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Shuttle Launch Delayed 146

Posted by Zonk
from the it's-raining-in-space dept.
fizzix writes "Weather has delayed the launch of Discovery to tomorrow (Sunday the 2nd), but not everyone thinks it is ready to go. CNN reports both the chief engineer and the chief safety officer gave it a 'no go' for launch. Despite their reservations, barring inclement weather the shuttle is planned to liftoff at 3:26 ET." Update: 07/02 05:00 GMT by Z : I said launch not lauch. Fixed headline.
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Shuttle Launch Delayed

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  • by xmas2003 (739875) * on Saturday July 01, 2006 @11:14PM (#15644393) Homepage
    STS-121 Mission Status Center [spaceflightnow.com] - 'nuff said.
  • I was there ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by oostevo (736441) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @11:19PM (#15644408) Homepage
    I was there this afternoon.

    I'm almost surprised they even decided to proceed to the point that they did today (the hold with T-9 minutes to go). Standing on the ground at Kennedy, if you looked West, the sky was almost black with storm clouds over the runway at the Shuttle landing faciliity. You know, the one that needs to be clear for the Shuttle to land if there's an emergency? Seems like a bit of a waste.

    Just my two cents.

    • Re:I was there ... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mwoliver (688853) <me@kt2t.us> on Sunday July 02, 2006 @12:30AM (#15644581) Homepage
      If you have lived in Florida for any length of time you would realize that weather can, and often does, change in the span of minutes. With the hours needed to prepare for a launch, they could have GUESSED but not KNOWN that the weather was going to be bad exactly when their window was going to close. The paranoid should appreciate the opportunity to test all of the systems in preparation for a launch, but maybe I am guilty of a 'glass is half full' attitude.

      Sometimes, folks who think they know a whole lot need to just sit back and trust the folks who REALLY DO KNOW A LOT.
      • Having worked a number of launches (though not in the weather office), weather criteria can go from red (no-go) to green fairly quickly. Just as often it works in the other direction. The Eastern Range also has the experience of launching a rocket into bad weather and triggered lightning destroying the vehicle. The weather folks at Cape Canaveral have pieces of the rocket to remind them of the importance of what they do. There are a lot of rules in place to avoid a repeat. The Shuttle has a short windo
    • Re:I was there ... (Score:3, Informative)

      by LinuxHam (52232)
      I'm almost surprised they even decided to proceed to the point that they did today

      I was about 35 miles to the northwest, flipping back and forth between CNN and NASA TV being fed from my laptop. I was under darker clouds, and was afraid that the clouds were going to block my normally spectacular view. Then they scrubbed it, and I packed up and went over to the track for the race. True Florida vacation, this one.
    • I'm almost surprised they even decided to proceed to the point that they did today (the hold with T-9 minutes to go). Standing on the ground at Kennedy, if you looked West, the sky was almost black with storm clouds over the runway at the Shuttle landing faciliity. You know, the one that needs to be clear for the Shuttle to land if there's an emergency? Seems like a bit of a waste.

      Weather reports indicated that today was the most likely launch date weather-wise for the next few days. Tomorrow is only r

    • NPR reported that the shuttle would be grounded in cloudy weather due to potential electrical activity in the atmosphere.

      Yes -

      the shuttle really is THAT fragile!
  • Holiday Shot? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pipingguy (566974) * on Saturday July 01, 2006 @11:19PM (#15644409) Homepage

    If it eventually goes up successfully July 4 it'll either be a triumph or a complete PR disaster. I'm sure the engineers and administrators are taking this into account.
    • by dr_dank (472072) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @11:38PM (#15644444) Homepage Journal
      No pr disaster if things go wrong; they can simply say that it was an elaborate fireworks display!
    • In that vein, I wonder if they have prepared a speech for the president in case something goes horribly wrong. Apparently they had such a speech for the Apollo 11 mission, just in case [space.com].

