Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Houston, We Have a Drinking Problem

CowboyNeal posted more than 7 years ago | from the it's-hard-to-call-a-cab-in-space dept.

NASA 138

Pcol writes "Aviation Week reports that astronauts were allowed to fly on at least two occasions after flight surgeons and other astronauts warned they were so intoxicated that they posed a flight-safety risk. A review panel, convened in the wake of the Lisa Nowak arrest to review astronaut medical and psychological screening, also reported "heavy use of alcohol" by astronauts before launch, within the standard 12-hour "bottle to throttle" rule applied to NASA flight crew members. Dr. Jonathan Clark, a former NASA flight surgeon, says it's a tradition for crew members to gather for a barbecue on the eve of a shuttle launch, and these gatherings sometimes include alcohol and a toast but that the greater problem is that preparation before a flight can leave astronauts sleep-deprived and overworked. Meanwhile at Frenchie's Italian Restaurant, a popular astronaut hangout in Houston, owner Frankie Camera disputed the reports: "The Mercury astronauts may have been a little more wild (than later ones) but I did banquets for them and never really saw any of them drink so much they were out of control or drunk.""

cancel ×

138 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

I don't know if you will be able to comprehend (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20022447)

But on the moon, blood alcohol is one-third of what is on Earth.

Re:I don't know if you will be able to comprehend (0, Offtopic)

richlv (778496) | more than 7 years ago | (#20023677)

bleh. so many comments and nobody mentioned bad astronaut ?
http://www.interpunk.com/item.cfm?Item=86168 [interpunk.com]

cover picture is nice :)

Re:I don't know if you will be able to comprehend (1)

WED Fan (911325) | more than 7 years ago | (#20024697)

F*ck that noise. You strap yourself into a seat that is attached to a liquid rocket tank and boosted by a bunch of solid rocket fuel and tell me your punk ass wouldn't go up half lit.

These guys are heros, American and otherwise.

Most on /. would give their left nut and right hand to go up into space, but most of those would sh!t themselves silly when the engines light off.

Is launching a shuttle so difficult? (4, Insightful)

joshv (13017) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022457)

My impression is that the Shuttle either gets to orbit on auto-pilot, entirely computer controlled, or it explodes. It's not like anyone is "steering" the thing manually, or pushing buttons in carefully timed sequences.

Now landing requires a bit of skill, but unless they have been nipping at the massive stash of Russian Vodka on the space station, they will have sobered up by landing time.

Re:Is launching a shuttle so difficult? (4, Funny)

Konster (252488) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022485)

Or an drunk astronaut decides to start mashing buttons just for fun...

Re:Is launching a shuttle so difficult? (3, Interesting)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022493)

Are astronauts fully conscious during take-off? Are you actually able to do anything at all under these high g-forces? Then again, doing work that requires skill and concentration the next day (and in-space time is limited, so you can't really take an easy day) with a hangover might be not so stimulating.

Re:Is launching a shuttle so difficult? (0)

joshv (13017) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022513)

Skill and concentration? Taking notes on some high school "what do spiders do in space" experiment?

Though having a hangover during an EVA would probably be pretty trippy. "Jesus, could somebody turn the Sun down!"

Re:Is launching a shuttle so difficult? (1)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022877)

Shuttle pilots experience less than 4gs during takeoff - That's not onerous to deal with.

Re:Is launching a shuttle so difficult? (4, Interesting)

blantonl (784786) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022543)

It probably is a "pull string go boom" situation for the launch.

HOWEVER... when something goes wrong and manual intervention is required (such as a breakaway), then there are provisions to have the shuttle land at emergency designated airfields. If you are three-sheets to the wind, and you are now forced to execute a procedure that you've never done before, under high stress conditions, then there is going to be a problem.

If you look at all the different emergency landing sites below, you'll see there is a lot of work and split second decisions to be made during launch:

http://www.globalsecurity.org/space/facility/sts-e ls.htm [globalsecurity.org]

Re:Is launching a shuttle so difficult? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20022887)

It's great to see hundreds of slashtards posting about something they know nothing of. There are very few situations that the pilot and crew have not already seen in the simulator. They have the simulator for a reason. Every survivable abort profile is practiced. If you read the report instead of listened to the bullshit on CNN, you'd have seen that the problem is not Alcohol, it's high intensity people who routinely work to the limits. They're largely drawn from military pilots and they act just the same. High intensity people don't do down time well. While the whining fatasses on slashdot talk about how bad it is that they had a toast the night before going flying, realize that they're riding a hell of a bomb, and they're going to get everything perfect.

and yes, I am a military pilot.

Re:Is launching a shuttle so difficult? (1)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 7 years ago | (#20023001)

Thank you. I for one would probably HAVE to have a good buzz on to let someone seal me into a tin can strapped to a giant bomb.

Re:Is launching a shuttle so difficult? (1)

2sheds (78194) | more than 7 years ago | (#20023161)

> a tin can strapped to a giant bomb. ...built by the lowest bidder.

Re:Is launching a shuttle so difficult? (4, Interesting)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 7 years ago | (#20025665)

Um, excuse me Mr. "Military Pilot", but in this case we're not talking about pilots who "had a toast the night before going flying", but rather about astronauts who the flight surgeon said were too drunk to fly but who were cleared for takeoff anyway.

I don't think these cases say anything about the quality of the astronauts as much as describe how the wheels are coming off over at NASA. Ultimately, you've got a bunch of first-rate scientists and extremely brave and talented pilots who are stuck in a program that's become the poor stepchild of our government. NASA is caught between malicious neglect and hostility against science.

