NASA reviews the tapes and assesses whether or not the point of failure is avoidable or is an inherant flaw of the shuttle system.

Adding the same amount of TV cameras (5, Insightful)

jurt1235 (834677) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033068)

Or maybe even more, anything which comes loose, will be discussed into great detail.

Anyway, rule of thumb: Great progress comes with risk. With the space shuttle, which about 20 years ago was great progress, the risk stays since there are no real developments.
The only question is: Is the spaceprogram worth the risk of flying with the space shuttle?

I personally think it is. I regret the attitude after the accident were complete risk aversion was shown. I would have gotten into the next space shuttle (err, can not pay for it, so they have to offer), and I am sure I would have returned safely (chance less then 1% on a deadly accident). The chance that the foam which caused this came loose and causes the damage is extremely small. Pieces of the shuttle fell off before (especially the ceramic tiles, lost a few per X flights), without problems.

Re:Adding the same amount of TV cameras (1)

Citizen of Earth (569446) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033565)

I personally think it is. I regret the attitude after the accident were complete risk aversion was shown.

Indeed, this is the reason that the US is really no longer in the manned-spaceflight business. Only the Chinese have any chance of setting foot on Mars. Americans have become just too pussy.

(chance less then 1% on a deadly accident)

It must be around 2%, with two disasters in 113 flights. Of course, the next catastrophic failure will have some different cause.

Not New, Just Enhanced Coverage (4, Insightful)

Spencerian (465343) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033095)

NASA has always had a debris inspection and launch anomaly review team that reviews taped views of the launches. It was this team that saw the fatal foam hunk strike Columbia's wing as well as note the O-ring failures on Challenger.

It will be good to have more cameras, but in a sense this violates a NASA truism that indicates not to worry about an issue of which you have absolutely no control over. Given the political climate the cameras are a must, but there will be more non-NASA people looking and fretting and writing their congressman over things that are routine in truth, and even those congressmen will be eyeing things that they have little experience to interpret properly and waste taxpayer dollars debating why ice must form on the outside of the ET ("Because it just does, damn it! Can we go back to flying now?")

Re:Not New, Just Enhanced Coverage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13033706)

"...not to worry about an issue of which you have absolutely no control over."

No control over? As in, they did not know debris strikes were ocurring, or o-rings were failing?

NASA was aware of both issues significantly before the accidents yet kept right on flying, in the face of their own internal guidelines stating they must not do so (IE; oring blowouts and debris strikes became increasingly acceptable over time, but were initially cause to stop flying).

All the cameras in the world won't help if management ignores the images they receive.

Read the CAIB report. It's a scathing criticism of NASA's lackadaisical managment practices :

http://caib.nasa.gov/ [nasa.gov]

This is what its all about (3, Funny)

Excelsior (164338) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033102)

that's why they also installed 107 cameras which will film and photograph...from every angle

Humanity is blessed to gain the technology advances pioneered by CBS's Big Brother.

Re:This is what its all about (1)

Nytewynd (829901) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033458)

They also installed 50 cams inside to capture what happens when astronauts stop being polite, and start getting real. These cams will be free with the exception of the toilet camera, which requires a $19/month subscription.

Safety First: Not always (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13033116)

I'm all for safety of space missions. The life of astronauts is as important as anyone's is.

Call me insensitive, but here's what I have to say. This is NOT a commercial airline where pax expect reasonable safety & expect 100% safety. Space exploration is a risky business. Sometime we have to accept the risks & challenges for some new things. The seafaring discoveres like Columbus & Vasco Da Gama wouldn't have achieved what they did if they didn't accept a single risk factor.

My main point in saying this is that halting shuttles had for 3 years has already had a devastating effect on space exploration, what with budget cuts in NASA & cash-strapped ex-soviet space industry.

Don't get me wrong, I want Astronauts/Cosmonauts/Taikanauts to be as safe as possible. But sometimes we have to bite the bullet.

Please try to understand what I'm saying, don't just jump to conclusions & say I'm insensitive. All I'm saying is that in this excess emphasis on safety has caused immense damage already to space science.