      I would imagine Karl Rove is careful enough not to make the president wing it if he has to address the nation after such an event. God help us if that happens.
      • by gkhan1 (886823)

        I would imagine that such a speach is relatively easy to write: "Great tradgedy....yada yada....American heroes....yada yada....hold hands in prayer....etc". It's a fairly standard general eulogy. If you have the talent to write, a short, 5-10 minute adress shouldn't take a good speechwriter more than an hour or so to compose. I don't imagine the speech part would be a big issue in case such a tradgedy strikes.

        PS. I'm gonna feel awful if something does happen, and I've just been making sarcastic comments

        • Well, you can judge for yourself whether these are one-hour speeches:


          Reagan's speech [americanrhetoric.com] after Challenger

          Bush's speech [americanrhetoric.com] after Columbia.

          • These speeches arn't any huge feats of oratory. I don't mean to be disrespectful, but a talented writer could probably crank out these kind of speeches without much difficulty. They're fairly short, they contain not much original thought, they are filled with platitudes (like "Mankind is led into the darkness beyond our world by the inspiration of discovery and the longing to understand", what does this even mean?) and some fairly meaningless but deep-sounding religious truisms ("The same Creator who names

    • How is it a triumph? A thirty year old technology, which has flown dozens of times before, with a tolerable but not stellar reliability and safety record, does have its launch scrubbed? Christ, are Americans that desperate for something to cheer? Remember, by Apollo 13 the moon missions didn't justify postponing the soap operas, and 18--20's cancellation hardly caused national outcry. What makes you think ``Shuttle takes off again, no-one killed'' is a bug story, on July 4th or any other time?

      ian

  • by topham (32406) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @11:21PM (#15644413) Homepage
    I hope the person responsible for the current 'go' decision can be held criminally responsible if things do go wrong.

    Of course, the paranoid might think that this is somewhat intentional as a number of republicans would probably like to get in on private industry taking over NASA role in space exploration.

    (Too bad there is no money in space right now.)
    • by db32 (862117) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @11:38PM (#15644443) Journal
      Uhm...might wanna recheck some things. Republicans are the ones that were responsible for that little lying punk NASA PR guy that demanded Big Bang info be removed from the NASA sites and replaced with right wing fundamentalist creationism stuff. If its intentional, its because they view space as having no value because god is coming back for us right here, and soon.

      Personally...I think the greatest irony would be God, Jesus and friends standing on some remote place far on the other side of creation saying "Geeze dad, I woulda thought they could have made it here by now..."
  • I don't get it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Carnage Pants (801975) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @11:24PM (#15644416)
    Two people who are obviously very high up on the pecking order around there say, "No-go," and and yet it's still decided the shuttle is going to launch. Is it just me, or are we asking for another disaster?
    • They say "no go" because a repeat of the foam damage appears reasonable.
      The decision is overridden because the crew can camp out in the space station.
      The "no go" people claim to accept this. (they damn well knew too)

      So...

      Why say "no go" in the first place? Why worry about foam damage if
      you know that you ultimately won't care?
      • The decision is overridden because the crew can camp out in the space station. The "no go" people claim to accept this. (they damn well knew too) So... Why say "no go" in the first place? Why worry about foam damage if you know that you ultimately won't care?

        They said that there is little risk to the crew, but there is excessive risk to the orbiter itself.
      • Why say "no go" in the first place? Why worry about foam damage if you know that you ultimately won't care?

        Government bureaucrats invented and perfected it office politics. Imagine the nastiest most political back-stabbing corporate environment you've ever been in - that's kindergarten compared to even the most laid-back government office.

        So I figure the "no go" was a combination of CYA and posturing for influence. The chance of a failure is miniscule, but if something does happen to go wrong, their as

        • So I figure the "no go" was a combination of CYA and posturing for influence. The chance of a failure is miniscule, but if something does happen to go wrong, their asses are covered by being on the record as objecting to the launch. Also, if a failure does happen, there's a good chance that someone will need to fill the vacant offices of the folks who overruled them.

