Author Topic: Extension decision no closer after “one heck of a year” for shuttle  (Read 32111 times)

Offline pberrett

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Thanks Matt

Actually I agree with you in part.

We should use the external tanks. Just not to kill another 7 astronauts.
   
The engineers at NASA should have sufficient imagination to utilise the tanks for some kind of cargo only mission.

Another alternative would be to strip out the human life support gear on the shuttle and replace it with an autonomous/remotely controlled guidance system like Buran had.  That way you can still use the tanks for a few more flights. Is not the flight already partly autonomously controlled anyway?

Apollo got cancelled but NASA still managed to use the remaining gear for some useful tasks.

Regards Peter




Online Chris Bergin

Dear Chris

I am sorry to have to criticize your article but I feel there are some sober reminders to be made here.

"The shuttle has its detractors, even within NASA, citing safety and cost. However, the five flights of 2009 have showed the world just how capable the vehicle is, when cared for by good management and experienced engineering."

Yes the vehicle is capable of hauling a large amount of cargo and crew into LEO but it isn't capable of going beyond that or doing meaningful space exploration.

Further this vehicle has killed 14 Astronauts. That is more that any other space vehicle launched and if there was another accident that would add another 7 coffins.

The vehicle still has no escape system shodul there be an accident on launch and no redundancy of its own shoud the TPS fail. It is a risky,  experimental vehicle that should be grounded as soon as possible in order that a safer replacement can be built.

Accordingto CAIB report (Chapter 1)

"In the end, the greatest compromise NASA made was not so much with any particular element of the technical design, but rather with the premise of the vehicle itself. NASA promised it could develop a Shuttle that would be launched almost on demand and would fly many missions each year. Throughout the history of the program, a gap has persisted between the rhetoric NASA has used to market the Space Shuttle and operational reality, leading to an enduring image of the Shuttle as capable of safely and routinely carrying out missions with little risk."

and

"Despite efforts to improve its safety, the Shuttle remains a
complex and risky system that remains central to U.S. ambitions
in space. Columbia's failure to return home is a harsh
reminder that the Space Shuttle is a developmental vehicle
that operates not in routine flight but in the realm of dangerous
exploration."

It's time to kill the shuttle off and replace it with a safer space transportation system capable of exploration beyond LEO.

Regards Peter


You're welcome to Peter! However, I'm going to have to counter most of that and say it how I feel - no disrespect intended.

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1) "Yes the vehicle is capable of hauling a large amount of cargo and crew into LEO but it isn't capable of going beyond that or doing meaningful space exploration".

Pet hate right there, as I'd say we're always exploring. One could argue on the achievements on bringing back moon rocks, versus constructing a giant space station (both are impressive, sure). I would say we're certainly exploring and learning via ISS, which is a major legacy of shuttle. I'm sure NASA doesn't judge exploration by distances, but by achievements - at least I'd hope so.

The vehicles do what they are designed to do, and Shuttle is capable of more than Orion ever will be. Just because Orion can leave LEO doesn't make it superior.....if anything it's a bit of a one trick pony compared to the orbiters.

Quote
2) "Further this vehicle has killed 14 Astronauts. That is more that any other space vehicle launched and if there was another accident that would add another 7 coffins."

I'd say bad management was a major factor in the deaths of at least the Challenger astronauts more than the vehicle. If anything, the vehicle nearly kept them alive (should have blown up on the pad - and they may of made it to SRB sep if it hadn't of been for the freak wind shere - who knows). I question why you're looking at the two disasters as some sort of millstone around their necks when its flow so many times, successfully.

Sure, by design they have threats of giving the astros no way out, say in a Challenger type disaster, but that's what management are there for (see Challenger's mistakes). I actually made a point in the article about good management and experienced engineering. Compare the likes of Mr Shannon, Moses, Cain etc with the "you don't stand in front of a fast moving train" MSFC manager from the Challenger era. Polar opposites I'd say.

As far as Columbia, that's not a LOV/C situation anymore and you're basing the TPS threats on what is most certainly out of date status, given the massive strides they've made on the ET foam since (actually writing an article on this).

Remember, IF a major TPS strike happened again, the vehicle would still make orbit (like Columbia) - but they'd indentify it via OBSS and FD3 RPM, with LON in place if all else fails - so the crew would survive.

