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Space Shuttle Atlantis Delayed Again

CowboyNeal posted more than 8 years ago | from the mom-says-i'm-grounded dept.

174

eldavojohn writes "An electrical short cause the space shuttle Atlantis to be delayed since a lightning strike to the pad and Tropical Storm Ernesto caused delays. From the article: 'Liftoff was only hours away Wednesday morning when engineers reported a short in one of three fuel cells that supplies electricity for all the on-board systems, including the crew compartment.' It also points out that 'The faulty cell is currently operational even with the short. But after the 2003 Columbia disaster, which killed all seven astronauts, NASA says it has adopted an aggressive, safety-conscious approach to launching.' It causes one to wonder whether pre-Columbia-disaster NASA would have just replaced the fuel cell on the fly without telling anyone — and whether or not that is an ethically sound choice."

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Fuel Cell Supplier (5, Funny)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065183)

NASA are presently in conference with the fuel-cell's supplier, Dell.

Re:Fuel Cell Supplier (4, Funny)

kingtonm (208158) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065195)

Dear Dell Customer,

Dell has identified a potential issue associated with certain batteries sold with the NASA Shuttle(TM) series. In cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and other regulatory agencies, Dell is voluntarily recalling certain Dell-branded batteries with cells manufactured by Sony and offering free replacements for these batteries. Under rare conditions, it is possible for these batteries to overheat, which could pose a risk of fire, explosion, or firey death.

Re:Fuel Cell Supplier (2, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065259)

If you think thats bad, think about the poor Dell guy who has to replace the ISS batteries.
Nasa were smart and paid for onsite maintenance.

And that's old news... (1)

TrisexualPuppy (976893) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065431)

Slashdot nonsurprisingly is a day behind. The shuttle is still scheduled for launch. Check here [nasa.gov] for details.

you work for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16065437)

And you work for Sony or something?

If only. (4, Funny)

rtyall (960518) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065186)

I bet they wished they bought Duracell now.

Great timing there... (5, Informative)

interiot (50685) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065188)

Unfortunately the article is a day old... Countdown is continuuing [space.com] for a launch this morning (Friday morning).

Re:Great timing there... (5, Informative)

keithmoore (106078) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065245)

for news about something like the shuttle, where the status changes from day to day,
it really pays to check a primary source. like
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/main/ind ex.html [nasa.gov]

Re:Great timing there... (1)

Aglassis (10161) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065288)

From your link, a fuel sensor issue has occurred:
The launch team has reported that an ECO sensor on the hydrogen side of the external tank has failed. At this time the team is pressing forward with launch preparations. Mission Management Team members are meeting to determine if they will consider launching with three working sensors or if it will be necessary to de-tank and come back tomorrow.
I don't know if they'll launch. But they launched Discovery before with a (presumably) similar issue. I must admit that I'm a little annoyed that the external tank manufacturer didn't fix this problem after the last time this occurred.

CNN [cnn.com] reports that a program manager thinks its likely the launch will be delayed for 24 hours.

Re:Great timing there... (3, Insightful)

Chanc_Gorkon (94133) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065600)

It's not that they didn't fix it. They tried. There's only so much you can do to the ET to fix this problem. This is what happens when you use Cryo fuels. Even with the improvements that were made, when you have the FL humidity freezing on the side of your tank, it has a tendency to work itself into the cracks, expand and then the vibration of launch shakes it loose.

I think NASA has come to the realization that space craft don't need to land like aircraft and that space vehicles need to be designed for launching to and operating in space and not for the landing which is what the shuttle was designed for. Also, modern day astronauts could care less about the space vehicle handling like a airplane (which is what the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronauts wanted).

Re:Great timing there... (1)

WED Fan (911325) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065920)

Hey!!! Don't rattle the Slashdot Errors...err...Editors. Do you expect them to be on top of things? This is just a hobby for them, right?

A day after the launch of the shuttle, we'll probably get a posting from Taco Boy that the launch will occur yesterday.

Re:Great timing there... (2, Funny)

lxs (131946) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065289)

Thanks for that info. Between the state of the shuttle program and the state of Slashdot, I didn't know whether this was an old article, a dupe or Yet Another Shuttle Delay.

Tad unfair (5, Insightful)

StuBeck (983120) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065191)

I think its a tad unfair to question what may or may not have happened years ago. They learned and are acting on the safe side now.

