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Shuttle Launch Success

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  • by w33t (978574) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @06:29PM (#15657628) Homepage
    It is so inspiring to see that shuttle blast into orbit. Such a technological achievement, such an affirmation of the power and beauty science has brought to us.

    And yet, here alongside these feelings of grandeur in my heart are these off-putting notions of what the shuttle actually means. How, even though it's one of the most amazing creations in the history of mankind, it represents so many of our failings.

    The cost of a shuttle launch, while great, is dwarfed by the day-to-day costs of modern wars.

    The shuttle, while technologically impressive, is still very much a cut-back version of what it was intended to be [slashdot.org].

    If you have the time I recommend watching and listening to Rutan's adress [google.com] to the National Space Society.

    Rutan makes many points to ponder - which highlight questions I myself have wondered. For instance, why can't I fly to space yet? Why is it so hard?

    Burt Rutan makes the observation that when he saw the Redstone rocket at the national air museum he wondered, "why don't we fly this anymore?".

    Indeed why! It's cheap, it's simple - simpler can and often does mean safer. The Redstone can get a person or two into orbit. And why not launch a couple a week? Burt Rutan goes on to point out that after each new space vehicle is created the old designs are never used again.

    He states that if we followed this philosophy with aircraft we would have only one airplane flying right now, the B2 bomber!

    I don't mean to be a naysayer on this great launch day. I don't mean to steal thunder from such a remarkable achievement (and few are greater fans of the space shuttle than myself). But I think there is a problem with NASA's philosophy of what space exploration is - what it means to the average person.

    For me, space exploration means the exploration of space. And I want to be the explorer.

    As far as I know, NASA doesn't have me slated for any launches in the foreseeable future.
    • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @06:45PM (#15657674) Homepage Journal
      Two years ago the X-Prize was won. Since then, no-one has had the opportunity to buy a suborbital flight. The vehicle that won the X-Prize is hanging in the Smithsonian. The spinoff of that vehicle (Virgin Galactic) won't be opening its doors for 4 more years. It would appear that the only people with the means to make suborbital space tourism a reality no longer have the motivation to do it as fast as possible. Maybe this just means other groups will have time to play catch up, but when you consider that suborbital is just the first step of many in commercial space flight, you gotta wonder when, if ever, we'll get our turn.
      • It would appear that the only people with the means to make suborbital space tourism a reality no longer have the motivation to do it as fast as possible.

        Why do you suppose that is? Is that 'being first' was enough of a motivator to get to the point where the x-prize was claimed, but once you get into the nuts and bolts of going to the next step there just isn't the demand, or if there is the demand the economics just don't work out?

        How much would you pay to go into space? Would you be able to affo

        • How much would you pay to go into space? Would you be able to afford it?

          As long as there are plce I haven't yet been on Earth that I would pay good money to visit, I wouldn't really have much desire to go into Space.

          I've travelled a bit, but there are just SO many places I haven't been that I want to see right here on the planet.

        • according to Virgin Galactic, the number of people who have expressed interest in taking a suborbital spaceflight with them is in the tens of thousands, while 100 "Founders" have already paid the estimated $200,000 ticket price to secure a place at the front of the line.

          from The Space Review [thespacereview.com]. So yes, I think there's a market.
      • the ship has to be designed and developed to last for a number of launches. In contrast, I would guess that SS1 was designed for less than 6 launches. And even with that, it took something like 5 years. While Paul (allen) is still funding it, he is going to want to get bang for the buck (so to speak). That means that the white knight replacement will probably be designed to carry not only V2(low space, of 100 miles with regular passengers, or very small cargos launches), but also V3 (LEO space or better wit
        • Fact of the matter is, none of us know why SS1 was retired, except Rutan that is. My guess is he got a nice fat signing bonus with Virgin Galactic and part of the agreement was that he wouldn't steal their thunder. Legislation probably had something to do with it too. It's not easy jumping through all that red tape to take on passengers.

          As for SS2 possibly being orbital.. no. It's not likely. We're probably talking 20 more years until anyone but the russians start offering orbital flights.
      • by Moofie (22272) <lee@noSPaM.ringofsaturn.com> on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @12:00AM (#15658346) Homepage
        Two years? Two whole years? Those darn slackers.