          There are a lot lower profile and safer ways to do that. Ie, strenuous object and then cease to make waves once you've acquired enough prot

          • There are a lot lower profile and safer ways to do that. Ie, strenuous object and then cease to make waves once you've acquired enough protection.

            I was referring to the two engineers who recently did just that. They objected, they were overruled, then they issued a statement saying that their concern was potential loss of the shuttle if it had to be flown by remote on re-entry, and agreed with the boss that there very little risk to human lives. If it really hits the fan, it wouldn't surprise me all that

    • Re:I don't get it. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      If you read the article, they give the reasons why they are still launching, and IMHO they are reasonable reasons.

      The safety guys are worried about the foam, but there is no risk until re-entry, and the problem occurs during launch. If the problem does occur (with very low probability, considering that it only happened once before and steps have been taken to make it less likely since), the astronauts can take refuge in the space station and send the shuttle down on autopilot. Waiting to launch now could

    • As I understood it when this news was fresh (2 months ago...and yes Slashdot already covered it back then), the top NASA officials took a vote. The chief engineer and the chief safety officer voted not to launch until further work had been done. The rest voted to go because they didn't want to keep making change after change without a chance to test them, and evaluations of previous launches suggest that the foam which will probably fall from ice frost ramps in this launch will be in harmlessly small pieces
  • by Sonic McTails (700139) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @11:25PM (#15644418)
    "Earlier Saturday mission managers decided a problem with a thermostat in one of Discovery's thrusters, which was showing a reading in the 80s when it should have been in the 60s, was not dangerous and it could be fixed once the shuttle was in orbit."

    Given the fact that foam striking the side of the Columbia during takeoff wasn't considered dangerous, I'm suprised they didn't stop to recheck everything before hand. When it comes down to rechecking everything and delaying the mission for a little longer vs. the millions lost and the following PR hit, the answer pretty obvious. You could say "it could never happen", but try and tell that to the crews of the Changeller and the Columbia.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Huh. The CNN report differs from what NASA TV was broadcasting earlier today. Basically NASA had determined that it was the sensor, not the thruster, which was malfunctioning, and that NASA had ammended the mission plan to simply not use that thruster.

      Basically you'll find that the mission plan includes the planned burns for rotation of the shuttle and maneuvering. By firing different thrusters for different amounts of time the same maneuver can be accomplished. Given that the shuttle isn't really flown "

    • "When it comes down to rechecking everything and delaying the mission for a little longer vs. the millions lost and the following PR hit, the answer pretty obvious."

      The obvious answer here is that the president is really, really desperate for PR. There's no good reason for NASA to launch the shuttle over the July Fourth holiday weekend - but to a president who has sent over 2500 of his own troops and tens of thousands of Iraqis to their deaths, risking the lives of a handful of astronauts is nothing if ther
      • Anyone who doesn't think that the Bush administration isn't pushing around NASA scientists for political gain needs only look at this launch to see what's really going on.

        Admittedly. But no more so, I think, than NASA has been 'pushed around' by any other high-ranking political figure throughout its history. NASA is a PR organization that happens to occasionally have the happy side-effect of scientific exploration.
      • The obvious answer here is that the president is really, really desperate for PR. There's no good reason for NASA to launch the shuttle over the July Fourth holiday weekend ...

        I've got one - a kick-arse fireworks display (though preferably not of the Challenger variety.)
      • by glitchvern (468940) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @02:12AM (#15644779) Homepage
        There's no good reason for NASA to launch the shuttle over the July Fourth holiday weekend

        Sure there is, the launch window is 10 minutes a day from June 30 to July 19. The two previous sets of launch windows were March 4 to 19 and May 3 to 22. Nasa missed both of those so now they are trying this one. I am not sure why a launch on June 30 was not tried, but that still would have been part of the 4th of July weekend. Generally speaking you want to try launching early in the set of launch windows so if you have a delay you might be able to launch in the next day's window. More info on launch windows here [spaceflightnow.com], here [spaceflightnow.com], and here [spaceflightnow.com].
        • For anyone (like me) who was wondering why the launch windows were so narrow and infrequent, this is from the parent's third link:

          To reach the international space station, the shuttle must launch within about five minutes of the moment Earth's rotation carries the launch pad into the plane of the station's orbit. For STS-121, launch must occur in daylight and the external fuel tank must separate in orbit, on the other side of the planet, with enough sunlight to allow photo documentation of the tank. Thos

      • risking the lives of a handful of astronauts is nothing if there's a chance it will make people feel patriotic and boost the presidential approval ratings a little bit more.