After all, the Apollo program was a demonstration of something that a government can do better than anyone else, and the people in power at the moment hate government. If it was up to them, the entire space program would consist of private industry racing to grab parts of space in order to make a ton of money. I know this is heresy to the "free market capitalist radicals" but there are some things in this world that are too important to put in the hands of private industry looking to make a profit.

We're seeing an effort to dismantle the space program while still looking like macho cowboys. Think of how far that $1 trillion that we've flushed down the Iraq War Commode could have gone if applied to research and exploration. We may still have space exploration, if only to provide tax havens for multinational megacorps and marketing opportunities for pharmaceutical companies.

If someone would have told me in 1972 that Apollo 17 was going to be the last mission to the moon in over 35 years I never would have believed it. But to the trifecta of Nixon, Reagan and Bush, the space program was too much "big government" and instead they plowed their huge deficits into Cold War I (the Global War on Communism) and Cold War II (aka the "Global War on Terror"). Unless they had found oil on the Moon they weren't going to bother. Nowadays, I think there's the added difficulty for the current anti-science administration of the Space Program being just a little too "secular", if you know what I mean. Face it, you can't be sending men into space when you're trying to convince everyone the world is flat.

Re:Is launching a shuttle so difficult? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#20023959)

then there are provisions to have the shuttle land at emergency designated airfields. If you are three-sheets to the wind, and you are now forced to execute a procedure that you've never done before, under high stress conditions
1. Astronaut Pilots spend day after day in the simulator to go through every possible failure scenario imaginable.

2. You've contradicted yourself.
"there are provisions" and "execute a procedure that you've never done before" are mutually exclusive statements. If "there are provisions" for a problem during launch, then the astronauts have practiced it over and over.

Not to mention that all pilots are graduates of either the Air Force or Navy Test Pilot School and heck, many of the mission specialists are former test pilots too.

They can handle high stress, don't worry ;-)

Re:Is launching a shuttle so difficult? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20022913)

I worked on shuttle GN&C software for 7 years written mainly in HAL/S and about 20 other assorted languages if you count test scripts, DFG, I-LOAD, K-LOAD, etc.... Haven't been there since 1995 when I entered the private consulting business.

For a nominal launch, astronauts just sit there. All the talk is just that, talk. Until the SRBs are gone, it is a very bumpy ride I've been told. It is likely they've been sitting there upside down for over 4 hours, more likely 6+. I don't know about you, but my legs would have gone asleep after 20 minutes. They wear pressure suites, not G-suites, in case someone was going to say that would keep their legs from going to sleep.

For any type of abort, the pilot and copilot will need to do something - push buttons, grab the stick, push more buttons and lower the landing gear. I didn't see in the report or on NASA select yesterday where anyone was identified as pilot, copilot or mission specialists.

Ok, back when I was working on the 3-engine out project with, I don't know, 4 other folks, writing modules to handle this catasprophy, we decided to have an "offsite team building exercise." That's code for mid-afternoon meeting at a local bar. A few of us were in there when an astronaut - not known to me, but known by a coworker that had a plane - came over. He exchanged niceties and we described what we were working on - 3 engine out scenarios. The response? A direct quote, "Hell, your just gonna die anyways." To which my freind responded, "Yes, but now it will be automated."

Ok, most of the big software projects after challenger were "safety" related - what a waste of time and money. Imagine you've been sitting upside down for 4-8+ hours. Something bad happens, the vehicle is spinning in ways it never was meant to spin. Suppose, just suppose you aren't unconcious (very unlikely) due to the spinning and G-forces. Try to unbuckle, get out of your seat, crawl, fly, walk, whatever in a dark enclosure to the "pole". Someone has to deploy the pole, next click yourself to that pole and slide out it. You're still spinning. Whatever is left of the shuttle is trying to keep the vehicle stead and oriented like an aircraft on the ground. GOOD LUCK with that.

As far as automatic landing is concerned - the shuttle GN&C software has had the ability to do that since before 1989 - probably long before that. The **only** manual item left to be performed is lowering the landing gear. This part of the software has never been used on a mission, though it is part of every OPS 3 load. Think about it. You train and train as an astronuat for years, you finally get a flight - usually just 1. I doubt it is even discussed whether the computers will land or not. One chance, what would you do? I'd grab that stick and land that bugger myself.

Oh - and Frenchy's sandwiches were FANTASTIC!!! I miss them. I worked in a building across NASA Rd. 1 behind the Shipley's donuts and had lunch at Frenchy's 2-3 times a month. Also check out the Seabrook Classic Cafe when you're down that way - Tuesday was Chicken Fried Chicken special day!

spam in a can (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20023837)

One chance, what would you do? I'd grab that stick and land that bugger myself



One Shuttle pilot did just that. It was maybe the 2nd or 3rd mission. But he was an extraordinary man.


You should read, then see, Animal House in Space, the Right Stuff. Tom Wolffe may have been an idiot newspaper reporter and liberal, but he captured the no bullshit attitude of a jet pilot perfectly.

Re:Is launching a shuttle so difficult? (1)

TrappedByMyself (861094) | more than 7 years ago | (#20025715)

You do realize that a shuttle trip requires astronauts to do more than just sit and stare at the autopilot?
Think about any work or school project you ever worked on. How are things as the deadline approaches? On even simple things there is always stress near the end. Now.. imagine you're being launched into the sky with millions of dollars worth of projects at stake and any mistake you make could potentially kill everyone.

Obligatory Zefram Cochrane quote (5, Funny)

sexybomber (740588) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022489)

"You think I'm going up in that thing sober?"

Re:Obligatory Zefram Cochrane quote (3, Informative)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022909)

Considering that, on average, they have a 1 in 50 chance of going "BOOM!" or other disaster, and that the shuttle fleet ain't getting any younger ...