        Get some perspective. You want a real failure? How about going to the Moon 35 years ago, and then dicking around in LEO ever since then. THAT is a travesty.
    • by cbcanb (237883)
      Burt Rutan makes the observation that when he saw the Redstone rocket at the national air museum he wondered, "why don't we fly this anymore?". Indeed why! It's cheap, it's simple - simpler can and often does mean safer. The Redstone can get a person or two into orbit.
      No, it can't. Redstone could only launch an astronaut on a very short suborbital hop. A substantially larger rocket is needed to get a human into orbit.
      • by quanticle (843097) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @07:50PM (#15657840) Homepage
        No, it can't. Redstone could only launch an astronaut on a very short suborbital hop. A substantially larger rocket is needed to get a human into orbit.

        Ok, so the Redstone's no good anymore. But why scrap Gemini? That was good enough for orbital flight. Why scrap the Saturn? That was good for going to the moon, and it could have "retired" as a heavy-lift cargo vehicle. Rutan's main point remains: why did NASA scrap the older launch systems (like Saturn) after the advent of the new system? Even if they didn't have the money to maintain 2 concurrent launch systems, they could have released the plans to private industry, so that these "tried and true" vehicles could be put to commercial use.

        • If these systems were released to the general public, the Soviet Union would have been able to get a hold of them and get to the moon.
          • by Fordiman (689627)
            True, but the cold war is over. Do we actually care if someone else knows how to get into space nowadays?
            • The problem isn't just a 'hostile' nation learning how to get a payload into space.

              The problem is that once in space, that payload can then be dropped on any location on the planet.
            • I had a conversation with Pete Worden about exactly this issue, back when he was head of the USAF Space Command. He pointed out that the big issue is "surprise package delivery". If anyone with $50M can own his very own reusable manned vehicle, then anyone with $50M can put pretty much whatever he wants wherever he wants with just 45 minutes' notice.

              On reflection, that's pretty scary: a nav system capable of a rendezvous on-orbit is also capable of rendezvous with other similarly sized objects such as th
        • by cyclone96 (129449) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @09:24PM (#15658034)

          Even if they didn't have the money to maintain 2 concurrent launch systems, they could have released the plans to private industry, so that these "tried and true" vehicles could be put to commercial use.


          A lot of the older systems did make it to private industry (although that's an odd way of putting it, NASA didn't build rockets, they contracted Lockheed, Martin Marietta, etc. to do it for them - private industry already had the plans - they developed them).

          Most of the commercial American heavy launch vehicles (Boeing Delta, Lockheed-Martin Atlas) have their early roots in the NASA and military space and missile programs in the early 60's. In fact, the government has a vested interest in commerical exploitation of launch vehicles, since the more that are built, the lower the unit cost for government launches.

          Now, if you are talking about the Saturn V...there simply was not a commercially viable market for a launcher of that size in the 1970s. If there was one, industry would have been free to exploit it. Even the government (traditionally the customer for very heavy launchers, even today) never used the Saturn V outside of the Apollo and Skylab launches. While many bemoan the fact that the infrastructure for the Saturn V was not maintained, the decision was made that it was not of enough national significance to do so when Congress and the Executive branch (not NASA) made the decision to shut down that program.
        • No, it can't. Redstone could only launch an astronaut on a very short suborbital hop. A substantially larger rocket is needed to get a human into orbit.

          Ok, so the Redstone's no good anymore. But why scrap Gemini? That was good enough for orbital flight.

          For the same reason most folks scrap their little roadsters when they have kids. Like Gemini, they are cool, sporty, and 'good enough' to get around town in - but that's about it. Once you want to actually *do* anything in orbit, you need docking capa

    • by bruce_the_loon (856617) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @07:00PM (#15657728) Homepage

      Burt Rutan makes the observation that when he saw the Redstone rocket at the national air museum he wondered, "why don't we fly this anymore?".

      Indeed why! It's cheap, it's simple - simpler can and often does mean safer. The Redstone can get a person or two into orbit. And why not launch a couple a week? Burt Rutan goes on to point out that after each new space vehicle is created the old designs are never used again.

      Rutan does have a point, but the Redstone isn't a good example. It never took a man into full orbit, only the sub-orbital run and it was bettered by the Atlas which got Glenn into orbit. It was never powerful enough for orbital launch.

      If anything he should be talking about Atlas and Titan. Which have evolved into the new EELV systems that the military are using. So the designs and evolutions are still there.

      The Saturn 5 was a massive beast of a launcher, but they canned it after Apollo. With a heavy lifter like that, NASA could have launched the space station in half the time and much safer. And now they are redesigning the whole heavy-lift launch vehicle for the Moon project.

