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Old 02-03-2003, 08:26 PM   #1
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Questions about Columbia

I didnt want to talk about this in the other thread, as there was, and rightly so, a fair amount of grieving going on over there.

I am curious though, as to the decision to attempt re-entry. My understanding is that there was problems on takeoff, and the shuttle was significantly damaged.

I also understand that in space there is a space station where as we speak 3 astronauts are stationed.

So why did NASA attempt to bring the crew of the Columbia home on that damaged vessel?

Wouldn't it have been safer to leave them up there, and send another shuttle up to pick them up?

Couldn't the Columbia have docked there until it was repaired?

Anyone got any experience in how NASA does things?
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Old 02-03-2003, 08:49 PM   #2
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I also understand that in space there is a space station where as we speak 3 astronauts are stationed.

So why did NASA attempt to bring the crew of the Columbia home on that damaged vessel?

No other option.

Wouldn't it have been safer to leave them up there, and send another shuttle up to pick them up?


It would take too much time to get second shuttle in space.

Couldn't the Columbia have docked there until it was repaired?

Not enough food, water or oxygen. More importantly not enough fuel to get them to the station.

Anyone got any experience in how NASA does things?

No, I have read pages and pages about this. In the 70's when I moved into my first apartment I lived next door to an engineer who was working on developing the tiles.
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Old 02-03-2003, 09:09 PM   #3
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My understanding from all that I have read is that there was no way for them to dock with the space station. From watching the press conference, they did not think that there was any possibility that it was that damaged. The foam hitting the shuttle, was nothing new. It is also my understanding that they could not get out to inspect the wing, because the bay with the doors was not set up for them to space walk. Coming down was their only way home.
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Old 02-03-2003, 10:05 PM   #4
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The Columbia was not designed to dock with the International Space Station. The Space Station was also in an entirely different orbit than Columbia. It didn't have enough fuel to fly to the orbiting outpost.

--The only other options would have been another shuttle rescue, ie. having the Atlantis, which was the next shuttle available for use, sent up and have the astronauts space walk over to it. Verrrry dangerous. The Columbia might have been sustained on the little food and water they had. Theoretically, this could have worked, but Atlantis was not yet ready for launch, and no life saving activites of this sort had ever been simulated.

As well, NASA simply didn't think that this was going to be a problem. In October, a similar piece of foam fell and hit Atlantis and there were no signs of problems.

Any experience in this? I was going to be an astronaut for years. I've studied a lot space exploration.
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Old 02-03-2003, 10:12 PM   #5
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No, I have read pages and pages about this. In the 70's when I moved into my first apartment I lived next door to an engineer who was working on developing the tiles. [/B][/QUOTE]

how old are you? (I thought I was one of the oldest here at 30).
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Old 02-03-2003, 10:16 PM   #6
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I saw on the news last nite that even if they thought the foam damaged anything there wouldn't have been any way to rescue them.

Does anyone remember the movie Apollo 13? That was set in the 70's right? In that movie I thought someone said there isn't a way to rescue in space or something to that effect. You would think that 30 whatever years later and with all of the technology NASA has now, they would have fixed that problem. I wonder if they'll consider that now...
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Old 02-03-2003, 10:30 PM   #7
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Apollo 13 was intended to be the third mission to carry humans to the surface of the Moon, but an explosion of one of the oxygen tanks and resulting damage to other systems resulted in the mission being aborted before the planned lunar landing could take place. The crew, commander James A. Lovell, Jr., command module pilot John L. Swigert, Jr., and lunar module pilot Fred W. Haise Jr., were returned safely to Earth on 17 April 1970.
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Old 02-03-2003, 10:34 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by deep
Apollo 13 was intended to be the third mission to carry humans to the surface of the Moon, but an explosion of one of the oxygen tanks and resulting damage to other systems resulted in the mission being aborted before the planned lunar landing could take place. The crew, commander James A. Lovell, Jr., command module pilot John L. Swigert, Jr., and lunar module pilot Fred W. Haise Jr., were returned safely to Earth on 17 April 1970.
Oh I know they returned safely, I saw the movie, that wasn't my point. My point was that incident was 30 years ago and in all that time NASA still doesn't have a way to rescue anyone in space....
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Old 02-03-2003, 10:49 PM   #9
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No, there was no way to rescue astronauts in 1970 because the command module and lunar excursion modules were not designed to dock with any other type of space craft. It was 1970. They were only designed for one prupose: lunar landings.