        I've never quite understood that. What does patriotism have to do with approval of the incumbant? Aren't people proud of the fact that if the people in power screw with them, they have the power to oust them?

    • Rechecking "everything" "by hand" on the launchpad? With cryogenic fuel in the tanks? I think that's unreasonable given the mildness of the problem. It would not be a little delay.

      Also, I think people underestimate how much is lost while the shuttle isn't flying. As I understand it, the Shuttles currently suck up $5 billion or so a year whether or not they fly. So a month delay is on the order of $400 million. And little delays when combined with the vagaries of the weather and other problems can become b

      • by tftp (111690) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @01:56AM (#15644747) Homepage
        Rechecking "everything" "by hand" on the launchpad? With cryogenic fuel in the tanks? I think that's unreasonable given the mildness of the problem. It would not be a little delay.

        There is another reason - if you get a week and decide to recheck everything, chances are good that you will find a lot of things out of calibration, if not outright defective. And even if you replace them all, by the time you are ready to check again something else will be broken, and so you do some more replacements... ad infinitum. That is because when a machine has 1,000,000 components, each component has to be exceptionally, impossibly reliable.

        This particular machine flew to the orbit and back many times already, and many parts may be approaching their failure points. But you can't know that - modern science can't see a future crack in a turbine's blade, and once the crack develops you have about 0.001 seconds before a major destructive event.

        That's why many airplane parts are tested on the ground until they start failing, and then a service life is set for them that is way lower than what was seen during the tests. And these parts are replaced after certain number of hours not because they are faulty, but because they might be faulty, and we can't check if they still have some life left in them or not.

        But in case of STS there is only very limited knowledge about many parts, as technicians keep discovering totally unexpected wear-related failures all over the orbiter, whenever they get to service it. So we don't really know how long this cryogenic pump or that high pressure pipe or that O-ring can last, since Shuttles are the test article in itself. That's why two missions were lost - because there was no good understanding, beyond a few guesses, of what the materials and the parts are capable of. There -still- is no understanding of many parts, aside from the tiles and RCC panels who were tested exhaustively and hopefully well enough by now.

        So, for example, when they say "this thermostat in that thruster does not matter..." they likely only evaluate some expected fault scenario, assuming things that they don't know for sure. For example, if a sensor is misreading the fuel temperature it's one issue. But if it does that because there is an intermittent short, and it may ignite the fuel, that's a very different issue.

        This way if they don't check everything they at least can launch, and we already know that the chance of failure should not be higher than 2% - likely less, since the previous problems had been fixed. But if they check for everything they will never fly, and if they ever do then something else will break just after they finished checking. It's just statistics, and game of chance.

        • Minor correction... the o-ring failure was a known value. People like Roger Boisjoly knew it would fail under a certain temperature, it wasn't an unknown fatigue failure like you suggest.
    • Ugh, now we're running into yet another bugbear of launch scheduling, "launch windows". Assuming they can't launch on July 4 (with the foam problems that since developed, that's a good chance), then they may end up postponing till late August. So the initial relatively small problem could result in hundreds of millions of dollars of wasted downtime.

      The foam problems are probably a result of the delay as well. Things break while you're sitting on the pad!

  • Check that radar. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Chatmag (646500) <editor@chatmag.com> on Saturday July 01, 2006 @11:27PM (#15644420) Homepage Journal
    Here is the link to the radar image for Melbourne, Florida [weather.gov]

    I'm close enough to see the space shots, and there were some storms west of the Cape this afternoon, a few more out to sea. Forecast for tomorrow is less of a chance of thunderstorms in the area and downrange.