Re:Tad unfair (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16065323)

Thing is, this isn't the first time NASA has screwed up, and this isn't the first time that they had said they learned from their mistakes.

Re:Tad unfair (0, Flamebait)

samsonov (581161) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065356)

I think its a tad unfair to question what may or may not have happened years ago. They learned and are acting on the safe side now.

I am not convinced they have learned enough and are acting safe enough. It seems every launch has revealed mysterious issues that have been overlooked in prior launches. It makes the moon landing look more like a falsified event [wikipedia.org] . I understand they have deadlines, but if you equate this to a car (I know - nothing like it really, but I'll never get to drive the shuttle...) I wouldn't want to be driving with the doors falling off...

Re:Tad unfair (2, Insightful)

Ron Bennett (14590) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065629)

The moon landing was real, at least in my view ... the U.S. had a do anything spirit up through the 1960s with some of that flowing over into the early 70s.

Major projects invisioned / started around the late 1950s / 1960s...

* World Trade Center Complex in NYC

* Supersonic Concord

* U.S. Interstate system

* The Internet

* The Space Shuttle

Much of what is holding back progress these days in the U.S. is the lack of will, not technology.

Ron

Re:Tad unfair (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16065888)

You might want to check who designed and built Concorde. It wasn't a US project.

Re:Tad unfair (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | more than 8 years ago | (#16066034)

No, it just means they weren't "unlucky" when they launched to the moon. Just because things are overlooked doesn't mean something bad will happen, just might happen.

Take seatbelts: driving without one is dangerous and can kill you. However I know people that drive without one, and they've never gotten into an accident. While it's stupid of them, nothing has happened as a result of it.

I believe it happened. I'm not saying there's NO chance that it didn't happen, but some of the "evidence" that is was a hoax I've heard is laughable.

If it's broken ... (3, Insightful)

Gaima (174551) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065194)

... replace it.
As long as they test it properly after replacement, what's the problem?

Re:If it's broken ... (3, Insightful)

PrinceAshitaka (562972) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065199)

The problem is filling out the paperwork in triplicate. They may have enough time to safely repair the shuttle for launch, thye just don't have the time to do all the paperwork. This is why private space endeavors are they way of the future.

Re:If it's broken ... (3, Insightful)

Silver Sloth (770927) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065272)

The problem is filling out the paperwork in triplicate. They may have enough time to safely repair the shuttle for launch, thye just don't have the time to do all the paperwork. This is why private space endeavors are they way of the future.
So you would be quite happy with the batteries being replaced with a cheaper alternative which might work almost as well because the savings made will increase share dividends.

For those who insist that the private sector is always preferable my I remind you what happened to the Herald of Free Enterprise http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herald_of_Free_Enterp rise [wikipedia.org] or, for that matter, how much better UK trains are running in the Hatfield area http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hatfield_rail_crash [wikipedia.org] since privatisation.

Re:If it's broken ... (2, Insightful)

Alioth (221270) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065337)

Both of those incidents could have happened either to a private or publically owned company - they all boil down to negligence of which there is plenty in both the private and public sector and it doesn't really make your argument one way or the other!

Re:If it's broken ... (4, Insightful)

Silver Sloth (770927) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065367)

From the Wikipedia article (emphasis mine)
The Hatfield rail crash was a railway accident that occurred on 17 October 2000, at Hatfield, Hertfordshire, UK. Although the accident had a low death toll in comparison to other railway incidents in British history, Hatfield's historical significance has become much greater, since it demonstrated many of the flaws present in the mid 1990s privatisation of the British railway system and ultimately triggered its partial renationalisation.
As someone who was a civil servant and now works in the private sector (my job was sold) I have seen both sides of the fence. I'm not saying that the public sector is better, but I know that the private sector has just as many problems and is not a panacea. In very broad brush terms the public sector tends to err on the side of caution, and hence fail to achieve anything, the private sector is so profit driven that it cuts too many corners. I know which attitude I want behind me if I ever fly on the shuttle.

Re:If it's broken ... (3, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065411)

In a nutshell, better to not go up than to blow up.

Easy (1)

goldcd (587052) | more than 8 years ago | (#16066176)

Private operators competing, with serious regulators with f'in big teeth.
Look at airlines - we might all bitch and complain about the odd late flight, but by and large (especially considering the technology/logistics etc) involved they work/are safe/and cheap(ish).