NASA originally estimated the odds of a disaster as being as low as 1 in 100,000. Even their current "guestimate" of 1 in 100 is off by half.

Re:Obligatory Zefram Cochrane quote (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#20023107)

Even their current "guestimate" of 1 in 100 is off by half.

Not necessarily -- there haven't been enough missions to prove or disprove their current estimate. Let's say you have a 1 in 10,000 estimated chance of getting in a car accident on a given trip. You drive to the store, get in an accident. Next day, someone crashes into your rental car. Does this make cars 100% likely to crash? No.

-b.

Re:Obligatory Zefram Cochrane quote (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 7 years ago | (#20023831)

The best "current guess" is 1 in 76 [celestialdelights.info]

Actual performance is 1 in 56. Either one is a LOT more realistic than what NASA originally claimed before the Challenger disaster, which was 1 in 100,000. That was even more ridiculous than those million-hour MTBF estimates for hard disks, when you consider that a million-hour MTBF drive that fails after 10,000 hours is off by 2 orders of magnitude, but NASA was off by more than 4 orders of magnitude.

1 in 56 ... that's a heck of a lot less than 1 in 100,000.

Then there's stupidity like this [space.com]

Ranging in diameter from 19 to 40 inches, the tanks have lightweight titanium or steel shells wrapped with the same type of fabric used to make bulletproof vests -- Kevlar -- or carbon graphite. They hold helium and nitrogen gas at extremely high pressures (up to 4,600 pounds per square inch) and are extraordinarily dangerous.

"You certainly wouldn't want a 4-foot-diameter helium bottle that's pressurized to about 4,000 psia to burst on you," Hale said. "That would be a bad thing."

A tank rupture on the ground could lead to a fire or explosion that could injure or kill workers in the launch pad area. A failure in flight could lead to the loss of a shuttle and the astronauts inside.

Built for NASA in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the copper-colored spheres were designed, developed, manufactured and tested for 10 years of shuttle fleet operations.

The NASA records show that proper engineering analyses were done in 1988 to certify the tanks for an additional decade of use. But no subsequent recertification was done in 1998 when the agency's extended warranty expired.

NASA engineers raised questions about the tanks, which are named Composite Overwrap Pressure Vessels, as the agency was struggling to return the shuttle fleet to service after the 2003 Columbia accident.

The aerospace industry already had expressed concern about the structural integrity of similar tanks on satellites and aircraft, and the agency's newly anointed NASA Engineering and Safety Center took up the cause in 2004.

The safety center's engineers concluded the orbiter tanks are much more likely to fail than NASA previously thought.

Past NASA analyses assumed the tanks would leak before they burst. New studies and tests show that they would explode before they leaked, increasing the hazard considerably.

In other words, the shuttles fly with parts that are at almost 300% of their original design lifespan, that are over their "recertified" 20-year lifespan by almost 50%, and, if they fail, can kill.

This is the "new NASA?" Sounds like the NASA of the 80's and '90s to me. Too bad the "Old NASA" of the '60s is no more. Odds now are about 1 in 3 that we'll see another disaster before STS-132 completes the mission series.

Re:Obligatory Zefram Cochrane quote (2, Informative)

mollymoo (202721) | more than 7 years ago | (#20024683)

An MTBF of 1 000 000 hours does not mean an average disk lasts 1 000 000 hours. Disks also have a lifetime rating - perhaps 25 000 hours for a consumer drive. The MTBF generally means that during the design lifetime, on average one disk will fail for every 1 000 000 hours of use. For a 25 000 hour lifetime, that means that 2.5% of drives will fail during their design lifetime, which is pretty close to the numbers I've seen in large-scale studies. After the design lifetime, all bets are off. No drive will last 1 000 000 hours of operation and no drive manufacturer claims they will.

Re:Obligatory Zefram Cochrane quote (1)

bhodikhan (894485) | more than 7 years ago | (#20023539)

Actually as I recall the original design determined the odds to be 1 in 25 flights. Which as we've seen was a good estimate unfortunately.

Re:Obligatory Zefram Cochrane quote (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 7 years ago | (#20023851)

Your memory is close - the original design called for no more than 25 flights per shuttle, with a fleet of 8 shuttles to be rotated. This was changed to 100 flights per shuttle, with a fleet of 4, to justify the "lowered costs" of shuttle missions, which has proven wildly optimistic. Turns out that it was cheaper to use expendable boosters.

Re:Obligatory Zefram Cochrane quote (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#20024911)

If they really wanted to make things safe for the astronauts, they would have designed a ship specifically to carry people, and only people. Then, launch them into space, and launch the cargo on a separate cargo/heavy lifter rocket. Instead they designed the shuttle which isn't optimal for carrying people, or cargo, and hence, is terrible at both.

Re:Obligatory Zefram Cochrane quote (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#20024887)

However, if the odds are 1 in 100,000, and you do 56 missions, what are the odds that one of those will crash. It's about 1 in 1800 if my calculations are correct. That's .05%. Now, that's not highly likely, but it's not like it requires the Heart of Gold to obtain that kind of probability.

character (1)

SolusSD (680489) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022491)

I really expected more from our astronauts. These guys were top of their classes their entire lives, why would they choose to drink right before the launch? Kinda seems like the worst time-- unless they're expecting things to go badly i guess, but i would rather be alert in ready in that situation.

Re:character (1)

ianare (1132971) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022523)

I really expected more from our astronauts.
Yeah me too. By now I thought for sure we would get reports of the first drunken orgy in space!

Re:character (2, Funny)

SolusSD (680489) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022541)

or at least a love triangle related murder of passion.