Quote
It's time to kill the shuttle off and replace it with a safer space transportation system capable of exploration beyond LEO.

Happy thoughts and wishes won't make it happen. Here's the reality, right now:

1) Losing the only US manned launch vehicle and hand over cash to the Russians to ferry astros to the ISS.

2) Waiting seven years (and maybe more) until the next vehicle is ready - and then another 10 years or so before they launch on what you describe as exploration (past LEO). I'd question if NASA could actually survive that timeline as it is.

Hopefully the damage and wasted billions of Ares I won't cause the same level of schedule pain with the next vehicle, and/or ULA aren't talking out of their backsides on when they'll be ready to launch humans on an EELV (if, and it's still a big if, they are involved in the next vehicle). Hopefully if they do stay with Ares/Orion they pump in billions and insist on a 2013 IOC date.

So don't be so hasty with the bloodlust for killing shuttle, because the alternative - right now - is nothing short of crap (NO FRAKKING US HUMAN SPACE FLIGHT FOR YEARS AND YEARS AND YEARS - Woot, isn't that exciting! Let's do some exploration of exhibitions where the orbiters are rusting away their days by having ignorant tourists getting their greasy finger prints all over their TPS, shall we!).

Start praying someone's got a pair in the White House, as once shuttle's retired the US will absolutely lose its leadership in space, no question about it - and the US will only have themselves to blame, along with the shuttle bashers - from Griffin downwards - about how it's not safe, whilst making up magical safety numbers for a vehicle that's never flown - as if a LAS suddendly means no one will ever die during space flight.

Offline MATTBLAK

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Your "killing Astronauts" line is perilously close to a deliberately provocative schtick. :( There are a few people here who would not be comfortable with your continuing contextual use of it.

"The engineers at NASA should have sufficient imagination to utilise the tanks for some kind of cargo only mission. Another alternative would be to strip out the human life support gear on the shuttle and replace it with an autonomous/remotely controlled guidance system like Buran had.  That way you can still use the tanks for a few more flights. Is not the flight already partly autonomously controlled anyway?"

NOT going to happen!  ::) These are old, old ideas and concepts: NASA has had these questions asked of them before, many times over the last few years and the answer is always no. Asked and answered. Also, Shuttle is not Buran. Buran was an underfunded and derivative dead-end.

Use the Shuttle as it was intended, or don't use it at all. Besides, no one is going to 'hold' the E.T.s and wait for a Side-Mount cargo vehicle to appear and use them up.

OFF TOPIC WARNING BELL: And NASA did NOT use up all the Apollo/Saturn gear: at least 4x Block 2 CSM's remained, 2x complete Saturn Vs, 2x complete Saturn 1Bs, 3x LMs and 1x whole Skylab Station. They didn't get to use up all this gear because they weren't allowed to; both by funding and leadership.

The same should NOT happen to Shuttle. Your Honour -- the Defence rests it's case... :( ;)
« Last Edit: 12/05/2009 12:27 AM by MATTBLAK »
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Offline robertross

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It's time to kill the shuttle off and replace it with a safer space transportation system capable of exploration beyond LEO.


To be fair Peter, I'll just note this last comment.

If we had a failure on the surface on the moon and they couldn't get back, how would that get classified? An abort system would not have helped. Truth be told, the launch is only a small part of the total mission. Columbia & Challenger were both the victims of unfortunate circumstances. We were lucky with Apollo 13. The future is not written yet for other exploration craft. If they suffer a failure with crew, do we stop there? No we fix the problem, learn, and move on. The shuttle has never been safer.

There are other threads that go into more detail, but I would say that trying to understand that 1% of the pie, does not take into account the other aspects at stake.

We have an space station up there. We do not yet know what capabilities it might require. We have a peeled radiator to tackle, Distillation assemblies that have failed, SARJ race rings with damage. These are just the hardware aspects that only the shuttle can currently manage. The other is the upmass & downmass of science sampples, of which there WILL NOT be a vehicle ready in time to provide such services. Not the greatest of planning going on here. The reality is, that without a vehicle CAPABLE of supplying the NEEDS of the ISS, then we are at the mercy of the unknown: a future vehicle that does not yet fly.

So my advice is stay a while, read through some threads, and get to learn some of the issues at hand, and what people are trying to do about it.
Remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our rights & freedoms, and for those injured, visible or otherwise, in that fight.

