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

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  •  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.

    •  Ah. Got it. (0+ / 0-)

      Thanks for taking the time to  provide these substantial details.

      "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 05:54:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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