Re:If it's broken ... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065207)

As long as they test it properly after replacement, what's the problem?

One article I saw said the faulty pump is between the payload bay and the heat shield of the spacecraft. You would have to disassemble the whole stack and much of the orbiter to replace one little motor. That might be six months of work and if you think you can get by safely without this motor it may be worth the risk.

Fuel cells ... (0, Redundant)

LaughingCoder (914424) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065196)

At least they aren't using Sony laptop batteries. Now that would be a problem.

On again? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16065202)

CBC radio is saying it's on for today. This is in spite of the fact that the chief safety officer objects. They say they can go with only two fuel cells and don't need the third one. The spokesman I heard said that replacing the fuel cell had its own risks. Could this thing be so complicated that they can never get the whole thing working at the same time?

Re:On again? (2, Interesting)

Detritus (11846) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065332)

It's complex system. You often see similar issues with modern jet aircraft. There are so many things than can degrade or fail that it is unusual for 100% of the systems to be working perfectly. You end up making a list of what systems must be working before takeoff. That's also why there are redundant systems. You don't want to be in a situation where you are one failure away from a catastrophe. You don't want to be running on a single fuel cell. With two fuel cells, you can lose one, abort the mission and safely return to Earth. With three fuel cells, you can lose one and safely continue the mission.

Re:On again? (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065343)

"With three fuel cells, you can lose one and safely continue the mission."

No you can't. Every mission that's lost one fuel cell has been brought back early, because they can't risk losing another.

Given how heavy the current payload is, you seriouly don't want to have to bring it back to Earth unless you really, really have to (e.g. an early engine failure during the launch where there's no alternative).

Re:On again? (2, Informative)

samsonov (581161) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065420)

CBC radio is saying it's on for today. This is in spite of the fact that the chief safety officer objects. They say they can go with only two fuel cells and don't need the third one. The spokesman I heard said that replacing the fuel cell had its own risks. Could this thing be so complicated that they can never get the whole thing working at the same time?

From the looks of it, it might be another 24 hours (credit to CNN the bias news source):

The scheduled late-morning liftoff of space shuttle Atlantis on Friday is likely to be delayed by 24 hours, NASA program manager Wayne Hale told CNN. As NASA prepared for launch, crews on the launchpad were troubleshooting a glitch in a fuel sensor for the main-engine cutoff system. A similar sensor has plagued previous missions, and a malfunctioning fuel cell held up the launch of Atlantis earlier in the week. Weather conditions at Kennedy Space Center were forecast to be 70 percent favorable for the scheduled 11:41 a.m. ET launch.

Re:On again? (2, Insightful)

nocaster (784709) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065504)

"Could this thing be so complicated that they can never get the whole thing working at the same time?"


It is rare for any aircraft to have everything working at the same time.

Tell me again, Americans... (4, Funny)

Sunburnt (890890) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065204)

...why, exactly, our country's spaceport is still located in a state known for nothing so much as lightning and storms? I'm silly enough to live in Florida right now too, but I'd be moving even sooner if I had a multimillion dollar vehicle parked in my garage. Everything seems to point to Florida's climate worsening throughout the foreseeable future.

Ha, I'm just kidding. Congress would love to see NASA inoperable so they can go back to spending money on bridges to nowhere (Thanks, Ted Stevens!)

Re:Tell me again, Americans... (1)

celardore (844933) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065214)

I'd be moving even sooner if I had a multimillion dollar vehicle parked in my garage.

I should hope so too, for all that money.

Re:Tell me again, Americans... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16065220)

"why, exactly, our country's spaceport is still located in a state known for nothing so much as lightning and storms?"

Uh...because being as close to the equator as possible has advantagous trajectory characteristics for many important orbits and with a trajectory heading eastward one needs to be on the east coast so as to minimize time over land while still at low altitudes?

we still have better places than florida (1)

r00t (33219) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065791)

The obvious is Hawaii.

Southern Arizona is damn good. Perhaps you lose a tad with the latitude, but the air is thin (you could launch from well over 5000 feet) and dry. You'll never get worse than a very rare thunderstorm. The air is so dry that ice won't be much of a concern. You fly over isolated desert, which is decent for recovering little shuttle bits.