    I have my thermos of coffee ready. "I always have coffee when I view radar". (Dark Helmet, Spaceballs.)
  • Lauch? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 01, 2006 @11:28PM (#15644422)
    Whats "lauch"?

    Seriously, Slashdot is read by millions of people and yet it lacks the basic courtesy and professionalism that any media outlet should have. How can this thing be taken seriously?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 01, 2006 @11:32PM (#15644429)
    If the chief safety officer can't cancel a launch due to safety concerns, what's the point of having a chief safety officer?
    • by khallow (566160) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @12:50AM (#15644631)
      I'm not clear on the level of risk or the job requirements of the Chief Safety Officer, but it appears to me that a key problem is merely that the Shuttle cannot achieve the level of safety that the chief safety officer is supposed to uphold. It has somewhere around 1-2% failure rate and currently there has only been one launch since the changes after the Columbia launches. Given the advanced age of the remaining vehicles and the lack of progress in reducing tile damage from ice, it sounds like the Chief Safety Officer was in an untenable situation.

      In other words, the CSO probably can only approve if an unreasonable (for what they have) level of safety is achieved. Hence, they are likely to be ignored because their requirements cannot be met.

    • by evanbd (210358) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @02:33AM (#15644818)
      Well, the CSO didn't choose to appeal the decision. Basically the CSO and chief engineer are worried about the loss of the vehicle, but not the crew. Everyone agrees the crew will be safe, since they plan to check out the tiles etc in orbit, and keep the crew in the ISS and land the shuttle remotely if it looks bad.

      Griffin is taking a calculated risk -- he knows the shuttle might be lost, but has taken steps to make sure the crew isn't.

      So basically, they object and think it's the wrong decision, but they believe that having gone on record as saying that is sufficient -- they don't think there's a need to override the person in charge of risk assessment since what's at risk is only the spacecraft and not the crew. Whether to risk the craft is legitimately a monetary / political decision, not a safety one, since the crew should be fine either way.

  • Apparently NASA has failed to have a good weather analysis completed. I don't know of too many people who have lived in Florida for over five years that don't know about our semi-scheduled summer afternoon thunderstorms. Then, on top of that, there is a lot of weather coming in from the Gulf for the next few days. These next few days are not good for any important space launches.
  • by beebware (149208) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @11:47PM (#15644465) Homepage

    The details in the Slashdot posting are slightly incorrect. Todays/yesterdays launch (the scheduled on on the 1st of July) was postponed at T-9minutes after a 40 minute scheduled hold (if it's scheduled, why didn't they add it into the count down?) and approximately 3 minutes of 5 into an "extended hold" (after they "polled" all the various sections of the launch team). Then the decision was made the "scrub" (abort) the launch due the weather being too unpredictable and there being storm clouds (anvil clouds) within 20 miles of the emergency landing strip (although they have got backup landing strips in France and Spain). They will retry the launch tomorrow, and can abort for any reason up to 31 seconds before main ignition.

    At the moment, they are still "go" for the launch tomorrow.

    BTW: You learn a lot from watching the live stream on nasa.gov [nasa.gov]!

    • by DarthBart (640519) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @11:52PM (#15644480)
      can abort for any reason up to 31 seconds before main ignition.

      The folks in the firing room can abort up to 31 seconds before T-0, but the onboard computers can abort anytime before the SRBs light. Once those puppies light, you're going whether you like it or not.
    • I'm more curious as to why it took over eight hours for someone at /. to notice this. It ain't news anymore.
    • by endernet (656588) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @12:02AM (#15644501)
      The 45 min hold at T-9:00 is standard. It's used for making up time if they take too long on some pre-flight procedures. I think there is a 10min scheduled hold in there at about T-20:00 as well. Why is it not included in the countdown? Because they can chose to use all the 45 min, or only some of it.
    • Todays/yesterdays launch (the scheduled on on the 1st of July) was postponed at T-9minutes after a 40 minute scheduled hold (if it's scheduled, why didn't they add it into the count down?)