Offline robertross

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Oh Chris, LOVE THE ARTICLE!
Remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our rights & freedoms, and for those injured, visible or otherwise, in that fight.

Offline Jorge

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Further this vehicle has killed 14 Astronauts. That is more that any other space vehicle launched and if there was another accident that would add another 7 coffins.

This is an ignorant statement. I would go farther than that but I know that Chris likes to run a civil forum.

The shuttle has killed 14 astronauts, true. This is more than any other space vehicle, true. This is where you reveal the limits of your knowledge and the vast extent of your ignorance. This is a classic example of "how to be untruthful without actually lying".

The shuttle has killed more astronauts than any other vehicle because it has flown more astronauts than any other vehicle. That much is obvious, but the extent of it is often overlooked.

The shuttle has made 781 person-trips into space in 129 flights. It has killed 14 astronauts in 2 fatal accidents. That is a fatality rate of 1:56 and a fatal accident rate of 1:64.5.

The only other manned vehicle with a statistically significant number of flights is Soyuz. It has made 246 person-trips into space in 101 flights. It has killed 4 cosmonauts in 2 fatal accidents. That is a fatality rate of 1:62 and a fatal accident rate of 1:50.5.

Those statistics are for practical purposes identical. It can be said with all accuracy that there are two classes of manned space vehicles, those with fatality rates of 1:60 and those that never even flew enough to demonstrate such a rate. (Arguably Apollo 1 should count against Apollo, giving it a fatality rate and fatal accident rate of 1:16).

Much is made of the fact that Soyuz has not had a fatal accident since 1971 but that is not relevant. What is relevant is number of flights, not number of years. Soyuz has had 91 successful manned landings since its last fatal accident. The shuttle had 87 successful manned landings between the 51L and 107 accidents. Those numbers are also essentially identical from a statistical point of view. The Soyuz accident rate has essentially been "masked" by its low flight rate.

Quote
The vehicle still has no escape system shodul there be an accident on launch and no redundancy of its own shoud the TPS fail. It is a risky,  experimental vehicle that should be grounded as soon as possible in order that a safer replacement can be built.

This is also an ignorant statement. There are inherent design vulnerabilities to all manned vehicles and you only mention those of the shuttle. All other manned vehicles rely on parachutes (which have failed, killing cosmonauts) and all other manned vehicles rely on module separation between the deorbit burn and entry interface (which have failed, by multiple mechanisms, killing 3 cosmonauts and resulting in close calls for many astronauts and cosmonauts). And those failure modes are just as likely to kill as the failure modes of the shuttle, based statistically on past experience.
JRF

Offline Jorge

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The station can't run without MCC-Houston.

Of course MCC-Houston would be required.  I'm just talking about saving the superior SSP support provided to the ISS.

Could you try restating your question, then? I think I would have answered the same as rdale. What kind of "support" would the partners provide for the SSP?

OK, I was thinking international financial support.  It would mean that NASA would have to accomodate the SSP but be able to follow Constellation.

Thanks for the clarification.

It is my opinion that the amount of money necessary to keep SSP and CxP going simultaneously is far more than any international partners would be willing to provide.
JRF

Offline Longhorn John

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You're welcome to Peter! However, I'm going to have to counter most of that and say it how I feel - no disrespect intended.

Quote
1) "Yes the vehicle is capable of hauling a large amount of cargo and crew into LEO but it isn't capable of going beyond that or doing meaningful space exploration".

Pet hate right there, as I'd say we're always exploring. One could argue on the achievements on bringing back moon rocks, versus constructing a giant space station (both are impressive, sure). I would say we're certainly exploring and learning via ISS, which is a major legacy of shuttle. I'm sure NASA doesn't judge exploration by distances, but by achievements - at least I'd hope so.

The vehicles do what they are designed to do, and Shuttle is capable of more than Orion ever will be. Just because Orion can leave LEO doesn't make it superior.....if anything it's a bit of a one trick pony compared to the orbiters.

Quote
2) "Further this vehicle has killed 14 Astronauts. That is more that any other space vehicle launched and if there was another accident that would add another 7 coffins."

I'd say bad management was a major factor in the deaths of at least the Challenger astronauts more than the vehicle. If anything, the vehicle nearly kept them alive (should have blown up on the pad - and they may of made it to SRB sep if it hadn't of been for the freak wind shere - who knows). I question why you're looking at the two disasters as some sort of millstone around their necks when its flow so many times, successfully.