Re:Tell me again, Americans... (2, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065229)

why, exactly, our country's spaceport is still located in a state known for nothing so much as lightning and storms?

Ummm because its in the extreme south east of the country. Launches to the north give you a high inclination orbit. Launches further west expose landmass to bits of spacecraft in the event of an abort.

I could suggest that they launch from Cape York [wikipedia.org] but the weather is pretty bad [wikipedia.org] in that general area as well.

Re:Tell me again, Americans... (1)

Sunburnt (890890) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065308)

What about Texas, in the area south of San Antonio? It's mostly water to the east (except for Florida, of course) and you can get closer to the equator. The area has problems with tornadoes, but unless I'm mistaken, that can be mitigated by building a reinforced structure along the lines of the current structures in Florida. (We certainly get tornadoes here as well.)

Re:Tell me again, Americans... (1)

Megane (129182) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065593)

What about Texas, in the area south of San Antonio? It's mostly water to the east (except for Florida, of course) and you can get closer to the equator. The area has problems with tornadoes, but unless I'm mistaken, that can be mitigated by building a reinforced structure along the lines of the current structures in Florida. (We certainly get tornadoes here as well.)

I don't recall hearing much about tornadoes along the gulf coast. Certainly Texas would be a good location, but I guess that back in the day Florida had better pork-barrel politicians than Texas did. There is, of course, some NASA presence in Houston (in fact, that's where shuttle conrtol is after launch), especially after LBJ became president, but Houston is too far north because it's north of the gulf and doesn't have the needed splashdown area. Also, Florida has a lot better permanent civilization along its eastern coast, whereas Texas mostly has drive-by tourism. In Texas, that part of the gulf coast is somewhere you go for the weekend or spring break, not somewhere you live.

Re:Tell me again, Americans... (1)

keithmoore (106078) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065237)

The spaceport is located in Florida at least partially for two reasons: (1) the extreme easterly location means that launches in the direction of Earth's rotation are over water, reducing hazards for persons and property on the ground. (2) it's closer than most states on America's mainland to the equator, which makes for more efficient launches (more payload can be lifted into a given orbit).

Re:Tell me again, Americans... (4, Informative)

onion2k (203094) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065261)

You save a huge amount of money if you launch from a geographic location that is near the equator, heading east (so you get the benefit of the Earth's rotation, which saves fuel and allows for an increased payload), and is far enough away from people that you don't get bits of rocket landing in residential areas if it all goes wrong. Being near the equator also puts you in a good position for a geostationary orbit.

Re:Tell me again, Americans... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16065304)

I agree. Florida is such a lousy state, all snakes, bugs, and gators. Half the land is swamp. They get lots of bad weather each year and have had two tropical storms this year plus multiple hurricanes the last two. Most of the people are rude ex-New Yorkers. Disney, which everyone on slashdot hates due to DRM, owns half the state. They are one of the lightning centers of the world.

There really is NO reason to move to Florida. Visit, maybe, but NOT TO MOVE there.

Please don't move there (I only own several houses there...).

Re:Tell me again, Americans... (5, Funny)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065317)

>a state known for nothing so much as lightning and storms?
And oranges. It's a well kept secret that rocket fuel is actually distilled orange juice. What colour is the shuttle's fuel tank? Orange. To hide the leaks.

Re:Tell me again, Americans... (1)

Richard W.M. Jones (591125) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065780)

Strangely enough though, hydrazine is actually found in certain mushrooms [wikipedia.org] . It's used in the Shuttle's RCS.

Rich.

Re:Tell me again, Americans... (1)

guabah (968691) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065501)

And why not moving the spaceport further south east? To Puerto Rico [cia.gov] , maybe.

Or, is there a need for a land connection to the rest of the US Mainland?

Hmm .... T minus 4 hours pr so (4, Informative)

CiRu5 (859713) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065208)

This article is a little late wouldn't you say, the shuttle launches this morning baring any further delays. Also I believe they are choosing to fly with the damaged fuel cell as it is not a threat to the safety of the crew.
Good Update: http://www.spacetoday.net/Summary/3484 [spacetoday.net]
Countdown ticker: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/main/ind ex.html [nasa.gov]

Weather.. sure.. right (3, Funny)

saboola (655522) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065226)

..or maybe it's the Goa'uld Ha'tak mothership sitting a couple hundred miles above Port Canaveral preventing the launch. You can fool me Nasa, I watch television.