Re:character (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20022549)

I really expected more from our astronauts. These guys were top of their classes their entire lives, why would they choose to drink right before the launch? Kinda seems like the worst time-- unless they're expecting things to go badly i guess, but i would rather be alert in ready in that situation.

Probably for the same reason you expect actors and pop stars to be always slim, perfect skin and really hot. So when you see them without make-up, it's some sort of rationale to laugh at them.

Well, we're all people, astronauts just happen to have a very very demanding job and be in the spotlights more than your everyday doorman. They aren't "heroes", they also drink (and even pee, which poses a curious problem in space as you may know).

Re:character (1)

SolusSD (680489) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022633)

NO! SHUTUP! Astronauts to _not_ pee! that is insulting!
but really-- what i'm getting at is... if i spent my entire life preparing for those days i get in space i wouldn't fuck it up drinking and getting _drunk_ right before the launch. Within the 12 hours before the launch is just _stupid_.

Re:character (1)

perturbed1 (1086477) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022881)

This AC is right on track. It is an awfully tough job, requires years and years of training. And then you have to get into this tiny little capsule and do not have much to do unless something goes wrong! Imagine having trained for something for 5-6 years and having waited 5-6 years for the flight, and then finally, you are about to ride on a massive mostly-uncontrolled explosion... Only if something goes wrong, you get to do something! Your fate is in the hands of others and of nature.

Personally, I know that I would need a stiff drink before that -- and well, there goes another reason why I am not an astronaut -- but I know a few astronauts and I know they have nerves made of steel... I doubt that such drinking is common among astronauts -- though I would bet that it is common place for cosmonauts! The other question here is, what it means to be "drunk". Maybe the limits are tighter than those for driving a vehicle? If you have one shot of whiskey before launch, does that make you "drunk" by NASA standards?

Drink or get drunk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20022599)

To drink or to get drunk? One or two drinks the evening before isn't a terrible reflection on character. Also, until we know the details, we can't really say how drunk they were--maybe a flight surgeon was rather conservative, and CHOA by reporting a potential problem: that's not a great reflection on the astronauts, but it might not be as terrible as we think.

Re:character (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20022653)

I really expected more from our astronauts. These guys were top of their classes their entire lives, why would they choose to drink right before the launch?


Don't be so hard on them. After all they are heroes of our time. Alcohol was used just to overcome some side-effects from heroine addiction.

Re:character (3, Informative)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022891)

You don't know a lot about fighter jocks, do you? Read Tom Wolfe's "The Right Stuff", and this story immediately becomes a lot less puzzling.

Re:character (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20025145)

You must be new here. The truth is not appreciated by the slashtards. You would have done better by blaming Bush.

Re:character (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20025199)

Really!? Unlike the other guy who mentioned The Right Stuff and dismissively called the author a 'liberal'. As if being a liberal somehow made his work less than if he had been a republican or a libertardian.

Re:character (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20025643)

I don't recall reading girl astronuats wearing diapers while chasing after fellow astros and their other ho's. NASA has become a white trash ghetto. NASA is now just another another liberal governemnet agency that bottom dwells - and not at all close to the "right stuff" crowd.

because of people like you, basically (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20023829)

you hold them up to this brutal standard, they watch dozens (if not hundreds) of other people fail tests that they pass, then they are expected to act like superhuman beings, no sleep, no rest, crazy lives, etc.

its pretty simple. its stress. every person has a breaking point, you should feel lucky you havent met yours, but until you understand that simple fact, you are going to keep acting 'surprised' when the system pushes other people past theirs.

Re:character (1)

Charcharodon (611187) | more than 7 years ago | (#20023983)

:) You don't know much about pilot's then do you?

These guys may be proffessionals, but they also tend to have A-type personalities, and that includes "the rules don't apply to me because I'm a pro" attitude to go along with it.

Besides alcohol is the least of NASA's worries, most of these guys probably don't sleep for a day or two before launch due to the excitement/stress level they're under. Personally I'll take the guy that's a little on the drunk side, but who has been sleeping all week over the guy who has enough coffee and Red-Bull in him so that doesn't need the Shuttle to make it to orbit.

NASA-holes (2, Funny)

ianare (1132971) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022501)

What's next at NASA, a crazy love triangle [bbc.co.uk] ? Oh wait ...

A luanch is like marriage (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022505)

You never know if you'll come out of it alive. Party on. Heh, in marriage you don't want to come out of it alive..."Till death do us part"?

You mean..... (3, Funny)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022533)

Paris Hilton and Nicohol Richie could pass a flight medical test? What's next Keith Richards passing a flight readness test?

Re:You mean..... (1)

iamdrscience (541136) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022937)

What's next Keith Richards passing a flight readness test?
As long as there are no coconut palms on board the ship he'd probably do alright.

Re:You mean..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20023199)

"Paris Hilton and Nicohol Richie could pass a flight medical test?"

If the flight were one way I'd contribute to a fund to get them launched.

Re:You mean..... (1)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 7 years ago | (#20023955)

Keith doesn't need a shuttle.

it affects reaction times (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20022561)

> I did banquets for them and never really saw any of them drink so much they were out of control or drunk.""

You don't have to be that intoxicated to pose a safety risk. If you can't perform a task flawlessly on cue

Re:it affects reaction times (3, Insightful)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 7 years ago | (#20023423)

> I did banquets for them and never really saw any of them drink so much they were out of control or drunk.""