      Well from what I understand the T-9 minutes hold is scheduled but the duration is not scheduled. The official countdown clock seems to try to account for the several scheduled holds as it currently reads over 9 hours to launch while it is scheduled for around 3:30 EDT about 15 hours from now. Maybe someone who actually k

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 02, 2006 @12:11AM (#15644524)
      storm clouds (anvil clouds) within 20 miles of the emergency landing strip (although they have got backup landing strips in France and Spain)

      Just a small correction there; the strips in France and Spain aren't backup strips, the two locations serve different purposes. If there is a failure early in the launch sequence then they can in theory just ditch the attachments, turn around, and land at the emergency strip near the launch site. ("In theory" because this maneuver is so insanely difficult that it's been said to require about seven different miracles to be successful.) Past a certain point the shuttle can no longer make it back to Florida, so then the abort procedure changes to continue approximately on course and land on the far side of the Atlantic. This part is where the sites in France and Spain come into play. There are few, if any, scenarios where either side could be used, so you end up with a weird situation where bad weather in a place four thousand miles away can scrub the launch because you need to be able to abort there if something goes badly wrong.

      Today was the opposite. The transatlantic sites were clear but the strip in Florida itself was too cloudy, so they couldn't go.

      This is yet another advantage of simpler capsule systems. The abort modes for those are all extremely simple and reliable compared to the Shuttle's. You fire the escape tower, get away from the rockets, ride down and open the parachutes when you get to the right altitude. As long as the weather isn't so horrible that it sinks the capsule in the ocean, everything should be pretty much fine.

      Apollo 12 got hit by lightning during launch and still landed on the Moon, but the Shuttle can't launch if there are storm clouds within 20 miles. The wonders of modern technology.
      • This is yet another advantage of simpler capsule systems. The abort modes for those are all extremely simple and reliable compared to the Shuttle's. You fire the escape tower, get away from the rockets, ride down and open the parachutes when you get to the right altitude.

        In history there have been two aborts of capsule systems, (specifically Soyuz). In the first, the abort system wasn't fired at the first warning of a fire in the booster (on the pad), but was delayed until almost too late. (Less than a

    • As the previous reply stated, the launch can be aborted (either by Launch Control at KSC, or by the computer) at any time up until the SRB's ignite. There can be (and have been) aborts between the ignition of the main engines and the ignition of the SRB's. A couple (although the exact missions escape me right now) have been aborted at almost literally the last second, around T-00:00:03 or so. But yeah, once the SRB's are lit, you're leaving the pad wether you like it or not.

      You are right that they have e
  • Hold on (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Umbral Blot (737704) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @11:51PM (#15644474) Homepage
    So if the engineer says no, and the safety officer says no then who is saying yes? Whose opinion could be more important than these two people?
    • Re:Hold on (Score:3, Funny)

      by Hiigara (649950)
      The politcal officer... duh
    • Re:Hold on (Score:5, Informative)

      by RedWizzard (192002) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @02:31AM (#15644814)
      So if the engineer says no, and the safety officer says no then who is saying yes? Whose opinion could be more important than these two people?
      The chief engineer Chris Scolese and the associate administrator of Safety and Mission Assurance Bryan O'Conner are there to advise. That is what they do. The decision is made by the NASA Administrator Mike Griffin. His rationale [space.com] for proceeding include that there is no undue risk posed to the crew (the crew can wait for rescue at the ISS), no short or medium term fix has been identified, and continued delays may cause greater risk down the line as NASA scrambles to complete the 16 missions they need to before the fleet is grounded in 2010. There is also the feeling that since the external tank redesign they've just done is so significant (biggest change to the aerodynamics since the shuttle started flying), it would be wise to have a flight with that change alone rather than waiting for further redesigns.
  • I was looking for a good streaming video of the launch in a F/OSS-friendly format, but I couldn't find one - NASA was Wmv/QT/Real, BBC was Real/Wmv. Does anyone know a good source of a shuttle launch stream that's in a free format like mpeg or theora?