Re:Weather.. sure.. right (1)

multipartmixed (163409) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065269)

Dude, get over it. They blew up the Goauld ships two (three?) seasons ago. Colonel (now General) O'Neil used the Ancient Control Chair they found in Antartica. He can control it because he has a special gene. It shoots these really cool yellow drones.

Re:Weather.. sure.. right (1)

Eli Gottlieb (917758) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065520)

True, true. I'll betcha the GP's really just a plant by the Wraith. They're behind it all!

Re:Weather.. sure.. right (1)

Mercano (826132) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065782)

When the first two motherships showed up in orbit:

"Perhaps when the warships of your world attack... Surely you have such vessels?"
"Well, we have a number of... shuttles."
"These shuttles, they are a formidable craft?"
"Oh yeah. Yeah... Bad day."

safety first ... duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16065232)

it's great nasa is so radical about safety.
but i wonder why the space shuttle was
out in the open during a storm? one could think
that with all the previous endevours to outer space
an the infrastructure orbiting our planet and with
all the super computer crunching power
nasa could make some reliable weather predictions.
i mean they can land a probe on a far away planet like
mars to some amazing accuracy. the weather, it seems
is still to unpredictable, even for nasa ;(

aggressive, safety-conscious? (1)

sveinb (305718) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065252)

What's aggressive about delaying?

Re:aggressive, safety-conscious? (1)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065324)

What's aggressive about delaying?
Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherfucking delays on this motherfucking shuttle!

Memo to Staff (1)

Morphine007 (207082) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065557)

The "snakes on a plane" joke was never really funny and the novelty has definitely worn off.

Re:Memo to Staff (1)

kirk26 (811030) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065678)

"Snakes on a Shuttle" Sorry. It had to be said.

Re:Memo to Staff (1)

Morphine007 (207082) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065800)

<TIRED JOKE>

Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherfucking tired jokes on this motherfucking site!

</TIRED JOKE>

:-D

off topic // (1)

deviceb (958415) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065256)

with all the battery jokes, i just have to comment.. this is devine Karma on Sony for that lil rootkit.

oh, the misstatements! (5, Insightful)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065263)

Lotsa questionable statements in this article:
  • There's very little likelyhood the lightning strike is directly connected to the fuel cell problem.
  • It's not a "short". Everything isnt a "short". A shorted fuel cell would be totally unusable.
  • NASA, now or then, can't replace the fuel cell without major trouble-- the whole thing has to be taken back to the assembly building, anything in the cargo bay has to be unloaded, the cargo bay floor has to be taken up-- major hassle. Not something that can be done on the Q.T.
  • The shuttle has *three* fuel cells, so it's not a major problem if one is acting a teensy bit unusual.
  • There are plenty of safety issues with *not* launching, parts tend to age quickly when out in the humid Florida sun. It's not clear that delaying launch is a ssafety improvement.

Re:oh, the misstatements! (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065283)

"The shuttle has *three* fuel cells, so it's not a major problem if one is acting a teensy bit unusual."

But if one stops working, then mission rules say they have to return to Earth within a couple of days in case another one stops working. It just seems bizarre to me that the new supposedly 'safety-conscious' NASA is going to fly with a possibly duff fuel cell and possibly duff fuel tank sensors, apparently because 'it's never caused a disaster before'.

wrong on two of those (1)

r00t (33219) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065855)

It is a short, in the power to the motor that pumps Freon coolant through the fuel cell. One part of the 3-phase power is shorted. The motor can still run with 2 phases left.

They can indeed replace the thing at the pad. They'd initially thought not, but now they think that it would be possible. The device weighs 200 to 300 pounds. I don't know how they expect to be able to get at it. They'd have to get somebody out on a device (bucket? platform? crane?) in the payload bay, somehow get behind the cargo, remove the fuel cell without dropping any parts, install the new one without dropping any parts...

misstatements, speak for yourself. (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 8 years ago | (#16066209)

parts tend to age quickly when out in the humid Florida sun. I didn't know Florida's sun was humid. I didn't know Florida had it's own sun, for that matter.

Individual cells in car batteries short out all the time. Sometimes they still work, with reduced capacity or voltage, or they don't work at all. Fuel Cells can and do have the same thing happen.

