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Old 02-05-2003, 11:22 AM   #76
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I hate this story more than anything.

The more I think about it, the more I liken shuttle trips to Russian Roulette. NASA simply has no escape plan, no device for escape, no extra fuel, not technology for repairing broken tiles...

It is like they are blasting off a multi billion dollar object with humans on board into space, and hoping nothing goes wrong.

I for one would never volunteer to ride any vehicle NASA creates.



Consider the obstacles to a rescue once a shuttle has gone into orbit.
Columbia could not have traveled to the international space station because the orbiting platform was too far away. The shuttle was circling about 170 miles above the Earth, while the station was 240 miles high and in a different orbit. Columbia did not have enough propellant to bring it to the station, say NASA officials, only enough to push it into reentry.
“It would have been impossible with the fuel aboard,” NASA spokesman Petty said.
Moreover, even if Columbia had enough fuel to reach the station, it did not have the docking ports that would have allowed the crew to attach it to the platform.
The other three shuttles do have such capabilities, and NASA Deputy Associate Administrator Michael Kostelnik said yesterday that, “in hindsight, that is a good thought” — to include in future flight plans enough fuel and the right orbit to get a stricken shuttle to the station.
If ground control had concluded that Columbia was endangered by lost or damaged tiles after it had gone into orbit, it would have been extremely difficult to attempt a repair in space.
Columbia carried two suits and special backpacks that would have allowed astronauts to exit the orbiting craft and perform a spacewalk, but only within the shuttle’s open cargo bay. There was no robotic arm aboard Columbia, and there were no handholds on the wings.
Leaving the cargo bay and moving along the wings would have exposed an astronaut to tremendous risk — the stuff of movies. Even if an astronaut could reach a damaged site on an orbiter’s ceramic and aluminum skin, each tile on the shuttle is unique, like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. And the shuttle does not carry spare tiles, nor does its crew have the ability to make them in space.
Subra Suresh, head of the material science and engineering department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, imagined an astronaut trying to work on the bottom of a wing, without handholds or robotics, outside of the shuttle’s camera range.
‘It’s not like calling a cab.’
NASA spokesman, on prospect of sending up a rescue shuttle “These are just such tricky questions,” Suresh said. “If you try to fix a tile in space, if it has been cracked or is peeling away and you pull it off, what happens if another 50 tiles fall away into empty space?”
Could another shuttle, then, have blasted off to rescue the Columbia’s crew or assist in a repair?
After being in space for 16 days — a long shuttle flight — the Columbia crew had enough oxygen to survive for perhaps five or more days. But no two shuttles have ever been in orbit at the same time. Such a situation would put great strain on ground control operations.
Before the grounding of the shuttle fleet because of Saturday’s disaster, the shuttle Atlantis had been scheduled to lift off on March 1. But the orbiter and its rocket boosters are just now being assembled at Kennedy, and the process cannot be rushed, NASA officials said.
“It’s not like calling a cab,” said Petty, who described a slow, cautious and controlled process to prepare a shuttle for flight. Moreover, NASA managers would have been extremely fearful of rushing Atlantis into space and risking the loss of two vehicles. Getting Atlantis into orbit in a week would “not have been feasible,” Petty said.

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Old 02-05-2003, 11:45 AM   #77
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It looks like we are going to be left with more questions than answers.


"....But all I ever hear from you is "
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