You don't have to be that intoxicated to pose a safety risk. If you can't perform a task flawlessly on cue
People have this strange idea that being an astronaut in the space shuttle is the same thing as being an astronaut in the 60's. With the exception of the landing gear lowering, space shuttle flights are entirely automated. There's a lot of "what if" talk bandied about, but the systems are refined enough that the only problems we see are catastrophic and inescapable. We don't have malfunctioning attitude thrusters that have to be countered manually the keep the capsule from spinning out of control (Gemini 8), or wonky abort switches that have to be disabled by reprogramming the LM computer on the fly, while landing on the moon (Apollo 14). Those guys had to be sharp, calm, and well trained. The space shuttle is a freakin' self-driving bus. Just like modern airline pilots aren't all Chuck Yeager in the X-1, likewise modern astronauts aren't Lovell, Swigert, and Haise bringing Apollo 13 back largely under manual control.

Re:it affects reaction times (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20025557)

Without denigrating the Shuttle, flying an entry is a little more complicated than just waiting to extend the landing gear. They normally take manual control around Mach 1 (80,000 ft or so) and get one shot to put the glider down, on a 20 degree glide slope, at around 200 knots. Maybe not up to your standards but still a nifty piece of flying.

Draft vs Bottles: Compare and Contrast. (5, Funny)

uncamarty (245075) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022573)

FTA: "A panel member said Wednesday the report was still in draft form..."
Me, I'd prefer the bottled version...
Of course, I'd have to read it quickly, because of the 12 hour "throttle the bottle" rule. Dang - got that the wrong way around again!

The common factor is simply that we are all ...... (3, Insightful)

3seas (184403) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022587)

... human.

It does not matter if you are an illegal alien residing in the US, a lawyer, a carpenter, a musician, a doctor, a nuclear reactor operator, a judge, a member of clergy, a CEO at a super major company, a richest man or second richest man, the ruler of a country...etc...

we are all capable of being stupid, dishonest and deadly. Usually its a choice!

Re:The common factor is simply that we are all ... (1)

$0.02 (618911) | more than 7 years ago | (#20023373)

That's why we need to send more robots and less people in space mission. Opportunity and Spirit are still sober after all these Martian days.

Mod parent up! For reasons of logic and sanity (2, Interesting)

SpzToid (869795) | more than 7 years ago | (#20023465)

Seriously, why on earth do we spend considerably more for manned missions than unmanned, while the unmanned yield so much more truly valuable science? We've *been* beyond our solar system folks. Wake up already.

Also, every thing costs. It is sooo much cheaper to send only sensors, or returnable capsules with our critical zero-G experiments. Why afford the human costs? (and space is a hostile environment).

And Bush's silly pitch to Mars. Why so soon? It'll wait until we get our act together.

I vote robotic sensors, With vibration feedback.

Spam in a Can (1)

smchris (464899) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022623)

Harsh reality. Couldn't they send half the crew up passed-out and they wouldn't know what hit them in case of an explosion? Or are they _all_ doing crucial pre-flight check-offs?

But you have to figure a case of the twirlies in space will be a future CIA "harsh interrogation" technique.

Re:Spam in a Can (1)

uncamarty (245075) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022739)

No, lets take this further...
Half the problem with starting a tourists-in-space is the cost and weight penalty of the couches/chairs for the passengers. Here's my solution:

First, you get the tourists drunker than a parrot on a bender,
Next, load the blighters into a container, then into the cargo bay with a forklift,
Once in orbit, use the handy-dandy-remote-controlled-arm-thingy to swing the container out to docking position with the Hilton-in-the-Sky Hotel that's been handily placed there...
Wait until the poor souls recover and herd 'em into the lobby!

What effect would this have on the tourists? who cares - they wouldn't feel a thing!

Re:Spam in a Can (1)

Oktober Sunset (838224) | more than 7 years ago | (#20023853)

or even cheaper, lace the booze with LSD, put them in a box with a window, shake it a bit in a dark warehouse and then hold a giant photo of earth from orbit against the window.

The chumps would be too tripped out to realise the difference.

Obligatory (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20022635)

Ever fly the shuttle... ON WEED??

They oughta be punished (5, Funny)

sayfawa (1099071) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022657)

If I were in charge they would get punished hard. As in torture. yeah, that's right, torture. First I'd give them poison. Some kind that would give them a splitting headache, as if their brain is too big for their skulls. Then I'd surround them with some ear-splitting noise, not unlike the sound of rockets launching. Finally I'd give them some nausea inducing experience. Like how when you're on a plane and the altitude drops suddenly making you "weightless" for a second. But I'd make it last several days.

Yeah, that'd learn 'em not to get drunk before a shuttle mission.

Oh wait.

Re:They oughta be punished (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20022785)

I'd say that you know too much for your own good!

It's all about training... (1)

S.O.B. (136083) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022709)

The reason they can't fly the shuttle drunk is because they didn't learn to fly the shuttle drunk. I say get them plastered and put them in the simulator.

Re:It's all about training... (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 7 years ago | (#20023511)

The reason they can't fly the shuttle drunk is because they didn't learn to fly the shuttle drunk. I say get them plastered and put them in the simulator.
They don't actually fly the shuttle at all, so what's the difference?

mod parent up, please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20023529)

Pretty please?

Re:It's all about training... (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 7 years ago | (#20024435)

Sounds like a good game for the JSC Christmas party.

yoU FAIL it!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20022749)

The above is far worthwhile. It's 7hE official GAY These early from the FreeBSD end, we need you reformatted an arduous FreeBSD at about 80

Not exactly a slam dunk (1)

ceep (527600) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022757)

On Friday, the panel released some details of the drinking allegations, but emphasized that they were anecdotal and had not been corroborated. [...]