Parts tend to age and wear faster because of the salt in the humid Florida air, not because of the humidity. Salt water corrodes metal and electronics much faster than regular water.

Now, back to the regularly-scheduled launch.

who has batteries?? (1)

keithhackworth (902524) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065294)

The shuttle was designed in the late 70s. Where do you find a fully charged battery built in the late 70's on such short notice?

Keith

Re:who has batteries?? (1)

hcob$ (766699) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065350)

The same place the find many of their repair parts now...

ON EBAY!!!!

And while it's funny, it's also sad.... Because it's true

Dupe!!! (2, Funny)

mangu (126918) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065302)

How long will Slashdot keep reposting this "Space Shuttle Delayed" story?

Apollo 12 (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065309)

If Apollo 12 (and the lighting strike) were to happen under the current safety-focused NASA brass, its likely that NASA would have ordered an immediate abort without even considering what went wrong with the CSM (or failing that, ordered some kind of abort from earth orbit in case something fried)

Moo (1)

Chacham (981) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065316)

I've always wondered how things that cost millions and millions can be so shaky. I kind of understand, but it just seems odd that their hardware is so sensitive.

Can't they just hire Woz to build it for them?

Re:Moo (2, Informative)

AlecC (512609) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065352)

It's just the total complexity of the system. Most successful systems are simple enought hat, at some level, one person (such as Woz) can understand the whole system; and the purts on which that system are well understood and well characterised. In the se of the Shuttle, there too many parts, and too many of the parts are designed for that system alone, for anyone to understand the whole thing.

Re:Moo (1)

Chacham (981) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065377)

for anyone to understand the whole thing.

That actually make some sense. :)

Re:Moo (2, Informative)

hcob$ (766699) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065362)

It's not that it's a "shaky" piece of hardware, per se. It's just there are SO MANY points of failure, and after a few really bad problems, they've learned to be almost overly cautious with every failure.

An electrical supply on the ground goes down, you're fine. You just wait for a new one. An electical supply goes down in space, it's likely you're going to face serious challenges just staying alive.

Re:Moo (1)

Chacham (981) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065395)

Yeah, but isn't it something another million couldn't fix? It's not like they have a realistic udget or something.

Re:Moo (1)

AaronLawrence (600990) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065720)

Complexity.

Hazardous environment (vacuum, extreme cold, extreme heat, vibration).

Very little of regular hardware would survive well in such situations.

Re:Moo (1)

Chacham (981) | more than 8 years ago | (#16066144)

Very little of regular hardware would survive well in such situations.

But what if the nails were banged in with $200 hammers?

Seriously, why can't a few more dollars fix it? Or are we that incompetent even after forty years?

lets pray!!!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16065322)

AAAAAAAAAAaaIIIIiiBOOOoooooOOONNNNN!!!

please come back!!!

I'll never understand (1)

Mr.Dippy (613292) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065403)

Yes, let's spend billions of dollars on some of the most complex, advanced engineering known to man and then put our finished product in FLORIDA! The place where they have at least 5 hurricanes per seasons and unpredicatable weather year round. Wouldn't it have been smarter to put Cape Canaveral somewhere like New Mexico or Nevada?

Re:I'll never understand (1)

FatAlb3rt (533682) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065487)

I think your subject line says it all. It's funny how many people so far in these comments have pointed out how dumb it is to put a launch complex in Florida, ignoring of course all the technical and safety reasons. Nasa has been launching vehicles from there for 40 frickin years. And suddenly all the smart guys think it's a bad idea...

Re:I'll never understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16066012)

There's always been a debate over it as long as I have been paying attention to it.. The desert has alternative launch facilities (theoretical at this point)*already*, such as edwards in california. They have problems there, too, dust gets into equipment. All the decisions have tradeoffs.

Re:I'll never understand (1)

nocaster (784709) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065544)

Well shame on NASA for not consulting /. before deciding to put their launch complex in Florida. Those silly morons. I'm sure there is no real good reason [nasa.gov] to launch from Florida anyway.

Who cares? (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065406)

It causes one to wonder whether pre-Columbia-disaster NASA would have just replaced the fuel cell on the fly without telling anyone -- and whether or not that is an ethically sound choice.

Sorry, but who cares?

Was that a questioning of their historical policies having been ethically sound? Ummm...

