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RE: Shuttle launch
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The space shuttle.
According to a report it's impossible to fly 28 more times before 2010 and NASA has evoked the possibility of flying it only 15 times before its retirement.

Here is an article I found on the national review website, that outlines a few of the bad points of the shuttle program.
(Article edited)

"Like the monster in some ghastly horror movie rising from the dead for the umpteenth time, the space shuttle is back on the launch pad. This grotesque, lethal white elephant " 14 deaths in 113 flights " is the grandest, grossest technological folly of our age. If the shuttle has any reason for existing, it is as an exceptionally clear symbol of our corrupt, sentimental, and dysfunctional political system. Its flights accomplish nothing and cost half a billion per. That, at least, is what a flight costs when the vehicle survives. If a shuttle blows up " which, depending on whether or not you think that 35 human lives (five original launch worthy Shuttles at seven astronauts each) would be too high a price to pay for ridding the nation of an embarrassing and expensive monstrosity, is either too often or not often enough** - then the cost, what with lost inventory, insurance payouts, and the endless subsequent investigations, is seven or eight times that.
There is no longer much pretence that shuttle flights in particular, or manned space flight in general, has any practical value. You will still occasionally hear people repeating the old NASA lines about the joys of microgravity manufacturing and insights into osteoporosis, but if you repeat these tales to a materials scientist or a physiologist, you will get peals of laughter in return. To seek a cure for osteoporosis by spending $500 million to put seven persons and 2,000 tons of equipment into earth orbit is a bit like - well; it is so extravagantly preposterous that any simile you can come up with falls flat. It is like nothing else in the annals of human folly.
Having no practical justification for squirting so much of the nation`s wealth up into the stratosphere, our politicians - those (let us charitably assume there are some) with no financial or electoral interest in the big contractor corporations who feed off the shuttle - fall back on romantic appeals to Mankind`s Destiny.
Thus President, addressing the nation after the Columbia tragedy two years ago:

These men and women assumed great risk in this service to all humanity. In an age when space flight has come to seem almost routine, it is easy to overlook the dangers of travel by rocket and the difficulties of navigating the fierce outer atmosphere of the earth.
These astronauts knew the dangers, and they faced them willingly, knowing they had a high and noble purpose in life. Because of their courage and daring and idealism, we will miss them all the more.
The cause in which they died will continue. Mankind is led into the darkness beyond our world by the inspiration of discovery and the longing to understand. Our journey into space will go on.


Anyone who finds it is easy to overlook the dangers of travel by rocket just hasn`t been following the shuttle program very attentively. One astronaut death per eight flights!
The rest of the president`s address on that occasion was, to be blunt about it, insulting to the memories of the astronauts who died, and still more insulting to their grieving spouses, children, parents, and friends. If these astronauts believed that `they had a high and noble purpose in life,` they were mistaken, and someone should have set them straight on the point.
Please note that `if.` The motivation of shuttle astronauts would, I suspect, make a very interesting study for some skilful psychologist. Here is Ken Bowersox, one of the astronauts who was actually on board the International Space Station (steady now, Derb, husband your wrath) when Columbia blew up.
He is writing in the June 2005 issue of Popular Mechanics, putting the `pro` case in a debate on the continuation of the Shuttle program, versus former NASA historian Alex Roland arguing the `con.` Bowersox:

I`ve wanted to be in space from the time I was listening to the radio and heard about John Glenn circling the earth. Columbia was the kind of blow that could have made me walk away from it. As astronauts, though, we wouldn`t have been on the space station if we didn`t believe in the program. Even after losing our friends and our ride home, we still believed that exploration was important.