There is the possibility of space rescue nowadays. I think the main thing is that NASA didn't believe the Columbia's problems were that significant that they even really seriosuly considered it.
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Old 02-03-2003, 10:50 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by deep
Apollo 13 was intended to be the third mission to carry humans to the surface of the Moon, but an explosion of one of the oxygen tanks and resulting damage to other systems resulted in the mission being aborted before the planned lunar landing could take place. The crew, commander James A. Lovell, Jr., command module pilot John L. Swigert, Jr., and lunar module pilot Fred W. Haise Jr., were returned safely to Earth on 17 April 1970.
Did you have that memorized or did you get that from somewhere?

Apollo 13 is my favourite movie.
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Old 02-04-2003, 12:17 AM   #11
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The_Sweetest_Thing,

I wanted to ask you if you think intersteller travel for humans to other star systems would ever be possible in the distant future? Also, along the same lines, do you think it will ever be possible for humans to live independently and indefinitely in space?

I ask these questions because we know that in 500 million years, it may not be possible to live on Earth itself do to changes in the sun.
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Old 02-04-2003, 12:18 AM   #12
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oh, my dad would have a field day with all the columbia threads going on, not just here but all over the internet. he's a big space buff, and worked for martin marietta for about 10 years. he was laid off in the early 90s when the aerospace field started to go bust. we lived in orlando, and later lived very close to cape canaveral. he, along with my mom and me (if we could come) sat right there with the press for shuttle take-offs and landings, as close as humans are allowed to be.

he was watching that show on cnn where viewers call in and ask questions (forget the name), and someone asked why can't the parts of shuttles be made by private companies. uhh...they are!

ANYWAY, enough with the slightly off-topic rambling. deep pretty much answered the questions. if you'd like, i can ask my dad if there had been any other options for nasa to use, or how technology has advanced since apollo 13.

oh, i thought i should also say that while i couldn't see what happened to columbia in the sky, i did personally see the challenger disaster. even though i was three, i still remember where i was when it happened. we were at hardee's and everyone rushed out to watch the shuttle take-off. we were all shocked and astounded when we saw instead of one big streak of smoke, two.

one of the elementary schools i went to was called challenger 7 elementary. we were a multi-track school (for those of you who know what it is), and all five tracks were named after the shuttles: atlantis, columbia, discovery, endeavour, and enterprise. in my state of mind saturday, my first thought was "i wonder what they'll do about the columbia track now that it's gone." when i was more coherent sunday, i was over the loss of seven innocent lives only trying to improve the field of science.

ehh so anyway, i've rambled enough now. if anyone can make sense of my post and wants me to find out anything, let me know.
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Old 02-04-2003, 12:28 AM   #13
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Old 02-04-2003, 12:40 AM   #14
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Great questions - from my limited understanding, I will try to answer:

I also understand that in space there is a space station where as we speak 3 astronauts are stationed. Yes, the space station is currently manned. The shuttle could not go there for two reasons: (1) the shuttle and the space station are in different orbits and the shuttle did not have the fuel to get there, and (2) the shuttle did not have the necessary docking equipment (also, the shuttle did not have the needed space suits to leave the shuttle).

So why did NASA attempt to bring the crew of the Columbia home on that damaged vessel? The extent of the damage, if any, was not clear.

Wouldn't it have been safer to leave them up there, and send another shuttle up to pick them up? It takes approximately four months to prepare a shuttle for launch. Also, the extent of the known damage was not such that a rescue mission was warranted.

Couldn't the Columbia have docked there until it was repaired? No - docking couplings were not included on this shuttle mission.
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Old 02-04-2003, 01:11 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by The_Sweetest_Thing


Did you have that memorized or did you get that from somewhere?

Apollo 13 is my favourite movie.
I looked it up. i thought is was in the 60s (69) not 70s.

I liked the movie, too.
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Old 02-04-2003, 03:11 AM   #16
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There are boundaries and there are boundaries. I dont care what the context, intention or subject matter it is, making light of or joking about such things is really shameful.

Nice try Diamond.
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Old 02-04-2003, 04:11 AM   #17
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Sweetest Thing is right, there were a few alternative options but ground analysts did not deem the problem significant enough to merit such measures. I believe there is the ability in NASA to fast track a shuttle launch for rescue purposes. Atlantis could have been made launch ready within a few days, and with a crew of two would've had enough room to ferry all Columbia's astronauts back to earth. Of course this would've meant the cancellation of alot of double-checking and testing to ensure the safety of Atlantis.
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Old 02-04-2003, 01:15 PM   #18
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I haven't read this entire thread but i will try to answer this to the best of my understadning



Columbia is the oldest of the orbiters. It took it's first flight in 81 and thusly is as old as I am.