      • And now they are redesigning the whole heavy-lift launch vehicle for the Moon project.
        they probablly don't have much choice, if you keep building something for years you make lots of changes incrementally to take into account technological improvements and component availibility. If on the other hand you haven't built your item for decades then even if you still have the plans you are going to find it very very difficult to build as you keep finding parts unobtainable, things that were judged by eye by a pa
        • by tftp (111690) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @09:28PM (#15658044) Homepage
          don't think even the ruskies stuff can rival the saturn 5

          The Energiya [wikipedia.org] booster is configurable to 400,000 lbs, and that exceeds the 285,000 lbs orbital lift capacity of Saturn V. This is not surprising, given that Energiya was designed decades later and was using the latest technologies.

          There were only two flights of Energiya, compared to 32 of Saturn V, and it is not manufactured any more. However its technology is not only up to date, it is being actively used [wikipedia.org] in other boosters [pratt-whitney.com]. So if anyone wants to lift 175 tons to the orbit, it can be done. It only costs money. See here [k26.com] for available configurations.

          If you really need to launch anything that heavy, it would be cheaper and smarter to pay for manufacturing of Energiya rather than for redesign and manufacturing of Saturn V, and you get more bang for the buck at the same time. Engines of that power that are time-tested and proven to be OK are invaluable.

          • by oni (41625)
            The Energiya booster is configurable to 400,000 lbs, and that exceeds the 285,000 lbs orbital lift capacity of Saturn V.

            Sure sure. It was designed that way in large part because it had to be, because of the extreme northern latitude of the soviet launch site, they don't get as much of a kick from the Earth's rotation as the US or ESA. So they *have* to build larger rockets to put the same payload into orbit.

            Sadly, Energia was never actually tested with anything anywhere near the capability of the Saturn V
    • by Skyshadow (508) *
      Indeed why! It's cheap, it's simple - simpler can and often does mean safer. The Redstone can get a person or two into orbit. And why not launch a couple a week? Burt Rutan goes on to point out that after each new space vehicle is created the old designs are never used again. He states that if we followed this philosophy with aircraft we would have only one airplane flying right now, the B2 bomber!

      Not to nit-pick, but this isn't really the case.

      Granted, the US only flies one manned orbiter at the mom
    • Indeed why! It's cheap, it's simple - simpler can and often does mean safer. The Redstone can get a person or two into orbit. And why not launch a couple a week? Burt Rutan goes on to point out that after each new space vehicle is created the old designs are never used again.

      Oh come on. If we did that it would be too simple. The staff of tens of thousands of shuttle and space station design and redesign engineers would have nothing to do. We must create new and ever more complicated space welfare pro

    • by dj245 (732906) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @07:09PM (#15657752) Homepage
      Burt Rutan makes the observation that when he saw the Redstone rocket at the national air museum he wondered, "why don't we fly this anymore?".

      In doing some reading on the Redstone rocket I came across this odd duck [wikipedia.org]. A medium range ICBM that flew a total distance of 4 inches (100mm).
    • by maxume (22995)
      "Why is it so hard?"

      9.8 m/s/s. It's not a small number.
    • Yeah, the whole orbiter thing is absolutely flawless! ...except for that whole "burns up on re-entry" thing... yeah that might be a small problem...

      I love how the contingency plan is that if problems with Discovery are found during its inspection, the crew will stay on the ISS while another shuttle goes to rescue them!

      Great plan! ...except for that whole "the shuttles all have the same design" thing... yeah that might be a small problem...
    • by lfnoise (766132)
      OK let's say NASA loads up the shuttle with a dozen people and has daily launches year-round. That's 4383 persons launched per year. Let's say that only 1 in 100 U.S. citizens both is physically capable and wants to go. The CIA gives the US population at 298,444,215. In order to launch 1 in 100 US citizens at that rate would take 681 years. 298444215 / 100 / 4383 = 680.9 Your turn may take a while..
    • by GigsVT (208848)
      The cost of a shuttle launch, while great, is dwarfed by the day-to-day costs of modern wars.

      Modern wars created the space shuttle.

      We wouldn't even have launched anything into space if it weren't damned convienent to lob an unstoppable nuke at our enemies from there.