Whether or not it is ethical? (5, Insightful)

Snowtide (989191) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065408)

Well here goes my positive karma.
The summary asks if it would be ethical to replace the cell or not without telling anybody. Who does the author want them to tell? The only people who have an ethical need to know the conditions of the shuttle and the risks associated with them are the crew in the shuttle and the ground crew. These people, the crew in particular, are taking the risks and making the decisions. These two groups of people are likely to know anyway, astronauts, especially the flight crew, tend to be technical people, it goes with the job. Read about the boring parts of an astronaut's job, including hundreds of hours getting to know the details of the shuttle and the booster assembly. It is often said Murphy was an aircraft engineer, astronauts know this. Space travel is risky and can be dangerous. From Florida to orbit and back is hell on materials, electronics and mechanics. The decision to go or not go under a set of conditions belongs to the crew on the shuttle and the ground crew.
Any errors in grammar, spelling and tone are due to my uncaffinated state. Getting my breakfast apple and Dew now.

Re:Whether or not it is ethical? (1)

Mifflesticks (473216) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065822)

It's also our tax dollars.

"It causes one to wonder" (1, Offtopic)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065413)

No, it does not cause me to wonder, it causes YOU to wonder. Please leave the passive-voice editorializing out of this... or was this a feeble attempt by an Editor to actually edit?

Old news - Shuttle to launch Friday monrning (2, Informative)

CaptSolo (899152) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065421)

The shuttle Atlantis is set for liftoff from NASA's Kennedy Space Center at 11:41 a.m. EDT this morning. This "news post" is a little delayed. See NASA Launch Blog [nasa.gov] and NASA Online TV for up-to-date info.

Not a short in the fuel cell (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16065436)

It's not a short in the fuel cell. Its a short in 1 phase of a 3 phase pump motor that supplies coolant to the fuel cell. The pump is currently limping along on 2 phases. If this pump looses another phase, it will be unable to pump and the fuel cell must be shutdown within 9 minutes. With the loss of 1 fuel cell, the mission must be aborted, and shuttle return to earth.

Nasa has said in the past that it would be unsafe to retreve the hubble and bring it back to earth because of its weight causing problems during landing. The truss that is currently in the shuttle weighs much more than the hubble. If they had to abort the mission before they can get to ISS to atleast offload the truss, they would probably have to ditch it in order to land safely. This would be a major setback for the ISS.

Mod article down? (2, Insightful)

moracity (925736) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065438)

Slashdot needs article moderation ala digg. This article is two days old and confusing considering TODAY'S launch is still on as of right now.

Re:Mod article down? (1)

chrismcdirty (677039) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065712)

Too bad digg got rid of their "Old news" article moderation.

Rats (1)

thorkyl (739500) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065474)

I was going to watch it, now I guess I will just have to see it today.

MS SpaceShuttle (1)

Koohoolinn (721622) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065494)

Delay after delay and when it is finally in space they experience problem after problem.

Looks a lot like a Micro$oft product to me.

That was yesterday..... (1)

Chanc_Gorkon (94133) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065516)

Atlantis is T minus 2 hours and 30 minutes from launch and still counting as I post this. They were delayed YESTERDAY! Did the frickin editor READ the story??

The Safety is for the Vehicle, not the Crew (1)

xHeliosx (1001249) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065559)

Everyone is always trying to stress that we need to be careful not to put the lives of the shuttle crew at risk. I find that odd because the pilots and commanders probably dropped bombs over Baghdad in 1991. Where is the concern for human life there? I like the crew, but the extra safety is really about the multimillion-dollar vehicle. If shuttles were as numerous as F-16s, Columbia would have been a page 3 story long forgotten by 2006.

Re:The Safety is for the Vehicle, not the Crew (1)

sobachatina (635055) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065852)

While I can appreciate your cynicism I don't think it is only out of concern for the vehicle that they delay.

Even if you suspect that no one values the lives of the pilots just for the humanity of it there are practical reasons to be worried about killing astronauts:

  1. It would create significant negative press for NASA which could jeopardize future funding.
  2. It is more expensive than you might expect to train astronauts. I don't know actual figures but this article [usatoday.com] suggests millions of dollars of training each which is what I would expect considering similarly high costs of training fighter pilots.