At a news conference here Friday, the panel's chairman, Colonel Bachmann, said via telephone hookup that the reason the anecdotal references to the drinking incidents were included in the report that the panel delivered to NASA was not to suggest that the agency necessarily had an alcohol problem, but to emphasize the importance of heeding flight surgeons.

The panel did not ask for details of the accounts, including reports of heavy alcohol use by astronauts immediately before flights, and does not know how any such episodes were resolved, he said.

"In none of these can we say factually they did or did not occur," he continued, adding that the panel's mission had been not to investigate allegations but to point out that health and safety concerns might have been ignored.
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/28/us/28nasa.html?_ r=1&th&emc=th&oref=slogin [nytimes.com]
Maybe it's worth waiting to see if this is actually a problem before we start calling it that? Just a thought ...

Re:Not exactly a slam dunk (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 7 years ago | (#20023221)

Please... It's a government agency being criticized on /.

Quickly tag it (1)

igny (716218) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022761)

BlameRussia

Houston? (1)

multi io (640409) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022781)

I thought they launch from Florida. What does it matter what some restaurant owner in Houston says about how much astronauts drink while off-duty? Or do they travel from Houston to then cape less than 12 hours before launch?

Re:Houston? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20025043)

I was just going to ask the same question... A Houston restaurant owner talking about the astronauts has no relevance to the situation in Florida before the launch. What's next someone who saw Senator Glenn (when he was a Senator) drinking at a fund raiser, claiming that astronauts are drunkards!?

Not everyone's a pilot (1)

slapyslapslap (995769) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022791)

I highly doubt that the crew members responsible for controlling the shuttle were plastered. If they were, then that's a problem.

As for the rest of them, so what? Given NASA's history, I'd need to get a little drunk to get the nerve to board the shuttle.

Re:Not everyone's a pilot (1)

perturbed1 (1086477) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022915)

I agree, especially when there are people who are sabotaging flight equipment! Who would do that and why??

Here is a link [npr.org] to the story.

Re:Not everyone's a pilot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20023009)

I know, can't you just see it now: swerving all over the sky and hitting another shuttle? Or maybe just plowing over a stop sign or something? Maybe they'd even run into some satelite or something driving in the wrong lane.

Re:Not everyone's a pilot (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 7 years ago | (#20023569)

I highly doubt that the crew members responsible for controlling the shuttle were plastered. If they were, then that's a problem.
Given that the crew members responsible for controlling the shuttle are multiple redundant computers, I'm fairly certain they don't drink at all. The STS is a damn self-driving bus. The only problems it's ever had were major structural failures that no amount of "piloting" could have avoided. I say give everyone a valium and a shot of tequila before loading 'em in the shuttle, so if something horrifyingly bad happens again, they can just lie back, relax, and wait for the end in comfort.

Nasa's lucky (3, Funny)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022805)

This could have been worse. It could have been a lot worse.
If those astronauts were drinking Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters, the shit really would have hit the fan.

Re:Nasa's lucky (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20024531)

"Drink up," said Ford, "you've got three pints to get through."

"Three pints?" said Arthur. "At lunchtime?"

The man next to ford grinned and nodded happily. Ford ignored him. He said, "Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so."

"Very deep," said Arthur, "you should send that in to the Reader's Digest. They've got a page for people like you."

"Drink up."

"Why three pints all of a sudden?"

"Muscle relaxant, you'll need it."

Already covere in Heavy Metal (1)

YankeeInExile (577704) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022825)

It's okay, man. If there's one thing I know, it's how to drive when I'm stoned. It's like, you know your perspective's fucked, so you just gotta let your hands work the controls as if you're straight.

Drunk Astronauts Have Never Been the Problem (2, Insightful)

freeweed (309734) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022871)

I don't know exactly how to phrase this, but...

It seems to me that so far it's been NASA's completely sober management decisions that have killed astronauts and lost shuttle equipment.

I'll start panicing about the astronauts having a few when they actually start affecting things. Makes me wonder just what kind of actually scary info is coming down the pipe from NASA, that they have to whip everyone into a frenzy with a story about OMG DRUNK ASTRONAUTS!!1

Re:Drunk Astronauts Have Never Been the Problem (1)

CraftyJack (1031736) | more than 7 years ago | (#20023383)

I'll start panicing about the astronauts having a few when they actually start affecting things.
One of the major lessons of Challenger was that it is a very bad idea to wait until a problem starts to actually affect things before taking corrective action.

Re:Drunk Astronauts Have Never Been the Problem (2, Insightful)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 7 years ago | (#20025769)

Makes me wonder just what kind of actually scary info is coming down the pipe from NASA, that they have to whip everyone into a frenzy with a story about OMG DRUNK ASTRONAUTS!!1
I doubt its anything so calculated. It's simply a reflection of NASA's culture. NASA is hyber-sensitive about "safety." Anything that even has the appearance of causing death or injury gets a lot of attention. It is a part of an overall "safety" culture NASA management is trying to foster; the idea being that keeping safety in mind with even little things creates a pervasive mindset that helps avoid big accidents as well. Part of that cultural push is the concept that anyone can bring to light issues and have them addressed.

It sounds like a good idea. But put through the beurocratic lens, it becomes something just short of a new form of insanity. A lot of paperwork, hand-wringing, meetings, and instructional courses get wrapped up in this "safety" exercise. Sometimes there's some good outcomes. Sometimes it seems like a lot of work for questionable return.

After all, even in this "safe" culture, we have catastrophic failures. Some would be hard to avoid. Some are really bad mistakes. And it seems that the bad mistakes are more due to a lack of accuracy than a mind for safety (you can only be so safe doing this kind of work). A coworker of mine (hi Bart) noted at lunch this week that we'd be better off if "accuracy" became the new "safety". I'm all for it. Although... I'm kind of wondering what it'd become once we put it under that beucrocratic lense.