      All the rest, just side benefits.
    • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @08:08PM (#15657892) Homepage
      It is so inspiring to see that shuttle blast into orbit.

      you have no idea. My daughter and I were 20+ miles away at my brothers home and watched the column of smoke rise in the sky. She is 14 and is of the "whatever" generation not caring about anything. I pointed at the sky and said, "there goes the shuttle" and she turned into an 8 year old kid once again. She then marvelled at the fact that I mentioned that I watched the exact same thing when I was 14 and that she will probably be the last of the family to ever witness a shuttle launch.

      Seeing it for real although miles away is more awe inspiring... Even for a who cares 14 year old girl that still thinks emo is cool and that adults are stupid.

      And my family though I was mential for vacationing in florida in early july... I was given one of those father daughter moments that will be in her memory long after I am gone.

      That's how awe inspiring it is.
  • by Fjornir (516960) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @06:30PM (#15657634)
    Godspeed, Discovery, and come home safe!
    • by dex22 (239643)
      What does Godspeed mean, really? It's an abdication of responsibility. If the vehicle is good enough, by luck, to make the round trip it's somehow a supernatural event?

      No. This is the designers and planners and builders and maintainers who put together a complex set of systems. If they all did their job right, the risk should be so low that nobody feels the need to say 'Godspeed.'

      This isn't a flame, and it's not meant as flame-bait. It's just that when people say 'Godspeed' they're really misplacing their w
    • Godspeed, is that even faster than Ludicrous Speed?
  • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @06:33PM (#15657640)
    Still trying to drum up some backing.... Since when is complexity a good thing? The space shuttle is really far more complex than it needs to be and is far less reliable than it needs to be to do a proper job. While this complex machine falls part, Russian "pickup truck"-style space vehicles just get on with the job with little fanfare.
    • Yeah, but do Russian spaceships have heated seats, air conditioning, all-leather interior, a 16-speaker sound system and all-nozzle drive?
    • by Skyshadow (508) * on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @07:40PM (#15657819) Homepage
      I'm not sure they're trying to say that it's a good thing in and of itself that the shuttle is complex, but rather to point out (rightly) that it's impressive that it works right on a fairly consistant basis.

      I would be the last person to argue that the shuttle isn't overly complex. Because of the dueling priorities between NASA and the Pentagon during its design phases combined with the basic nature of design-by-committee, it ended up trying to do too many things. The shuttle is one of my favorite cautionary examples to bring up during requirements meetings because of this.

      That aside, it's a serious mistake to take KISS too far -- this is something I see over and over again. Once you start diking complexity out of anything, it's always tempting to keep going even to the point where it starts impacting your actual goals (a fact which, in my experience, you won't realize until you go into testing, at which point you get to try and tack it back in at the expense of timelines, vast amounts of money and the jobs of easily-blamed underlings).

      But I guess that's the value of experience.
    • Unnecessary complexity is your enemy in any mission critical system. I don't know if it's necessary, but the Shuttle is capable of doing a lot more than the Russian launch vehicles. Hubble and the International Space Station were possible only because of the Shuttle's capability to allow extended spacewalks, as well as the use of the Canadarm.

      Just the same, the next generation of American spacecraft should be based on the SRB/ET system but with a robust reentry/crew vehicle, and not one covered in glass. At
  • Granted, a launch is the controlled ignition of the largest bottle rocket ever made, and that's dangerous. But isn't the primary concern these days the foam breaking off of the fuel tank and damaging heat tiles, which don't matter until re-entry? Post again when it's touched down on earth safely, please.
    • by enitime (964946) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @06:59PM (#15657723)
      "But isn't the primary concern these days the foam breaking off of the fuel tank and damaging heat tiles, which don't matter until re-entry?"


      Probably mostly because that's what went wrong most recently. One shuttle has been lost during take-off, one during re-entry. I think is small sigh of relief that all is well so far is justified.

    • Apparently foam did break off the shuttle on launch today, twice, but during time windows that are unlikely to cause damage to the shuttle. I guess when they can determine that, it's reasonable to call it a successful launch.

      I suppose we'll know for sure after they've landed safely though.
    • Granted, a launch is the controlled ignition of the largest bottle rocket ever made, and that's dangerous. But isn't the primary concern these days the foam breaking off of the fuel tank and damaging heat tiles, which don't matter until re-entry?

      Well, we've had two catastrophic failures, and one of them was at launch. The launches are supposed to be safe now, but they were also supposed to be safe before Challenger blew up.

      Post again when it's touched down on earth safely, please.

      No, post again when yo

    • The SRB fuel is very similar to a fertilizer bomb. Rockets of very similar composition have been known to detonate.