Hopefully (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13033120)

they had the mirrors in the cameras ground correctly and they checked to be sure that both the engineers and contractors were using imperial measurements instead of the contractors working off of metric numbers while the engineers were providing imperials. Well, if nothing else, at least they can go correct the mirrors in the faulty cameras and it will only cost us $250 million each.

like cockroaches (1)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033127)

If you see one cockroach there are probably hundreds you don't see. I would bet the next thing to blow up the space shuttle will be totally different. It seems as though we will only be rid of these things by blowing them up.

This should solve the 1-in-a-million last problem (5, Insightful)

bigtallmofo (695287) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033145)

Going to space is dangerous, but beneficial. As soon as people realize that, we'll be much better off.

107 cameras seems a bit like overkill and perhaps an attempt to fix a "one in a million" problem that has already occurred.

Could you imagine if the western part of the United States was settled by people that needed 107 cameras pointed at their wagons to make sure that a wheel wasn't falling off before they left? Some people have an adventurous spirit. Let them adventure. Sometimes they die. Sucks, but true.

Re:This should solve the 1-in-a-million last probl (1)

Skellbasher (896203) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033193)

Wagons wheels cost somewhat less than a shuttle. Are 107 cameras to view a muilti-billion dollar shuttle launch is well worth it to save a couple hundred million bucks? I say yes.

Re:This should solve the 1-in-a-million last probl (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033304)

Exactly. As far as I see it the Shuttle has met it's design goals, one percent failure. Columbia was that failure, stuff happens. Challenger was just an incredibly stupid loss that occoured because politics and beurocracy won out over sound engineering. While it can be argued that Challenger was a failure of the Shuttle program it had little to do with the act of getting into and out of space. Even after the Columbia accident there isn't one person on a Shuttle flight crew that wouldn't go up again, they know that there is a non insignificant risk of death, it doesn't phase them. Hell even if you count Challenger the Shuttle system has about the came percentage chance of mortality as ascending Everest, yet you don't hear people calling for the mountain to be closed to climbers or that high altitude recovery programs should be scrapped.

Re:This should solve the 1-in-a-million last probl (1)

timster (32400) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033368)

I think describing a foam insulation damage event as a "one in a million" problem cannot be supported by the facts.

I must note that there have only been about 100 shuttle flights. So the odds of foam damage were most likely a lot closer to 1% than 0.0001%.

I suppose that Rei will be around later to tell you all about how debris falloff is a common problem with rocket launches. As the shuttle orbiter is both fragile and mounted on the side, the possibility of debris damage should not have been ignored. In retrospect it was clearly a mistake, not just bad luck.

Re:This should solve the 1-in-a-million last probl (4, Insightful)

ericspinder (146776) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033542)

Could you imagine if the western part of the United States was settled by people that needed 107 cameras pointed at their wagons to make sure that a wheel wasn't falling off before they left?
  1. Wagons don't cost 2 million each.
  2. When a wagon wheel falls off 7 people don't fry
  3. You can feel a problem with a wagon wheel just from the ride. In a space shuttle you don't know there is a problem until it's way to late.
  4. if you think you have a problem with a wagon wheel, you jump out and take a look. An EVA is a major use of resourses, both in flight and on the ground.
  5. A foam strike isn't the only thing that a camera would catch. Remember, the first indications of what when wrong with Challenger came from video.
IMHO, the space shuttle's biggest problem was a design which said that the thing needed to have wings.

Correction: 2 million -- 2 billion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13033604)

Just saw that darn error...

Re:This should solve the 1-in-a-million last probl (1)

part_of_you (859291) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033701)

They thought of doing that, but soon ditched the thought after seeing what happened after the whole Rodney King beating, knowing what they were going to do to the Indians.

Good for the future (2, Insightful)

Nytewynd (829901) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033165)

This will help them figure out what went wrong if something does go wrong, but it's hardly helpful to the crew onboard.

I doubt there is any way to eject under those circumstances. The amount of Gs on the crew pretty much prevents them from moving, and the amount of time between "Uh oh" and KABOOM!!! isn't exactly long enough to do anything.

Even if there was a way to eject, it would depend on where the problem took place. 100 feet off the ground maybe you live. In the stratosphere, I don't think your chances are very good. Also, jumping out of the shuttle into a giant plume of fire might be a little more than your body can handle.