One last note - "safety" at NASA so often seems to be much ado about nothing. This particular report offers no details - no flights, no names.... nothing that can be directly addressed. Maybe this is the whistleblower's warning and details will come to light once an investigation starts digging. But it could also be an overreaction spurred on by the current culture over yet another non-issue. I'll be very curious to see how it all play out.

Who wouldn't? (5, Insightful)

fishthegeek (943099) | more than 7 years ago | (#20022979)

1. 2 Solid state rockets at 3,300,000 Lbs of thrust each.
2. Odds of dying on a shuttle mission are about 1:100
3. The shuttles are at or over 20 years old.
4. 2.5 million individual parts on a space shuttle.
5. Knowledge that the shuttle was made by the lowest bidders.
6. You're on it.

Who the hell wouldn't need a drink to get through the work day in those conditions!

Re:Who wouldn't? (3, Funny)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 7 years ago | (#20023237)

If it helps, the orbiters are among the safest vehicles on a per passenger mile basis. It doesn't help that it moves at nearly 18,000 miles per hour though, picking up over 100k passenger miles an hour, so you really clock up the miles on a mission.

Re:Who wouldn't? (1)

clubhi (1086577) | more than 7 years ago | (#20023691)

The shuttle was most certainly not made by the lowest bidders. Perhaps this is the situation in your relationship to NASA, but I can assure you I have won contracts with NASA where I was at the top end of the bidding spectrum. Some of their project managers are very intelligent people, and know how to get the most bang for the buck.

Nope, the odds if dying are a "sobering" 1 in 59 (3, Interesting)

Mal Reynolds (676267) | more than 7 years ago | (#20023763)

There have only been 118 shuttles launched, two haven't returned. So the odds of dying in the shuttle are actually 1 in 59.

It's no wonder these guys wanted a drink before takeoff. But that in no way justifies NASA letting them drink before takeoff. The really troubling part is that to be drunk at take-off, they must have done their drinking in the locked down, pre-flight crew quarters. WTF?

Personally, I'm troubled by the reports that many of our astronauts are very heavy drinkers. I'm no tea totaler, but I don't drink on the job either. These guys and gals are not college kids, most are in their 30's, 40's and 50's. If they still feel the need to go out partying every night, maybe they should find another profession.

There are THOUSANDS of people in line for each of their jobs. Astronauts are supposed to be the best of the best. The culling process is supposed to be brutal. These revelations make NASA's astronaut selection process look a lot like an "old boys network".

Blue collar workers are routinely given drug and alcohol tests. Employees of our Intelligence Agencies are not given clearances if they are found to be heavy drinkers, even off the job. It seems to me that astronauts should be held to at least the standards of truck drivers, and should probably be held to the higher standards of our Intelligence Agency workers.

There are tens of thousands of Americans who would jump at the chance to be an astronaut. Very few would have a problem making it to work sober.

DUI (4, Funny)

skogula (931230) | more than 7 years ago | (#20023083)

So, are we going to see extradition papers come in so they can face DUI charges in every country they flew over?

Re:DUI (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 7 years ago | (#20025615)

No, since they are all just passengers. If you doubt that, ask yourself if astronauts can steer to fly over Portugal or over Greece when they are in the area. If they can't steer they are not in control.

Kamikaze pilots (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 7 years ago | (#20023175)

Well, the reliability of the shuttles are only marginally better than the Japanese flying bombs of WWII, so I don't blame them...

Bunk (4, Insightful)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#20023183)

All I can say is, FUD of the highest order. No astronaut in his/her right mind (Nowak notwithstanding) would be drunk on launch day. There are dozens of abort scenarios a Shuttle astronaut has to be ready for if something goes wrong and no astronaut would jeopardize their safety and the safety of their crewmates by being less than 100% ready to go. I also don't believe for a second that any Shuttle commander would let someone fly on their crew if they were inebriated.

NASA bashing has now become a fashionable side profession for some, especially with the emergence of private space flight ventures. Say what you will about NASA management (and there's plenty I'd like to say!) but they do the best they can with what they're given and it's only pressure from the US Government combined with a desire to return to the glory days that pushes them into decisions that can be called questionable. Hubris may play a role, but not as big a role as the constant need to justify their existence to a public that has become blasé about spaceflight.

Re:Bunk (1)

Renraku (518261) | more than 7 years ago | (#20024219)

Maybe all this is happening for a reason. You know, a reason for our government to say, "Well NASA costs too much money and all they do is sit around drinking..we spend billions so we can have a few hammered pilots in space." before dissolving NASA and selling its assets to the highest bidder.

Bush has quite a few days left, and he/his cronies could very well be up to this.

Astronauts? _Drinking?_ I am shocked, _shocked._ (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20023253)

It's hard to even imagine such a thing.

Why, it's as hard to imagine as a President's once being a cocaine user, a Tour de France winner using hormones, or a major evangelical pastor having had sex with a male prostitute.

Probably not entire story (5, Interesting)

cyclone96 (129449) | more than 7 years ago | (#20023255)

Reading the text of the actual report here [nasa.gov] the phrase used by the report is "preflight" alcohol use and "flight safety". It's not specific to a shuttle mission.

Keep in mind that astronauts do most of their "flying" in T-38's (two seaters that are often likened to "astronaut taxis"). It's quite possible that the specific incidents revolve around T-38 use. The image of an astronaut strapping into the shuttle after violating alcohol policy (which is much tighter on aircraft than cars) is almost unbelievable. It is not as much of a stretch to image someone who closed down a bar on Cocoa Beach the night before being tossed into the back seat of a T-38 at 8 AM to get them home with a sober pilot up front. Of course, this is still a safety risk (what if you have to eject?) and a violation of policy. There would be fewer people around that would notice as well since now you are talking about a couple of astronauts and maybe some airfield guys instead of the entire world watching.