      Rocket: aluminum powder fuel, powerful per-chlorate oxidizer, a tiny bit of iron catalyst, and a binder.

      Bomb: aluminum/magnesium/diesel fuel, weaker nitrate oxidizer

      The bomb needs a teaspoon of primary explosive to get it going... unless you are unlucky, as the residents of a Texas harbor town found out with the largest non-nuclear explosion.

      I have to wonder, what if NASA gets unlucky? At the v
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @06:36PM (#15657654) Homepage Journal
    Lets hope the LANDING goes just as well.
  • by localroger (258128) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @06:44PM (#15657671) Homepage
    It's successful when it lands and the astronauts step back onto terra firma. Especially, as other comenters have already mentioned, given how swimmingly the last Columbia mission was going until the last few minutes.
  • It was a loud one ! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dolphinzilla (199489) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @06:47PM (#15657678) Journal
    watched it live from my front yard in Titusville - the wind was perfect and it was the loudest launch I have heard in a long time - my garage door was rattling for a good 5 or 6 minutes - perfect launch for the 4th of July !!
    • by Tackhead (54550) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @06:57PM (#15657715)
      > watched it live from my front yard in Titusville - the wind was perfect and it was the loudest launch I have heard in a long time - my garage door was rattling for a good 5 or 6 minutes - perfect launch for the 4th of July !!

      As long as Slashdot's a good 4 hours behind the times, let's get this outa the way too.

      --- BEGIN INTERCEPTED TRANSMISSION ---
      "Meh. Running Imperialist Lackey Dogs!
      Their shuttle pales in comparison to the People's Glorious Three-Part Fireworks Display that Dear Leader has orchestrated downrange of Pyongyang!"

      --- END INTERCEPTED TRANSMISSION ---

      Perfect finish to the Fourth, indeed, even if I didn't get to see the Shuttle launch and didn't have a need to know what happened to the non-decoy part of Kim's little fireworks show :)

      Nice try, Kim. No cigar. You still so ronery.

  • Yeah, it was safe... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by caluml (551744) <slashdot AT spam ... OT calum DOT org> on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @06:47PM (#15657679) Homepage
    Yeah, it was a safe take-off. Apart from the 5 objects that fell off during the launch [bbc.co.uk].
  • I missed it because I was at work :( So sad. Ah well - I did feel the tiny earthquake that occured two hours later, that was neat. :)
  • by Skyshadow (508) * on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @06:51PM (#15657694) Homepage
    Even given how outdated, expensive, failure-prone and downright dangerous the Space Shuttle is, they're still pretty goddamn sweet looking when they lift off.

    I hope to Christ they get through these last few shuttle missions without a problem and manage to stick the remaining three in museums where they belong.

    • My father has 8mm film of a saturn 5 launch. Those made the shuttle launch look pretty darn pitiful.

      No disrespect to the shuttle and it's crew, but we have launched a far greater rocket into space, and those were far more dangerous than flying on 20 shuttle launch and return missions. It was a miracle that no Saturn 5 rockets had a mishap and took out most of the cape.
    • Even given how outdated, expensive, failure-prone and downright dangerous the Space Shuttle is, they're still pretty goddamn sweet looking when they lift off.

      Agreed. The video footage during ascent is amazing.

      The planned Ares V [nasa.gov] should continue the tradition of spectacular launches. It will use 2 shuttle-derived 5 segment solid rocket boosters and 5 (!) RS-68 [boeing.com] H2/O2 engines that burn even more colorfully [spaceflightnow.com] than the shuttle SSMEs. Should be a great show at night.

  • by Kazzahdrane (882423) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @07:02PM (#15657734)
    I wish space exploration was advancing faster. It seems sad that in this, the 21st century, the world's superpowers are still spending vast sums of money on killing other humans, instead of seeing what's beyond our own back yard. It's a really geeky thing to say I know, but I often wish I'd been born a few centuries later, and had the chance to live the Star Trek life. A lifetime of exploring space sounds great to me.

    On a more serious note, I've often thought of manned deep space exploration as a bit of a Catch 22. I think it's the sort of thing that could really bring humanity together and encourage us to look past our differences and work together towards a common goal - but then I also think that we couldn't achieve a united deep space exploration programme until humanity learned to work together ans set aside our petty squabbles.