Sure, by design they have threats of giving the astros no way out, say in a Challenger type disaster, but that's what management are there for (see Challenger's mistakes). I actually made a point in the article about good management and experienced engineering. Compare the likes of Mr Shannon, Moses, Cain etc with the "you don't stand in front of a fast moving train" MSFC manager from the Challenger era. Polar opposites I'd say.

As far as Columbia, that's not a LOV/C situation anymore and you're basing the TPS threats on what is most certainly out of date status, given the massive strides they've made on the ET foam since (actually writing an article on this).

Remember, IF a major TPS strike happened again, the vehicle would still make orbit (like Columbia) - but they'd indentify it via OBSS and FD3 RPM, with LON in place if all else fails - so the crew would survive.

Quote
It's time to kill the shuttle off and replace it with a safer space transportation system capable of exploration beyond LEO.

Happy thoughts and wishes won't make it happen. Here's the reality, right now:

1) Losing the only US manned launch vehicle and hand over cash to the Russians to ferry astros to the ISS.

2) Waiting seven years (and maybe more) until the next vehicle is ready - and then another 10 years or so before they launch on what you describe as exploration (past LEO). I'd question if NASA could actually survive that timeline as it is.

Hopefully the damage and wasted billions of Ares I won't cause the same level of schedule pain with the next vehicle, and/or ULA aren't talking out of their backsides on when they'll be ready to launch humans on an EELV (if, and it's still a big if, they are involved in the next vehicle). Hopefully if they do stay with Ares/Orion they pump in billions and insist on a 2013 IOC date.

So don't be so hasty with the bloodlust for killing shuttle, because the alternative - right now - is nothing short of crap (NO FRAKKING US HUMAN SPACE FLIGHT FOR YEARS AND YEARS AND YEARS - Woot, isn't that exciting! Let's do some exploration of exhibitions where the orbiters are rusting away their days by having ignorant tourists getting their greasy finger prints all over their TPS, shall we!).

Start praying someone's got a pair in the White House, as once shuttle's retired the US will absolutely lose its leadership in space, no question about it - and the US will only have themselves to blame, along with the shuttle bashers - from Griffin downwards - about how it's not safe, whilst making up magical safety numbers for a vehicle that's never flown - as if a LAS suddendly means no one will ever die during space flight.

Awesome post Chris. Felt the passion, and passion is important.

And Jorge too! Hope some people are making mental impressions of the points provided!
« Last Edit: 12/05/2009 02:24 AM by Longhorn John »

Offline pberrett

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Hmm

It seems we have some passionate views here and yes, I'll accept that in some areas I am ignorant.  However I don't think my arguments are without some basis. I am not trying to be provocative here, rather I do hold what I feel is a well founded view that shuttle should not be extended.

Here is my rationale and its all about redundancy in the event of a catatrophic failure.

Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Soyuz all had/have a major element of dual redundancy re safety. If something failed the astronauts had the Launch Escape System. On Shuttle there is none.

Now NASA fixed the cause of the catastrophic failure on Challenger. And that's good. But what really was the problem in the Challenger accident wasn't that they had a catastrophic failure - statistically that was bound to happen sooner or later (and still is). The problem was that when it happened there was no redundancy ie no escape system of any kind. And there still isn't, at least not for a Challenger style explosion).

And the story is the same when we get to Colombia. I don't need to be an engineer to know that the TPS is very fragile. Maybe the ice could not have been anticipated but there are a number of similar collisions that could have been anticipated ie Meteorities, bird strikes etc. What doomed Colombia was not the failure of the TPS but rather the lack of any back up system when it failed.

Now let me be clear here that I am not pointing the finger at the engineers or the politicions or those who manage NASA. Others can make such judgements. I am merely saying that Shuttle lacks what I would regard as a minimum level of redundancy in its design and with regards to safety. And for that reason it should be scrapped as soon as possible.

I note the comments re possible risk associated with other craft. And that is valid. But what america needs is a craft with good design and good redundancy at all stages of flight. Hopefully it will one day get such craft but for now Shuttle seems to me to lack sufficient redundancy to be qualified to fly.
 