I'm not saying that was what happened, but probably there has not been enough detail released to make a real judgment on what really went on (other than the local on-scene leadership overruled objections by flight surgeons and other astronauts on safety, which is I believe was the point the report was trying to get to).

Re:Probably not entire story (1)

vought (160908) | more than 7 years ago | (#20024139)

Thanks for making one of the most cogent and insightful posts about this entire hullabaloo. As a previous poster said, NASA bashing has become rather fashionable, and the inflammatory statements in the media and here at slashdot ("drunk" pilots, assuming that someone was drinking immediately before launch, etc.) put the whole thing in a sensational light.

To remind everyone: we're talking about detectable amounts of alcohol in the blood of someone on the shuttle. This is not a case of drunk pilots or mission specialists stumbling into the shuttle - but that's exactly the impression the public has been given because of media outlets that are bound by profits.

T-38 and Soyuz, not Space Shuttle (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 7 years ago | (#20025205)

Keep in mind that astronauts do most of their "flying" in T-38's (two seaters that are often likened to "astronaut taxis"). It's quite possible that the specific incidents revolve around T-38 use.

Some commentary from aerospace engineer Rand Simberg's Transterrestrial Musings [transterrestrial.com] seems to partially confirm this:

I haven't said anything about the "drunk astronauts" story, but I do think that it epitomizes the atrocious state of reporting on space (and any technical subject), in which it becomes sensationalized and drained of reality. Everyone assumes that the two incidents referred to were Shuttle launches, when the word I get is that it was a T-38 and a Soyuz flight. And of course it has become inflated from two (anecdotal) incidents to everyone doing shooters before each Shuttle flight. The real story, as Jim Oberg points out in this interview with a terminally clueless BBC reporter [youtube.com] , is the special treatment of astronauts, and the (lack of sufficient) power of the flight surgeons (at least in their minds) to ground them. Of course, this is a tough problem, as we saw in the Nowak case.

There is a natural antipathy between the astronauts and the flight surgeons. From an astronaut's point of view, an encounter with the latter can't have a good outcome. At best, it can be a neutral one. The default is that one's flight readiness is go. A flight surgeon can't improve that--they can only change it for the worse. If one is sick enough to need to get permission to go, it's unlikely to happen, since there are many trained backups, even for a given mission, who are fine. Recall Apollo XIII, when Ken Mattingly had to be replaced by Jack Swigert because he had merely been exposed to German measles, due to concern that he might come down with it during the mission. He ended up not getting them, and while the decision made sense, he had to feel frustrated (though obviously not as much as he would have had the mission been successful).

It's not a new problem, and it's not one likely to go away, but it would help if the media would treat it seriously. Not to mention soberly.

NASA = Need Another Seven Astronauts (0, Flamebait)

GoatRavisher (779902) | more than 7 years ago | (#20023493)

I can believe we continue to give money to these jokers. Most of the really innovative stuff is being done by private companies/individuals. Yet we keep pouring money into the NASA black hole.

Re:NASA = Need Another Seven Astronauts (1)

puto (533470) | more than 7 years ago | (#20025563)

You mean all of the innovative stuff based on research done by NASA over the years?

NASA might be a big lumbering beast, but without the incredible amount of science they have dumped into our laps the private companies and individuals would not even be near to where they are. And wait, the private companies and individuals have not made it into space.

And theres more. the Stuff we use in our every day lives, that came from NASA.

1.Kidney dialysis machines were developed as a result of a NASA developed chemical process that could remove toxic waste from used dialysis fluid.
2. Cat Scanner. Blame NASA for finding your tumor.

As a matter of fact, you might be kind of too young to remember Tang And Teflon.

The below link will show you all of the research that has filtered back into our lives. And we owe it all to NASA

http://techtran.msfc.nasa.gov/at_home.html

You sir, are a DOUCHEBAG.

It's an experiment (1)

origamy (807009) | more than 7 years ago | (#20023561)

To see how blood alcohol affects us in microgravity. They need to know about it because of the Mars/Moon missions. Or do you think they won't take any alcohol in the Mission to Mars or in the moon base?!

Seems this was known a long time ago... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#20023607)

Since this album (http://www.badastronaut.com/houston.html [badastronaut.com] ) was released in 2002!

It's not really all that credible. (3, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 7 years ago | (#20023689)

There's a lot of talk about this drinking business, but let's take a look here: Anonymous reports about non-specific astronauts. It's not really all that credible. Sounds more like sour grapes from some jealous worker bee.

A testament to Alcohol (1)

kibbled_bits (808617) | more than 7 years ago | (#20024405)

NASA endorsed and approved. What more is there to say about a drug than the fact it has been taken on NASA space missions with no complications. In all seriousness, while inappropriate if it's not the pilot I'm not sure it matters a whole lot because I didn't think they had to do a lot to get into orbit, it's mostly on the pilot if something goes wrong.

news? (1)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 7 years ago | (#20024949)

This isn't really new. After all, Ted Striker [imdb.com] had a little, ... "drinking problem", too,... He still managed to land his aircraft, ... in both movies!

"Jimmy, you ever seen a grown astronaut naked?"

Objects in MIR are Nearer than They Appear! (1)

Suzuran (163234) | more than 7 years ago | (#20025387)

To Steer a MIR you Clearly Need a Beer! (Have comrades got it?)

Slashdot, I am honestly ashamed that none of you has posted this yet!
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>