    I'm holding out for a discovery of some kind that will shunt the human race into a new era of enlightenment, but I doubt I'll see it in my lifetime.
    • On a more serious note, I've often thought of manned deep space exploration as a bit of a Catch 22. I think it's the sort of thing that could really bring humanity together and encourage us to look past our differences and work together towards a common goal - but then I also think that we couldn't achieve a united deep space exploration programme until humanity learned to work together ans set aside our petty squabbles.

      There's no reason to think so. Discovery of Americas and colonization of Asia and Afr
      • Personally, while I enjoy space opera as a genre, I'd rather NOT see wars between space colonies.

        Given history and a lot of the space opera/scifi I've read, war between space colonies would be unlikely. MUCH more likely would be war between Space Colonies and Earth where earth gets a couple a great big rocks droped on it from above.
    • the world's superpowers are still spending vast sums of money on killing other humans, instead of seeing what's beyond our own back yard.

      it will not stop until people stop accepting people like Bush as a leader.

      People dont care about grand thinker ideas. they care about getting a Bigger SUV, bigger house and bigger TV for their bedroom. Oh and they like to wave a flag once in a while to make believethey are "patriotic".

      Remember money = power.

      you dont get money without stepping on people.
  • by InfinityWpi (175421) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @07:03PM (#15657740)
    I can only imagine the bad-taste jokes that would have happened if there has been an accident.

    "Why doesn't NASA have 4th of July BBQs anymore?"
    "They can't convince any of the astronauts to show up."

    "New from TNT Fireworks: The Discovery! The biggest bang for your bucks! Fits any space-exploration budget!"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @07:06PM (#15657743)
    Every time I go to the grocery store in my piece of **** car, to buy some beer and smokes, I too leave with a thunderous blast and cloud of smoke, rattling my own garage door for 5 minutes... and I'm guaranteed on every trip that at least 5 objects fall off my car as well.

    In fact, everyone knows in my neighborhood I'm about to do a launnch, because I have to run an air compressor to pump up the bald back tires... they gather in lawn chairs to watch and kids on bicycles patrol the streets like F15's to make sure my air space is clear.

    If I tune the radio just right I can pick up Rush Limbaugh, which is as close as I get to mission control.

    Once it caught on fire, and darn near well exploded. I had to pop the hood right quick and jump on there and take a good p*** on the fuel rail which was on fire... took everything I got to put that one out. That was Grocery Trip number 13. I guess it was jinxed by the number. I hear Ron Howards planning on making a movie short about that trip. I had to patch up the fuel rail with some duck tape and used condoms I found behind the back seat.

    You know, buck for buck, I believe the American public gets more drama and excitement out of my car then they do some old space shuttle. With the front end alignment being as shot out as it is, I know it gives me plenty of excitement on the turnpike, jumping all over as it does
  • Kaboom! (Score:3, Funny)

    by ArtfulDodger75 (943980) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @07:08PM (#15657749)
    Where's the kaboom? There was supposed to be an Earth shattering kaboom!
  • by product byproduct (628318) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @07:21PM (#15657773)
    Since the shuttle is going to dock with the ISS, make sure you check on Heavens-Above [heavens-above.com] for ISS and STS-121 sightings from your city in the next few days. The best time is just before they dock (or right after they separate) because then you see two small dots in the sky racing in close formation.
  • worth defending (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Inspector Lopez (466767) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @07:50PM (#15657846) Journal
    In an era in which a larger world can be frustrated by other actions of the United States, take some comfort in physicist Robert Wilson's testimony to Congress in 1969 to the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, when he was asked to explain why the United States should fund a very expensive atom smasher. Wilson had already explained that the atom smasher wouldn't do much at all for the defense of the United States, but Wilson continued,
    It has only to do with the respect with which we regard one another, the dignity of men, our love of culture. It has to do with: Are we good painters, good sculptors, great poets? I mean all the things we really venerate in our country and are patriotic about. It has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to make it worth defending.

    There are seven people on board that rocket today, they are smarter than you or I, and harder working, and they have seen 14 others go to their deaths on the same craft.

    So: let's all do something to make ourselves worth defending, okay?
  • Disappointed..... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chanc_Gorkon (94133) <gorkon AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @07:55PM (#15657857)
    Listen: SPACEFLIGHT IS DANGEROUS!!!! If you wait until everything is 100 percent safe, you will never leave the ground. I am glad someone at NASA had the balls to risk it. We have impotant work to do in space that will need humans. If we are ever to have colonies on the Mars or the Moon we have to risk it. It's just the same as Lewis and Clark, Christopher Columbus and John Cabot. If noone in Europe ever came here, none of us would be here to celebrate Independence Day. I am proud to be a American even if the American's on Slashdot aren't.
    • by Trogre (513942)
      As a non-american, I'm just curious. What independence are you celebrating?