Re:The Safety is for the Vehicle, not the Crew (1)

xHeliosx (1001249) | more than 8 years ago | (#16066251)

1. The "negative press" of the last two shuttle disasters has increased funding. Funding gets cut when things are "routine". 2. It costs millions of dollars a day to delay shuttle flights, which far outweighs training costs. Most everything in the shuttle is triple redundant. I'd ride on a shuttle even if it lost all of its backup systems. Why? Because there are only two outcomes: 1. Everything works fine and it turns out to be a memorable trip. 2. I die in the most spectacular way possible, and my family receives hundreds of thousands of dollars from grieving citizens that would otherwise have not given a flip about me. And I get on TV for a few weeks, posthumously. People do care about the crew, I care. However, they are not the MAIN reason why there is so much talk of safety. You can replace crew, you can't replace shuttles (as easily). It seems like a double standard that crew safety is always cited, no one seems to take notice, or send money to the families of pilots and crew that die in a helo accident in Afghanistan. I wish the crew the best, but you don't get ahead by being as safe as possible.

Lightning? Phht. I know the fix... (2, Funny)

AsnFkr (545033) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065585)

SCE to Aux.

Re:Lightning? Phht. I know the fix... (3, Interesting)

zerocool^ (112121) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065636)


The poster of the above comment is a friend of mine, aside from being a pre-space shuttle space program junkie and also a big fan of apollo 12, and he explains the above post as this (over IM):


HIM: man, im a fucking dork.
ME: how's that?
HIM: http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=196049 &cid=16065585 [slashdot.org]
HIM: gotta read the story
HIM: problem is, no one at /. is gonna get it.
HIM: basically, like 90 seconds into the apollo 12 flight it was hit by lightning and the entire computer stopped working
HIM: the fix was a switch labled SCE, and to flip it to aux to basically power cycle the computer.
ME: heh
ME: you know your shit.
HIM: Apollo 12 is the shit.
HIM: its my specialty.
HIM: haha
HIM: im *that* guy on /. that has a absurd amount of knowedge about one small area of things that are discussed.
HIM: and its useless information.


I figured those of us who haven't spent weeks in the Air and Space museum, or read the audio transcripts from all available NASA flights, would want an explanation.

~Wx

Redundant redundant shuttle wiring (1)

Triode (127874) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065608)

I had a friend that did a few electrical engineering interns at NASA, and he was a good engineer.
He was once told by a Sr. Engineer that you could take the schematic of the elctrical control
system of the entire shuttle and draw a huge X anywhere you want on it, at random or not, then go out
to the shuttle and cut every wire that the X crossed and all systems on the shuttle would still function
100% due to the massive amount of redundancy built into the system.

My friend said after seeing most of the schematics for the shuttle, he belives the above statement
to be true.

Now if only my software could be so robust... or is it my coffee?

Life Will Never Be Like Star Trek (2, Funny)

aplusjimages (939458) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065726)

They should make a Star Trek show that is realistic. The crew never fights other species, but instead are constantly doing maintenance work on the ship. The whole show takes place only 200 miles from Earth because that's as far as they can go before something goes wrong.

It can start off with a captains log, but there's a computer error, so he never gets to complete it. Instead he calls IT to fix the problem. While that's going on the viewer is taken to the engine room where there are all sorts of problems.

I see it as a drama/comedy. There could even be a sick bay that is constantly busy, but the doctors have enough time to have love triangles and all sorts of personal drama amongst the already suspensful disasters.

This is outrageos !!! (1)

proudlyindian (781206) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065825)

This is so lame !! I am writing this from the space shuttle itself !! i hate slashdot :P

Vista (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#16065900)

They must be waiting for a Vista upgrade

NASA and the Millennium Falcon (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 8 years ago | (#16065904)

The scene in Star Wars IV where Hans Solo's ship sputters when he trys to take it to light speed reminds me of NASA's three stooges attempts. Too bad NASA lacks a "Chewie" who can punch the right bulkhead and get things running again.

As if . . . (1)

m0masb0y (469149) | more than 8 years ago | (#16066003)

Fuel cells are not batteries. If a fuel cell gets shorted out, it can explode. And it isn't like a car battery exploding. Eagle Pitcher makes fuel cells for space applications. When a fuel cell would short out at the plant, it would level a city block when it exploded.

So, yes, it is considered a good idea to replace a fuel cell with a short in it.
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