Far be it from me to pull rank on Astronaut Bowersox, but I`ve wanted to be in space for somewhat longer than that - since seeing those wonderful pictures by Chesley Bonestell in The Conquest of Space, circa 1952, or possibly after being taken to the movie Destination Moon at around the same time. The imaginative appeal of space travel is irresistible. I don`t think I could resist it, anyway. Even with two young kids who need me, and a wife who (I feel fairly sure) would miss me, I would still, if given the opportunity to go into space tomorrow, be on the next flight to Cape Canaveral. As Prof. Roland says in that Popular Mechanics exchange: "The real reason behind sending astronauts to Mars is that it`s thrilling and exciting." Absolutely correct. The danger? Heck, we all have to go sometime.
There is nothing - nothing, no thing, not one darned cotton-picking thing you can name - of either military, or commercial, or scientific, or national importance to be done in space, that could not be done twenty times better and at one thousandth the cost, by machines rather than human beings.
Mining the asteroids? Isaac Asimov famously claimed that the isotope Astatine-215 (I think it was) is so rare that if you were to sift through the entire crust of the earth, you would only find a trillion atoms of it. We could extract every one of that trillion, and make a brooch out of them, for one-tenth the cost of mining an asteroid.
The gross glutted wealth of the federal government; the venality and stupidity of our representatives; the lobbying power of big rent-seeking corporations; the romantic enthusiasms of millions of citizens; these are the things that 14 astronauts died for. To abandon all euphemism and pretence, they died for pork, for votes, for share prices, and for thrills (immediate in their own case, vicarious in ours). I mean no insult to their memories, and I doubt they would take offence. I am certain that I myself would not - certain, in fact, that, given the opportunity, I would gleefully do what they did, with all the dangers, and count the death, if it came, as anyway no worse than mouldering away in some hospital bed at age ninety, watching a TV game show, with a tube in my arm and a diaper round my rear end. I should be embarrassed to ask the rest of you to pay for the adventure, though.


** There are actually reasons to think we may have been lucky so far.
"Steve Poulos, manager of the Orbiter Projects Office at Johnson Space Centre in Houston, acknowledges there is `a debate` inside the agency about the threat posed by space debris. One school of thought is that a fatal debris strike is `probable,` Poulos said. But he said others think such an event is likely to be `infrequent`."

Source

-- Edited by Blobrana at 23:39, 2005-06-16

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L

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UPDATE
Discovery's second roll to its launch pad at Kennedy Space Centre has been slowed by overheating bearings.
Its move out of the Vehicle Assembly Building began two hours behind schedule because of technical issues.
The crawler has had to pause so workers can grease the bearings.


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L

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RE: Space Shuttle Discovery
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Nearly three weeks after vacating its launch pad and returning to the Vehicle Assembly Building, space shuttle Discovery will return to pad 39B tonight as NASA begins the final month of work leading to the program's return to flight.

Discovery was disconnected from its original fuel tank and boosters while in the VAB and mounted with another tank that features additional heaters and instrumentation.

The shuttle interface test to verify good connections between Discovery, tank, twin solid rockets and the mobile launch pad platform has been completed.

Workers will report for rollout duty at 0000 GMT tonight.

First motion for the 6.7-km trip to the pad is targeted for 0400 GMT.


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L

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RE: Shuttle Risk Analysis
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A new NASA risk analysis is raising fears the shuttle could stand a higher chance of being destroyed by space debris than previously thought.
There is "a debate" inside the space agency about the threat posed by space debris. One school of thought is that a fatal debris strike is "probable". But others think such an event is likely to be "infrequent".

Space debris, including bits of rock, pieces of old satellites and other trash, often collide with the shuttle as it circles Earth but usually causes no serious harm.
Before the Columbia disaster, NASA estimated the spacecraft stood only a 1-in-500 chance of being destroyed by space debris.
That's well below the shuttle program's goal of a 1-in-200 chance.


This NASA computer image, from documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, illustrates the orbital debris threat to various parts of the shuttle and station while the vehicles are connected. Red and orange colours indicate higher risk areas.

But an analysis dated April 26 places the odds that orbital debris could destroy the next shuttle at a range from 1 in 54 to 1 in 113. The change in the risk estimate stems from recent tests showing that the shuttle's heat shield is more fragile than NASA had realized.

NASA has taken steps to protect Discovery from space debris once it is in orbit:
• More insulation has been added behind the front edge of the wings
• The shuttle will be docked to the space station for eight of its 12 days in space to shield the shuttle from debris.
• Technicians have added sensors that detect objects hitting the front of the wing.




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RE: Istres Air Base 125
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The US and France have agreed to establish a Transoceanic Abort Landing (TAL) site for the Space Shuttle at the Istres Air Base 125, in the South of France.
The agreement was signed in Washington by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin and the Ambassador of France, His Excellency Jean-David Levitte. The agreement covers Space Shuttle missions supporting the International Space Station. It provides for landing at the French Air Force base for a Shuttle that encounters an emergency during launch. The TAL sites could be used if a Shuttle is unable to reach orbit or a landing site in the U.S.