      What is it that you gained independence from? Are you still independent of it today?

      • by adrianmonk (890071) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @03:50AM (#15658876)
        As a non-american, I'm just curious. What independence are you celebrating? What is it that you gained independence from? Are you still independent of it today?

        I'm just going to give this a straightforward answer. I think there may be some anti-US subtext going on in your comment, but it's so short I'm not going to read that into it, or tease it out, as the case may be.

        So, the answer is, the thing we are celebrating our independence from, most specifically, is British rule. As someone else has already pointed out, July 4, 1776 is the date of the public announcement of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. (It was signed a few days before July 4th.)

        A little less specifically, we are celebrating our independence from colonial rule. This is something about a zillion other countries do, on account of so many countries being former colonies. You can count India, Australia, 90+% of the countries in Africa, 90+% of the countries in South America, and several other countries as members of the club of former colonies.

        More philsophically, the US is celebrating its independence from monarchy, and not just monarchy specifically, but all forms of arbitrary, non-representative government in general. The government of the US is explicitly a contract between the people and the state. The state's power is justified because the people have given it the power, rather than (say) divine right or tradition. There are term limits on most offices, regular elections, and just about any regular person can stand for office: there is no need to be royalty or to be a member of a ruling class. Indeed, the US Constitution explicity forbids the granting of any "title of nobility".

        Whether all this idealistic stuff really represents the way things work in reality is another question. A decent argument can be made that the US declared independence because it didn't want to pay taxes to Britain back home and it thought it could get away with it. That a constitutional government was set up afterwards might not have been the main point, although it was a good thing. In fact, it wasn't until after the Revolution was sucessful and we were independent that it was even determined what independence would mean and what we had fought for. The US Constitution wasn't even ratified until after the Articles of Confederation failed. In a sense, we are United States 2.0, because United States 1.0 was a failure after about a decade. And even after the Constitution was put in place, it took a few decades before we really had decided how the country was going to operate. One could argue that our national identity wasn't really defined until Jefferson's presidency, which started a full 25 years after the Declaration of Independence.

        So basically, we are celebrating independence from Britain, independence from colonialism, and independence from arbitrary, non-respresentative rule. We are still independent of all three of these things, mostly. In fact, most of the rest of the world is free of them now, too. There are still some monarchies in the world, but most of them (such as Britain) are in name only. Liberalism and democracy are virtually the norm in governments these days.

        • Re:Disappointed..... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @05:20AM (#15659066) Journal
          1. About tyranny, monarchy and non-representative rule: While they do make for some emotional arguments, let's remember that England was a parliamentary monarchy at the time. Maybe not in the same sense of the word as today, but let's remember that that parliament _did_ repel some taxes (e.g., the stamp act) when the colonists protested them. So how much more representation _do_ you want, if even being able to repel laws and taxes isn't enough for you?

          2. Comparing it to India is pretty much bullshit, since India was under foreign occupation. The american colonies were British citizens, no less favoured than those in the UK.

          3. Taxes. Ah-ha. Now we're getting somewhere. I hope you do, however, understand that an average citizen in the colonies paid insignifficant taxes compared to the citizens back home in the UK. As in, IIRC somewhere between 20 to 30 times less per capita. It also didn't help that the colonists threatened any tax collectors with tarring and feathering.

          A lot of the special tax acts, e.g., the stamp act, weren't just to fleece the colonists, but because they paid almost nothing else. So the UK government just tried to figure out ways to keep it fair. Ok, so you don't want to pay other taxes, but, seriously, you're not _that_ special to pay nothing whatsoever. How about you pay this other tax instead, if the old one isn't to your liking?

          The Boston Tea Party? Let's remember that that wasn't about some new tax, but about elliminating a tax. Smugglers like John Hancock were making a small fortune by smuggling tea into the USA without paying customs, and thus being able to undercut the prices of the East India Company. So when the British government allowed the East India Company to stop paying that tax too, oh looky, the smugglers were outraged at losing their own unfair advantage.

          So exactly what oppressive taxation are we talking about? If paying 20-30 times less taxes than a mainland British citizen was too oppressive, exactly how much tax would be OK for their liking? Zero? Are you still paying that much?