Re:Good for the future (1)

centauri (217890) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033386)

The cameras aren't there to prevent a catastrophe during liftoff. They're there to spot an event that might cause a catastrophic reentry. And if they do, there's plenty of time before reentry when the astronauts will not be immobilized by acceleration and might be able to do something to fix the problem.

What happens if the camera falls off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13033179)

What happens if the camera falls off and damages the shuttle.

Re:What happens if the camera falls off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13033342)

HOLY SHIT WE FORGOT TO TIGHTEN THOSE CAMERA BOLTS! HALT THE COUNTDOWN!!!!! Omigosh, I gotta call the contractors and have them get one of those $4 million wrenches over there to tighten up the camera before launch! Aaaaargh! That'll take 4 months! Shit! And by then the O-rings will be degraded! Double shit! Oh wait, I forgot about all the benefits to the field of monkey psychology, never mind! The camera is all better now! Restart the countdown!

Seems Redundant (3, Insightful)

Cedric Tsui (890887) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033212)

Not that redundancy is a bad thing.

But if they are going to snap pictures of the belly at the ISS, isn't that enough to determine if there are cracks in the heat shielding?

This system will tell us when, where and how the damage occured. But then this is something they should have had all along.

Re:Seems Redundant (2, Insightful)

AnonymousJackass (849899) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033472)

But then this is something they should have had all along.

Yes it is. And cars should have had seatbelts all along. And airbags. Commercial pilots should have flown in locked cabins. Airport security should've been tighter, etc, etc, ad nauseum. The sad truth is that sometimes we learn more from the "bad" lesson than the "good" ones. The real danger is when we get too scared to stop trying any more. Full credit to the shuttle team for doing their best to patch the leak and get back out there again.

Flashback (4, Interesting)

paiute (550198) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033221)

One month after 9/11, I was in Logan, waiting to board a full-of-fuel 767 to London. The airport was crowded with uniformed police and troops from about five different organizations. They were packing firepower enough to defend East Boston from invasion by any nation smaller than France. And yet they stayed on the ground and I went into the air. This story gives me the same feeling: No matter how many cameras/guns there are on the ground, if it goes bad in flight, you're still fucked.

I realize there may have been air marshalls on board, still I would have felt better if one of the state troopers had lent me his Glock for the trip.

Re:Flashback (0, Troll)

SeekerDarksteel (896422) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033284)

They were packing firepower enough to defend East Boston from invasion by any nation smaller than France.

So what'd they have? An empty Colt .45 and a sock full of quarters? I mean...you're not exactly setting the bar too too high by referencing France

*ducks* Sorry, sorry, sorry, I couldn't resist. :)

Re:Flashback (1)

centauri (217890) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033407)

But what good would a Glock be for an astronaut, except as an emergency EVA thruster of some kind?

They should ask the Russians (4, Informative)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033257)

How do the Russians launch their vehicles one after another without lots of funfare but with almost success? There have been almost 2,300 successful Soyuz launches and just 11 Soyuz failures ever...! That's a success rate that cant be beat! To make matters worse, they do it cheaper too!

Re:They should ask the Russians (1)

the linux geek (799780) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033431)

Although the Russians do have a good success rate the actual numbers are 100 Soyuz launches and two failures.

Re:They should ask the Russians (1)

bornyesterday (888994) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033531)

Well, lets compare the number of manned spaceflights by Soyuz launches and their results with the same for the space shuttle (via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_human_spacefl ights_by_program [wikipedia.org]):

Soyuz: ~88 (I think I counted the unmanned as well) - 1 crashed on landing, 1 failed to acheive orbit (all survived), half a dozen failed to dock with targets, 1 nearly killed everyone onboard during landing

Shuttle: 113 - only 2 unsuccessful, both destroyed, all hands lost

Re:They should ask the Russians (5, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033568)

Nobody needs to ask the Russians - to students of space issues the answers are well known.
How do the Russians launch their vehicles one after another without lots of funfare but with almost success?
By having an extremely simple booster with low-to-modest performance and vast amounts of margin built in. This means pretty reliable, but it means not much room for growth and not much in the way of accomplishments. (What accomplishments they do have are because of the larger, and much less reliable and more expensive Proton - not the Soyuz.)
There have been almost 2,300 successful Soyuz launches and just 11 Soyuz failures ever...!
You have to be careful there - the Russian have two spacecraft that they call Soyuz, don't confuse the two.