    Thankfully, Ubuntu made it easy to add a extra repository and install RealPlayer 10 in less than 10 minutes. Just in time to catch them scrub the launch.
  • Lauch (Score:2, Funny)

    by saboola (655522)
    Duncan McLauchlin "Lauch" Faircloth (born 14 January 1928), served as a Republican U.S. Senator from North Carolina.

    Before his Senate service, Faircloth was a prominent and wealthy hog farmer. One impetus for his political activism was his disagreement with the increasing regulations targeting large hog farming operations such as his, fueled by an environmentalist and populist backlash.

    Faircloth once joked that he wanted to be known as the conservative senator from North Carolina. Since the state's ot
  • Personally... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LindseyJ (983603)
    Personally, I believe that any delays, scrubs, cancelations and PR disasters at this point can only help space exploration as a whole. No, of course I don't want to see another shuttle go up in flames with the loss of anoter crew, but a PR disaster in the form of an indefinite launch hold is another story. Sadly, I think that political and budgetary pressures will force this shuttle up, ready or not.

    With the hard date set for the retirement of the current shuttle fleet, I think NASA is wasting its effort
    • Re:Personally... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Rakishi (759894) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @04:51AM (#15645103)
      The difference between Virgin Galactic and a space program is akin to the difference between seeing Mount Everest from the bottom of the mountain and seeing it from the top of the peak. They barely go into space and are amusingly far from orbit or what NASA/The Russians do. Maybe in another decade or two they'll be closer but probably not. Going into orbit is expensive. Various commercial systems have reached $1-2k/lb but that involves using preexisting Russian infrastructure and humans need a lot of mass (all those pesky life support systems, seats and so on).

      Things get even worse when it comes to actual research in space. That dinky little rocket you use to send two people into space on isn't going to get a large telescope or space station into orbit. The bigger the rocker the bigger the infrastructure costs, and that isn't linear. NASA pays up the wazoo for its infrastructure, much of it due to the Apollo program I believe (those Saturn V rockets were BIG).

      Keep in mind that a government can deal with a 1% failure rate, a private company would be gone before a tenth of the lawyers even get there.
      • The problem is that NASA claimed to have a much better success rate (or lower failure rate) than 1%. And the likelyhood of death as a result of failure to be even lower, with emergency safty procedures and other stuff. The sad fact of the matter is that death on the Shuttle is much more likely than it ever was during the Apollo days, and there also appears to be a very lax attitude in the part of NASA management that doesn't seem to care.

        As for doing research in space, I would also point out that the Satu
  • Damn it! I came all the way down to Melbourne for this photo op (see sig for explanation) and it gets delayed. Oh well- in the interest of protecting the safety of these American heros, so be it.
  • If the launch has to be cancelled Sunday because of weather, it will be pushed to Tuesday. This seems like a spectacularly bad idea. It would be a while before any forgot the billion dollar firework on independence day.
  • NPR's Morning Edition did an interesting articleon June 22 about the impending launch:

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?story Id=5503182 [npr.org]