Now re LEO oribit vs non LEO I perceive that taxpayers would rather see their tax dollars going on "new stuff" rather than more LEO. LEO research may have scientific value but to the average taxpayer what is attractive and inspiring is doing something new - exploring a new solar system body, trying out a new spacecraft or rocket etc. Space is also a risky business so if one is going to take risks why not make the rewards commensurate with the risks? I am sure most astronauts want to be "out there" on an asteroid or the moon somewhere rather than in LEO.


Regards Peter
« Last Edit: 12/05/2009 11:00 AM by pberrett »

Offline Analyst

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There are - and will be - always critical components without redundancy. This is inherent in the game. Best example is the structure itself. When such a component fails, you are done. Period. And you can't design arround it. Example: The magical LAS. If it structurally fails on top of the vehicle (without any use or need to use), you are probably done.

There are - and will be - always critical events. Separation of structures, parachute deploy. You too can't design arround it.

So for every Shuttle critical component or event I name you one from Apollo, Gemini, Mercury, Sozuz or Orion. You can't have redundancy for everything nor at every stage of flight. Do you have a parachute in an airliner? If you want all this, you better never leave the ground.

How do you know what the taxpayers want? I have the impression it is what you want.

Analyst

Offline pberrett

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This is also an ignorant statement. There are inherent design vulnerabilities to all manned vehicles and you only mention those of the shuttle. All other manned vehicles rely on parachutes (which have failed, killing cosmonauts) and all other manned vehicles rely on module separation between the deorbit burn and entry interface (which have failed, by multiple mechanisms, killing 3 cosmonauts and resulting in close calls for many astronauts and cosmonauts). And those failure modes are just as likely to kill as the failure modes of the shuttle, based statistically on past experience.


I should add. The CAIB regarded the shuttle as risky and they are not ignorant.

Re other vehicles. They have their weaknesses too but at least they have a launch escape system and a less fragile TPS.

Also you mention "parachutes (which have failed, killing cosmonauts [plural])...". Maybe I am ignorant here but the only death of a cosmonaut attributable to a parachute failure I am aware of was Vladimir Komarov.   

http://www.aerospaceweb.org/question/history/q0114.shtml
 
In any event how many astronaut deaths are attributable to malfunctions or accidents of American parachutes?

Regards Peter
« Last Edit: 12/05/2009 11:50 AM by pberrett »

Offline Analyst

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CAIB is not gospel nor the bible.

Other vehicles have other weaknesses the Shuttle has not. How do you judge one weakness against another? You can't. You have a fixation on components which failed on Shuttle and you discount critical components/events on other vehicles. It escapes me how you judge one against another.

Analyst

Offline pberrett

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CAIB is not gospel nor the bible.

Other vehicles have other weaknesses the Shuttle has not. How do you judge one weakness against another? You can't. You have a fixation on components which failed on Shuttle and you discount critical components/events on other vehicles. It escapes me how you judge one against another.

Analyst


Thanks but I think you have missed my point. The issue isn't which vehicle is statistically safer or which vehicle has the most weaknesses. The issue is when (not if) something goes catastrophically wrong which vehicle has got some kind of redundancy to deal with that catastrophe?

If there is a launch explosion with Soyuz there is a Launch Escape System as a backup. With Shuttle there isn't a backup.

With Apollo if a bird hit the craft on launch or reentry the TPS would withstand the impact. Not so Shuttle. Its TPS is fragile.
 
As for the CAIB the members would not have been appointed to that panel unless they were highly regarded. Their findings should be taken seriously. 

Regards Peter

 
« Last Edit: 12/05/2009 12:05 PM by pberrett »

Offline Stardust9906

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With Apollo if a bird hit the craft on launch or reentry the TPS would withstand the impact. Not so Shuttle. Its TPS is fragile. Regards Peter

 

I think you missed the point Chris made on this.  Thanks to LON TPS damage is not a fatal event.  I would say also that the TPS has proven to be quite good at resisting damage, STS-27 being a good example

Offline Analyst

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1) Thanks but I think you have missed my point. The issue isn't which vehicle is statistically safer or which vehicle has the most weaknesses. The issue is when (not if) something goes catastrophically wrong which vehicle has got some kind of redundancy to deal with that catastrophe?

2) If there is a launch explosion with Soyuz there is a Launch Escape System as a backup. With Shuttle there isn't a backup.