The Soyuz booster has indeed flown 2000-odd time, with a sucess rate of 98%. Oddly enough, thats the same sucess rate that the US has achieved.

The Soyuz capsule on the other hand, has flown only 90-odd times, and has had significant (life threatening) accidents no fewer then 8 times, plus two fatal accidents, plus about 8 loss-of-mission accidents.

That's a success rate that cant be beat!
That's a sucess rate no better than the US, and from some angles far worse. It's a sucess rate that in any other industry would cause headlines in 72-point type on a daily basis. (If 1% of 747 flights failed, there's be something like 20-30 747 crashes daily.)
To make matters worse, they do it cheaper too!
Umm... Maybe. Nobody knows how much a Soyuz (booster or capsule) flight actually costs. There's no direct conversion - and the prices they've quoted/charged have varied widely. No doubt not having to amortize the cost of your infrastructure helps, as does paying your engineers wages equivalent to your average third-world Nike sweat shop worker.

Cameras ??? (1)

Jeet81 (613099) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033274)

They could have used them oeny spent on cameras. Last I had seen on discovery channel was a method of coating the chips underneath of the shuttle in flight which was very cool. How about some insulating material (like scotch guard for carpets) or by keeping debris out in the first place (I guess most of the debris falls off from the shuttle and hits itself).

107 more things... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13033287)

What if a camera comes loose and hits the shuttle?

Might be one camera too many (2, Funny)

Bob3141592 (225638) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033290)

Gee, I hope none of those cameras they've installed on the shuttle itself come loose and hit anything.

The conspiracy starts! (2, Funny)

mendaliv (898932) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033306)

It should allow scientists to detect the slightest crack in the shuttle's thermal protection, according to Bob Page, the official in charge of the imaging system.

Well, get ready because here comes MJ12, Daedalus, etc...

Safety.... (5, Informative)

UMhydrogen (761047) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033307)

Um, I think you people have completely missed the whole point of the safety precautions in this new space shuttle launch. When the shuttle launches they have their backup shuttle waiting should something go wrong. If something goes wrong, Discovery like, where the shuttle makes it to the ISS but can't return to earth, they still have the backup shuttle to launch and bring them home.

The point of the cameras is to determine if something broke on the shuttle. If something breaks the shuttle will not return to Earth. The cameras aren't there to say "OMG, SOMETHING WENT WRONG, ABORT." The cameras are there to determine if something went wrong and if so, to send the backup shuttle into space to return the astornauts safely to earth.

adslk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13033321)

scanning for pieces of insulation foam or ice fall off during the launch and strike the shuttle

more like scanning for pieces of insulating foam or ice falling off during the launch and striking the shuttle

A camera detects many falling objects.... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13033366)

upon further examination of the video it is revealed that the dangerous falling objects are cameras - 107 to be precise.

Little Green Guys (1)

bubbaD (182583) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033367)

This made me think of the Twilight Zone episode with William Shatner, "Nightmare at 20000 Feet" Remade with John Lithgow in the Twilight Zone Movie. Shatner's character sees (or thinks he sees?) a gremlin eating pieces of the engine. He is taken away in a straigthtjacket when the plane lands.

Another "disaster" will happen again (2, Insightful)

cr@ckwhore (165454) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033466)

Despite all these measures, there will likely be another shuttle disaster in the future. Unfortunately, certain critical problems aren't identified until failure occurs.

After Challenger ... no more O-ring problems.
After Columbia ... no more foam problems.

So what'll be next?

My guess is that they'll never see it coming, whatever it is. NASA is too focused on making sure the foam doesn't cause another problem. However, the foam was fine for 20+ years and the chances of the same exact thing happening again are infinitely smaller than the chances of a new problem occurring.

So, here's what they'll say when the next explosion happens ... "Well, thank god it wasn't the foam or those darn o-rings again".