    They interview the two senior officials who have reservations about the launch. What I found most interesting were the odds that one NASA employee mentions, which are definitely in favor of the launch and mission succeeding based upon the track record of the shuttles. Yes, it's a dangerous mission and NASA cannot guarantee that falling foam will not damage the
    • Yes, it's a dangerous mission and NASA cannot guarantee that falling foam will not damage the shuttle, but in the hundred plus launches only two shuttles have been lost, which isn't a bad track record.
      And only one of those losses was due to foam.
  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday July 02, 2006 @02:00AM (#15644753) Homepage
    No, they're not launching at 3AM; they slipped all the way to Sunday afternoon.
  • Maybe I'm just naïve (I hardly think so), but I think if you're getting your information about the Shuttle launch and in-flight status solely from news media, you're most certainly not getting the whole story. Last year, there was a news conference after another chunk of foam came off the shuttle (after all the precautions that they went through to prevent it), with all the experts showing the evidence and explaining it. As usual, they opened it up to questions at the end. The question was along the li
  • The least NASA wants right now is further Shuttle problems -- imagine what another severe shuttle problem would do to the entire NASA program and funding now. And if they are to be cautious I think it was surprising that given the doubts they had from staff (that happened to be related to their security as well), when they have already gone through all these months of preparations. It will likely add for some increased costs, sure, but I'm sure the public won't care and take it as a sign of weakness or some
  • by whitroth (9367) <whitroth.5-cent@us> on Sunday July 02, 2006 @11:50AM (#15645933) Homepage
    Ok, my wife is a former NASA engineer, and used to be one of the top folks with actual go/no go decision (her specialty was hypergolics). Here's some of what she wrote after yesterday's attempt (and if the language bothers you, tough: she's ex-Navy ):

    ************
    For the record, speaking as someone who can see the goddamn launch pads from
    my roof: there wasn't a cloud in the sky, and the last lightning had been
    over four hours ago (gave me an excuse to quit mowing), and the nearest drop
    of rain was in west Orlando, some fifty or sixty miles away.

    I was a member of the "go / no-go" team during Return To Flight in 1988.
    There was no hesitation or wimpiness in our hours of pre-poll discussion, and
    when Safety was called on during the poll, we all but cheered and danced
    yelling "GO!" You could cut the tension with a damascus sword, but there was
    no greasy sweat and shifty eyes.

    Friday, I made a snide prediction to the local paper: they were gong to count
    down to the built-in T-9 minute hold and sit there until they got a weather
    excuse. I should have made it for money, but there would not have been many
    takers among the spaceflight-savvy. It's practically a ritual.

    I'll go out on a limb on this one, since I'm up against the bushitsta's "You
    WILL launch so George can give his speech and distract attention from the
    Iraq disaster" orders, but if they have anyone with any balls at all on the
    launch team, this time they'll count down to the five minute mark and call it
    off after a five-minute hold on some computer-glitch excuse. (At T-5, they
    start the APU recorders, which puts them on an MFP -- the APUs are strictly
    limited on run time.)

    (Sorry, MFP isn't in the NASA handbook. That's Major Fuckup Point.)

    Then they'll try again on July 4th, just for #$%!ing show. Goddess of fire,
    protect the astronauts. But it wouldn't break my heart if John Ellis and
    company were doing a photo-op on Monday and a tetroxide valve blew.
    ************
    it ain't the weather they're afraid of. That's their EXCUSE.

    Put it this way -- the ten minutes of cross-chat I bothered to listen to
    sounded like full-blown panic. "O-ten-six is a negative" means nothing to
    anyone who hasn't worked countdown, but what that means is THEY COULD NOT GET
    A SENSOR RESPONSE FROM THE MAIN ENGINE TURBINES. As in, the fucking engines
    weren't saying yes or no as to whether they would even turn on. Flood a
    system with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen and hit the "on" button, and if
    the turbines don't spin up, you have a very large bomb with the fuse burning
    down fast.

    And that was only ONE of the "re-check" (means "no fucking response") calls
    that I heard, and I only bothered to turn on the TV to win a bet.

    Rain and lightning here as of 0900. Clear sky by noon. Bets on the T-5 stall
    still better than a lotto ticket.
  • In the days when Europeans first made to the West Indies and then the US, the risks of sea travel were enormous, but so were the risks of everyday life. You could die of storms at sea, shipwreck, piracy or malnutrition, but then you could easily die back home because of famine, war, disease or accident. When the mean life expectancy was only around 27-30, the risk/benefit analysis of a long sea voyage was not too hard a calculation to make, as a single successful voyage could jump start a career even for an
  • Launch Director just announced a scrub for today due to the weather.

It's not so hard to lift yourself by your bootstraps once you're off the ground. -- Daniel B. Luten

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