3) With Apollo if a bird hit the craft on launch or reentry the TPS would withstand the impact. Not so Shuttle. Its TPS is fragile.

1) You realize you are playing sementics here: Weaknesses translate into probabilities of failures (your "if") and into probabilities of survival given a failure (your "when"). As I said before, your can't have redundancy for everything. Different vehicles have different weaknesses.

2) If there is a CM-SM separation failure, Apollo had no backup and you are done.

If the Apollo or Soyuz LAS fails to separate from the CM, all your parachutes won't help you and you are done.

If Orion parachutes don't deploy or compromise each other, you hit the ocean pretty nice and you are done. Ask the Ares 1-X first stage, it can tell you a funny story about it.

I stop here because this is - as I said before - pointless. You have weaknesses in every design and you can't help it. If you haven't got my point by now you never will.

3) Birds at launch are a non issue. At landing the TPS status at "bird level" dosn't matter anymore.

You are making a common mistake: Concentrating on things which have gone wrong in the past and forgetting other critical things which can fail too.

Analyst
« Last Edit: 12/05/2009 12:41 PM by Analyst »

Offline robertross

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And the story is the same when we get to Colombia. I don't need to be an engineer to know that the TPS is very fragile. Maybe the ice could not have been anticipated but there are a number of similar collisions that could have been anticipated ie Meteorities, bird strikes etc. What doomed Colombia was not the failure of the TPS but rather the lack of any back up system when it failed.


Actually, the problem with Columbia was foam liberation, not ice. Ice occurs on the ET before launch, so if they find it to be excessive, they don't launch. As for foam libration, the difference between the old tank and new tank is significant in terms of foam loss, and they are still getting better at it. This is one part that has improved the safety numbers, even though many still include it at the levels of occurance it once was.

Plain and simple: for all the faults we can come up with for shuttle, we could probably find just as many with an exisiting or future design. One small error is all it takes in this business, there is no forgiveness.
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Offline Norm Hartnett

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Poor Peter, I’m afraid you’ve wandered into Shuttle Huggers’ territory. I’ll leave them to inform you of their belief in SSP. I wish to address your comment on exploration.

1) "Yes the vehicle is capable of hauling a large amount of cargo and crew into LEO but it isn't capable of going beyond that or doing meaningful space exploration".

Pet hate right there, as I'd say we're always exploring. One could argue on the achievements on bringing back moon rocks, versus constructing a giant space station (both are impressive, sure). I would say we're certainly exploring and learning via ISS, which is a major legacy of shuttle. I'm sure NASA doesn't judge exploration by distances, but by achievements - at least I'd hope so.

As Chris points out exploration is not a matter merely of distance but of expansion of knowledge. Before we can do meaningful exploration of Deep Space, the Moon, or Mars we need to be able to get there and able to do something other than merely survive. Footprints and Flags are not exploration.

I’ll leave it to the Shuttle Huggers to mention all the Shuttle missions that directly expanded our knowledge of space and how to survive there. I want to address the myth that the ISS missions are not exploration. At this time a total of 505 men and women have been to LEO, hardly enough to declare the area terra cognita. The longest any one person has spent in orbit is 437 days; again, not what one could call a settled, fully explored region.

We are barely able to survive for short periods of time in LEO let alone stays on the Moon. The various proposals for Constellation Lunar exploration, whether two week sorties and/or some form of Lunar Outpost barely skim the surface of a planet with the surface area of Africa. Four men trying to explore the Moon while spending a substantial portion of their time struggling to keep their life support running are not likely to explore a great deal of the surface.

The ISS missions both inform our strategies for survival and our techniques for base construction. The technologies and materials being developed, tested, and redeveloped on the ISS are directly applicable to both planetary and deep space exploration. The technologies being developed, tested, and redeveloped on the ISS for life support are critical to any meaningful future exploration and, at this point, provide a striking demonstration how far we have to go.

We have little to no empirical knowledge of life in partial gravity and the ISS was to have helped us learn more before it was gutted by the previous administration. We can only send people there and discover by survival whether humans can live for any length of time on the Moon or Mars. Explorers may pay for that knowledge with their lives unless some form of exploration of that question takes place in LEO.

The problem that the Augustine Committee identified as completely prohibiting any meaningful exploration into deep space remains radiation and the ISS provides the best testbed for exploration of shielding as well as allowing us to quantify the problem in a safer controlled environment.

