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View Diary: Remembering Fallen Heroes: A Tough Week for NASA (42 comments)

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  •  Ad Astra per Aspera... (14+ / 0-)

    A rough road leads to the stars...

    Thanks for this.

    Oof.  I remember all three of these -I was 7 when Apollo 1 caught fire.   Every shuttle launch after 51-L, I had my heart in my throat until the SRB's detached.  I read the official report on Challenger, and I had no doubt after reading it that the 7 astronauts knew what was going on.  The last thing on the CVR was Dick Scobee saying 'uh oh'.  The SSME's had already shut down, and she was desperately trying to detach for a RTLS landing, but just didn't have the time.

    I was working for a computer company when we lost Columbia, and about a month after she broke up, we had a tech symposium in Denver.  The keynote speaker was Gene Kranz.  He really didn't touch much on Columbia -is talk is basically on Apollo 13... but you could tell by demeanor, etc. that he was REALLY angry that NASA did nothing to inform Columbia's crew or try ANY kind of fix.  He kept repeating "Failure is NOT an option".. again and again.  One thought from some engineers was to go EVA and put as much H2O in bags in the hole in wing panel 8.  Get it to freeze really cold, and maybe, maybe they could get low enough to bail out. I understand the issues with trying this -given the detalis listed above in the diary, it probably wouldn't have worked, but to try nothing, and let them go unsuspecting toward home was criminal, IMHO.

    •  I would think they could have come down ... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      radarlady, Lujane, BlackSheep1

      on Russian rockets, had they known of the danger and chosen to try other methods to get back to Earth.  In that case, future missions could possibly have even repaired Columbia and she might have eventually been brought home.

      "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

      by Neuroptimalian on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 12:58:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  There's no Russian spacecraft that can (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Munchkn, radarlady, Lujane, Neuroptimalian

        hold 7 people. Soyuz can't carry more than 3.

        Could the Russian space agency have prepared and launched a Soyuz capsule, let alone four of them (each with one cosmonaut, with room to rescue two astronauts), on such short notice? Can Russian rockets have reached Columbia's orbit from the Baikonur Cosmodrome? I don't know the answer to these; the first seems doubtful, but both would have to be considered. And the issue would be the same with respect to the risks, with or without training, of transferring astronauts in orbit from one spacecraft to another via EVA, something that has never been tried or even contemplated before.

        I think the risks and expense of repairing and retrieving Columbia (assuming it could remain in orbit indefinitely, unpowered, while the materials and techniques to repair it were developed, with enough fuel remaining to power the OMS, RCS and electrical systems back up, and since the shuttle did not have the capacity for an automated landing, enough oxygen to repressurize the cabin so astronauts could get into the cockpit and land it) would vastly exceed the value of the orbiter itself. In short, it wouldn't be worth it.

        •  I know that not all of Columbia's astronauts ... (0+ / 0-)

          wouldn't have been able to return in one trip to earth aboard Russian rockets, it would have taken several trips.  But why couldn't Columbia have docked at the space station?  (I don't remember if it docked there on that trip or not.)  The ISS has supplies, and Russian rockets go there to replenish them regularly.  So it seems to me that, over time, all could have returned safely IF NASA knew of the damage that Columbia sustained.

          "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

          by Neuroptimalian on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 04:42:39 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Bear in mind that Columbia could only support (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Neuroptimalian, Ender

            the crew for so long; they were in space for 16 days, which they could have stretched for a couple more if re-entry was delayed. If they had known of the danger early enough, they could have conserved resources and extended it for maybe another week, but no more. There is simply no way that four rescue flights could be flown in that time. It's doubtful that the Russian space agency had four rockets and four Soyuz capsules available (all single-use hardware, BTW) and ready to fly at the same time, let alone the resources to use them all within the span of a few days.

            There are three reasons why Columbia could not have docked at the ISS. First, this was a science mission, not an ISS flight; Columbia was in a different orbit from which the ISS was not accessible. The OMS did not have enough fuel to get Columbia to the ISS, let alone do so and still have enough for the de-orbit burn. Second, Columbia was not carrying the ISS docking hardware; the SPACEHAB double module filled the payload bay. Third, Columbia could not dock with the ISS, and in fact never did so, because the orbiter was too heavy.

            Columbia was always substantially heavier than the other orbiters. Enterprise, had it been upgraded for orbital flight, would have been heavier still; so heavy, as it turned out, that it would not have been able to carry any significant payloads into orbit. That's one reason why it was never upgraded, and Challenger was converted from an STA into a flight orbiter instead. Challenger was more similar to Columbia than to the later orbiters but was still substantially lighter than Columbia.

    •  I've heard that too. The question becomes, (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elginblt, Munchkn, radarlady

      before you even think about whether it would work, did they have the bags and did they have the water? Did they have the tools and equipment (adhesives? tie-downs? bungee cords?) to attach and secure the bags to panel 8? If they had the water for this, would they have enough water left to drink and keep them from dehydrating? One thing that Apollo 13 made clear is that spacecraft have very limited supplies, only what they need for the mission at hand, as every pound counts; any problem-solving has to be done with only what they have on board. (The movie encapsulated this with a line of dialogue about adapting the air scrubbers: "We have to make this, fit into the hole for this, using nothing but that.")

      •  Mr Shuttle Fix-it (0+ / 0-)

        I know that they had some of the really really good (and expensive) space program duct tape.  Water... good question. I don't know where the water that was made from the fuel cells went -they may have been able to use waste water, too (any port in a storm?).  Plastic bags, I'd be pretty sure that they have them for all sorts of storage stuff.  The thing that honks me off is that they didn't even try.

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