This agreement permits the U.S. government to place equipment and personnel at the base in advance of Space Shuttle missions; to perform weather monitoring; to ensure NASA navigational facilities and landing aids are operational; to provide search and rescue capability and medical evacuation support.

"Today's agreement follows a long history of mutually beneficial space cooperation between France and the United States. We also appreciate the assistance of the French Air Force, which has taken a leading role in this effort" - Michael Griffin.

Istres Air Base 125 was selected because of its location near the nominal ascent ground track of the Space Shuttle. The base also has one of the longest airstrips in Europe, more than 3.1 miles long. The base will be the third active TAL site, supplementing NASA's two other sites in Zaragoza and Moron, Spain. For NASA to launch a Shuttle, weather conditions must be acceptable at least at one TAL site



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Anonymous

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RE: Shuttle/ISS talks
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ROSKOSMOS AND NASA TO HOLD TALKS IN LE BOURGET ON JUNE 14

A meeting between Roskosmos head Anatoly Perminov and the new NASA administrator Michael Griffin, will take place in Le Bourget on June 14.
They will discuss the shuttle flight delays and prospects for the International Space Station (ISS).

"The talks have been scheduled for June 14, when Le Bourget will host an international aerospace salon," - Vyacheslav Davidenko, official spokesman for Roskosmos.

The head of Roskosmos complained that he was worried about permanent delays in the launches of the Discovery shuttle.
"I have prepared all the questions I am going to ask NASA. We just have to continue the dialogue. We are greatly concerned about it. We have been waiting for the launch since February and we hoped it will take place in May. Now it is scheduled for July, and there are rumours that delays will continue,” - Anatoly Perminov.
"Besides, Russia's commitments on the ISS transport service expire at the year's turn, so all the ISS partners should gather and discuss the schedule for 2006." - Anatoly Perminov.

The US suspended its shuttle expeditions to the ISS on February 1, 2003.
Since then Russian Soyuz pilot-controlled vehicles have delivered crews to the ISS, with Russian Progress ships in charge of cargoes.



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L

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RE: Space Shuttle
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Technicians are preparing to roll Space Shuttle Discovery from the launch pad to the Vehicle Assembly Building, now scheduled for early morning Thursday, May 26.
The move was delayed by several days to inspect the landing gear for cracks.
Technicians found a small crack in the right main landing gear of the Atlantis orbiter. “This is a link that helps prevent the gear moving beyond where it should” - Jessica Rye Kennedy Space Centre spokesperson.

Once there, Orbiter Discovery will be unhitched from its External Tank (ET) and lowered into the transfer aisle.
A test of Discovery’s Auxiliary Power Units - which provide hydraulic power to the shuttle’s movable elements - was initially scheduled for Monday, has also been pushed back by several days to allow for the inspections.

On or about June 7, Discovery will be lifted and attached to its new ET and Solid Rocket Boosters.
That Tank, ET-121, was originally slated to fly with Atlantis on the next mission, but will now help carry Discovery into space. A new heater is being added to the liquid oxygen feedline bellows area to prevent ice buildup.
NASA still plans to launch Discovery between 13 July and 31 July 2005.
As of Friday, Discovery had 12 days in its schedule to allow for unexpected delays.



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Anonymous

Date:
Shuttle launch
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The US space agency has announced that the launch of its space shuttle Discovery will now not take place until July 2005.
Nasa first set the launch date for May 15, but it has been pushed back twice.
The two month delay occurred because managers decided the spaceship's fuel tank, which triggered the 2003 Columbia disaster, is not quite ready to fly.

The shuttle fleet has been grounded since the 2003 accident, which killed seven astronauts.

Driving Nasa's decision to postpone the flight to July were based on concerns about accumulations of ice forming on the upper part of a 21m-long propellant line running along the outside of the shuttle's fuel tank, which could break off as it blasted off the launch pad and strike delicate parts of the ship's thermal shield.

"We will not launch if we think there is a concern for an unacceptable amount of ice to hit the orbiter" -Wayne Hale, Nasa


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