The ISS is our outpost into outer space, a tenuous foothold that gives us the opportunity to conduct the exploration of an incredibly hostile environment. To claim that we have explored LEO is at best disingenuous and worst ignorant. To claim that we have the knowledge and technology to explore the Moon, let alone Mars, in any meaningful manner, is just plain wrong. Maybe with an unlimited budget, much of it spent on just the means of survival, much of it spent in LEO one way or another, we might be able, eventually, begin exploration of our nearest neighbor.

Mars is out of reach for the foreseeable future.
« Last Edit: 12/05/2009 07:44 PM by Norm Hartnett »
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Offline robertross

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Good post Norm, but I think there is some discrepancy in the ISS being at par with 'deep space'. Yes, as a test bed, it provides a great stepping stone: close access & quick getaway, but as I have come to learn, being shielded by Earth's magnetic field takes away some of that 'vulnerability' that would be experiences on the moon, mars, or the transit.

Let's wait and see what AMS-02 comes back with; hopefully it will shed some new light on some of the effects of radiation. Maybe if there was a capability of a regenerative propellant depot, the AMS-02 (or similar) could be stationed there to collect more tangible data.

Remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our rights & freedoms, and for those injured, visible or otherwise, in that fight.

Offline pberrett

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Jorge



My goodness. I never realised there were so many people passionate about shuttle let alone LEO!
 
I hope that we can keep this discussions civil and have a rational debate about the issues.

Jorge I acknowledge that statistically the fatality rate of Shuttle is comparable to that of Soyuz. You say "The Soyuz accident rate has essentially been "masked" by its low flight rate".
That argument seems to presuppose or infer that Soyuz is more unsafe than the statistics make out. The truth is we just don't know but in terms of fatalities since 1971 Soyuz has a better safety record in terms of fatalities that just about any aircraft manufactured.
In all honesty though the statistical samples for all spacecraft are pretty small. Let's posit what would happen if the next shuttle flight (heavan forbid) had a Challenger style accident.
The shuttle would have made 788 person-trips into space in 130 flights. 21 astronauts would have died in 3 fatal accidents. That is a fatality rate of 1:37.5 and a fatal accident rate of 1:43.3. Suddenly those statistics look really bad. Such is the danger of relying on statistics based on relatively small samples.
Let's posit also what would happen if there was a fatal Soyuz accident.
It would have made 247 person-trips into space in 102 flights. 7 cosmonauts would have died in 3 fatal accidents. That is a fatality rate of 1:62 and a fatal accident rate of 1:35.2
My conclusion is that statistically Soyuz and shuttle seem to have comparable safety records but the sample sizes are too low to meaningfully gauge what either of their true accident rates is.
If there was another Challenger style accident though would Shuttle fly again? I doubt it.
You say that "Much is made of the fact that Soyuz has not had a fatal accident since 1971 but that is not relevant". I think its relevant and I think those who fly on it would think it relevant too. The Russians must be doing something right.
I am no engineer but Soyuz seems to be to be safer than Shuttle. Less capable but the simpler design means less things to go wrong.   
I am still waiting for you to indentify the other cosmonaut(s) who died in parachute accidents. :)

Regards Peter

Offline hop

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My goodness. I never realised there were so many people passionate about shuttle let alone LEO!
You do realize that many people here have devoted most of their working lives to this program ?
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Jorge I acknowledge that statistically the fatality rate of Shuttle is comparable to that of Soyuz. You say "The Soyuz accident rate has essentially been "masked" by its low flight rate".
That argument seems to presuppose or infer that Soyuz is more unsafe than the statistics make out.
No it doesn't. It states the simple fact that statistically, Soyuz in is in the same place STS was pre-Columbia. Pointing at Soyuz current streak of successes is no more or less valid than pointing at STS similar streak pre-Columbia. (Or for that matter pointing to STS post RTF streak as a justification for continuing it)

There may or may not be theoretical reasons to claim it is actually safer, but that's not what is being addressed.
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Soyuz has a better safety record in terms of fatalities that just about any aircraft manufactured.
Only if you pick an absurd metric. If you count fatalities and serious injuries per flight, Soyuz looks worse than pretty most aircraft since WWI or so.
« Last Edit: 12/06/2009 02:18 AM by hop »

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