Re:Another "disaster" will happen again (1)

ravenspear (756059) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033599)

Or they will just limit the launch window again.

After Challenger... No more winter launches.
After Columbia... No more night launches.

After the next one they will only launch at 1:37 PM on the second Saturday of the month after the first full moon.

Re:Another "disaster" will happen again (1)

mendaliv (898932) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033625)

Moreover, look further into the past-

After Apollo I ... no more fires from faulty wiring+pure oxygen+aluminum.

After Apollo XIII ... no more oxygen tank explosions.

There are a number of other minor accidents that happened at other points in the space program that we got over...

Re:Another "disaster" will happen again (1)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033684)

With the shuttle NASA abandoned the 100% testbed validation of the design and just cobbled the whole thing together to save money. The shuttle should of been scrapped 20 years ago.

Big Brother is Watching (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13033484)

This continues the growth of a disturbing trend and the death of freedom. Before long, they will require cameras film airplane takeoffs and train travel. One can even envision a day when amateur rocketry will fall under the watchful eye of big brother. This could be the final nail in the coffin for Estes. They will soon require ID to travel into space like we were living under Soviet occupation. Sure, it may catch some terrorists, but we best remember Franklin's admonishment on trading freedom for security, before we let things get out of hand.

Better than you'd think (1)

Virtua Omake (886744) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033582)

As an employee of the NASA IV&V facility, I can tell you that this is going to be a major help in troubleshooting both mechanical problems and in designing better software to prevent problems like what happened in the previous launch.

The improved safety systems like this one will (hopefully) prevent another three year delay like the one just experienced. That delay caused some major setbacks, so don't write off this add-on yet.

Its time (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033606)

Its time that NASA started investing in more robots. I can see EVA robots doing these checks on all spacecraft in the future, no matter what country the spacecraft has launched from. It only makes sense. I'm sure that such robots can be much more robust and cost effective than a human EVA to check heat shield tiles and other items critical to a safe landing, and high tech scanners, such as are used to check for stress cracks in commercial airliners could be the basis for such robots. Geez, if you spend $500k maybe we could save several hundred million.

A cousin to the inspector robot could also replace the tile when it is sent up on an unmanned spacecraft. Its not like the logistics of this kind of problem aren't worked out everyday around the globe. Many of the people and businesses in Florida et al have just gone through the process. Yes, you need a part, but can't buy it or steal it from anywhere, so you have to wait for the next shipment etc. Just make sure the astronauts pack a few extra meals. Sure, the cost of shipping that extra part could be hundred thousand dollars or more, but that is cheaper than losing a shuttle and much cheaper than losing astronauts, never mind the damage to reputation.

This sort of thing should be a no brainer. I'm surprised actually to have not heard that NASA has worked out how to replace a tile while docked to the ISS?

But then maybe I'm just missing out on something.

Re:Its time (1)

Virtua Omake (886744) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033644)

Hell, I'd about kill to see that project get started. I think that similar ideas have been proposed a few times and sort of shoved off to the side for "more important projects."

Re:Its time (1)

ShoobieRat (829304) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033653)

NASA is already working on a number of robotics programs, several of which are aimed towards doing just this. However, I wouldn't want to wait till 2015-20 for them to get close to being successful with those projects before we got back into space, especially when in the mean-time humans can do the tasks.

As for the ISS, repairing broken tiles on the space-shuttle is not a matter of where the shuttle is. Whether it's docked to the ISS or on its own orbit is of little concern.

Re:Its time (1)

Bob3141592 (225638) | more than 8 years ago | (#13033707)

While I'm all for increasing the use of robots in space, I don't think the cousin robot could do this job (nor could a human). Yes, a robot inspector would be a good thing. But the tiles are each custom made to the particular geometry of the ship where they are placed, and they cannot be manufactured in place. The shuttle couldn't carry up spares for each and every tile. Nor can most other problems be repaired in space. You can't slap a little epoxy over a hole when it needs to withstand the heat of reentry. Such repair jobs would only contaminate the tiles and prevent them from working.

As for a few extra meals, I think it would take more than that to maintain seven people in the hostile environment of space for who knows how long.
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