It is too heavy to dock with the space station it's not designed for International space station missions Unlike atlantis and discovery.

Columbia has also flown less missions than atlantis and discovery makign this very curious.


to the best of my knowledge NASA did have escape pods on the rockets in the case of apollo 13 the pod was damaged on lift off. The shuttles do not have that same ability because 1.) in fact...it wasn't feasible at the time they were built....the explanantion involves a lot of theory that I don't understand maybe someone can enlighten us.



as for this lift off theory...this is a common occurence during lift off. Foam insulation often hits the tiles...the issue is..did it fracutre a tile this time...and if so why?...these tiles are your regular kitchen tiles they are very durable.


remember it was a faulty O ring...a gasket essentially that brought challenger down. It doesn't take a lot to make a shuttle mission go wrong. It could be something as small as a frayed or compromised wire that caused this.


Richard feynmann was the guy who found that the O ring was the cause of the challenger incident....I wish we had the use of his skills today.


I will close with this...a tile problem is the MOSt likely thing that can bring a shuttle down like this. The shuttle frame is made of aluminum take a lighter to a pop can and its malleable at that temp you can imagine what the temps or reentry would do to it. heat dissipation and sinking is the most critical system of a shuttle during reentry. Damaged tiles essentially make the shuttle the equivalent of a candy bar over your gas stove


Now even last year an expert testified before congress stating that in fact he was more worried about astronaut safety now than after the challenger tragedy because of budget cuts he believed that the orbiters were not properly retrofitted in a manner fitting to the wear and tear that they go through.



incidentally....to show you how far we've come....your desktop PC has approxmiately 500-600 times the computation ability that the telemetry system on the apolo 11 had and I believe that's a conservative figure perhaps even by a factor of 10




but then again I'm no expert..I want to be a neurosurgeon..not a rocket scientist
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Old 02-04-2003, 10:14 PM   #19
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I thought Apollo 13 didn't have escape pods. It was made up of three areas: The command module (the pod they returned in), the Lunar Exursion Module (aka the LEM) and the engine. The engine was damaged during the cyro stir and cut down a lot of their power. Thus, the astronauts were forced to abandon the command module and use the LEM as a lifeboat, as it used less energy to run. As well, NASA didn't want to run the command module to much, as they weren't sure if it had been damaged and wanted to save energy for reentry and course correction burns.

Quote:
I wanted to ask you if you think intersteller travel for humans to other star systems would ever be possible in the distant future? Also, along the same lines, do you think it will ever be possible for humans to live independently and indefinitely in space?
I ask these questions because we know that in 500 million years, it may not be possible to live on Earth itself do to changes in the sun.
I don't even think the earth will sustain humans that long (500 millions years). There are too many problems, global warming, nuclear war...we may just destroy ourselves.

Okay, but is interstellar travel possible? I think the first question is: is it affordable? I personally think that we could have reached Mars by now, if NASA had had the interest and funding. After John Kennedy made his promise to beat the Russians to the moon, America acheived that goal in just under 10 years. However, NASA - and the entire space business has taken some draaaaastic pay cuts the past few years.

So, first they'd have to develop the technology. Then they'd have to find a stellar system capable of supporting life. They've discovered a few alternate systems, but no one is quite sure how stable they are, planet composition, etc etc etc. These things are too far away to even observe...everything looks like a giant star even through satellite images.

The problem is that other systems are so far away. I mean, I think it takes 10 years alone to reach Pluto. So they'd either have to devise a ship with resources that could sustain people that long, or else find a faster way to travel. Light speed? Perhaps. But we don't have the technology to do that...yet.

I think one day humans WILL be able to live outside of earth...mars, the moon, etc. A moon circling Jupiter was found to have water. So who knows? I think, that in 500 million years, they will have developed this technology.

Look how far we've come in just over 50 years. 1950-present. A lunar landing. The space shuttle. The international space station. Satellites. Technology is booming. It's too early to tell what will happen 500 million years from now. I would like to think that yes, it will be possible. Although I think that living on alternate planets would be the last resort..I can envision attempting to save earth a larger priority. But who knows? When the need comes, we'll see (well, maybe) where all this technology has taken us.

To infinity and beyond!


Khanda...what's a track program? Hey...could you ask your dad about how tech. has advanced on the spacecrafts since the Apollo missions? I'd love to hear an 'insider's' opinion on all this.
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Old 02-04-2003, 10:33 PM   #20
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sorry..
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