          Tyranny and taxation without representation? Heh. Try doing the same today in your land of the free, and see if you'd get away with that. No, seriously. Get your own village (most colonies were about that size) suddenly saying that you don't want to pay taxes any more and threatening violence against the IRS. Or deciding that you can stop paying customs taxes. See how long it would take for your representative and democratic government's men to show up on your doorsteps with flak vests and M16's.
          • Re:Disappointed..... (Score:3, Informative)

            by sgtrock (191182)
            As American schools tend to concentrate on the preamble (fine, inspiring words that they are), and British schools tend to concentrate on the taxation issues, I thought it might be interesting to see what was actually published. Keep in mind that the Declaration's original purpose was to tell the rest of Europe why we were going our own way so that we could ask for help from England's enemies. At the time, the first real worldwide war was being fought, after all. The Continental Congress probably figured
  • by antdude (79039) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @08:25PM (#15657932) Homepage Journal
    Click here [nasa.gov] to download the 16.3 MB MP4 video file. It is about 3 minutes and 22 seconds long. Awesome stuff.
  • by nullset (39850) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @08:35PM (#15657952)
    Why does NASA insist that the shuttle is the most complex machine humans have built?

    The shuttles are decades old...surely someone somewhere has built some much more complex machines....

    So, what's more complex than the shuttle?
  • I've seen a lot of of comments about the dangers of going into space, and I wonder when crossed the line from being safety conscious to being just paranoid. This is an inherently dangerous job, performed by people who are more than aware of the risks involved. There comes a point where you just have to depend that everyone has done their job, and pray for the best. This decision isn't made by the engineers on the ground, or the public, but by those in the shuttle agreeing to go up. 5 things fell off the sh
  • Epcot (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Therlin (126989) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @09:02PM (#15657994)
    I was at Epcot when the shuttle launched. I had just gotten out of Mission Space and noticed that everyone was looking to the sky. Then I remembered that the shuttle was about to launch.

    And sure enough, about 30 seconds later, it came into view. You could see the shuttle, the fire from the rockets and the thick column of smoke, right over the Mission Space building. The entire theme park was at a stand still looking at the spectacle. Some people cried, most clapped. It was a great moment.
  • by Sawopox (18730) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @09:05PM (#15658002) Homepage Journal
    was actually two large coolers full of ice-cold PBR [pabstblueribbon.com] left over from the festivities.
  • by ke4roh (590577) <jimes@hi[ ]y.net ['waa' in gap]> on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @09:48PM (#15658074) Homepage Journal
    It took Columbia's dissentigration to convince me, but Alex Roland [google.com] is right. The Shuttle is a jobs program with a little bit of scientific research thrown in for fun. It's far more expensive than it was designed to be, and it's proven itself not viable time and again. The only people who aren't taking note are those who write the checks.

    Fred DeJarnette, who worked on the original tile engineering [wral.com] is ready for a replacement. Let's do some real engineering and come up with a better spacecraft! (The Onion has an interesting take on the Shuttle program [theonion.com].)

    What should we be doing in space? We should be using robots to explore (like the Mars rovers [nasa.gov]) and perform experiments in orbit. We should send people when we get the fuel to vehicle mass ratio better than 97%, and when it can warrant the expense of taking life support systems on a mission.

    The Moon/Mars trips are another bigger jobs program, but they don't even have to get anywhere because the guy who called for them (and his successor, for that matter) will be safely out of office before the promised arrival date of 2018, so when it falls short, he won't have a
    price to pay.

    If Mars is the goal, the Mars Direct [wikipedia.org] plan is much more economical. If the Moon is the target, go straight there, but don't use the Moon as a lillypad to get to Mars because landing and launching from there takes a certain amount of energy that needs not be expended on the way to Mars.

    I want to see us (humans) explore space. I want to learn about the cosmos and I'd love to leave the planet (and probably return). I've followed the U.S. space program since I was old enough to know what a rocket was, and I've learned about the Soviet program since Glasnost. Now I'd like to see us do something meaningful - not just run a space truck to orbit and back, and not just design a fantastical Moon/Mars mission for the sake of it, but really learn about better forms of transportation and about the universe.
  • by bcnstony (859124) on Wednesday July 05, 2006 @03:52AM (#15658881)
    For those who haven't read it, Richard Feynman's Personal observations on the reliability of the Shuttle [ranum.com] is a fascinating look at some of NASA's inner workings, and the problems that led to the challenger disaster. What is suprising (or perhaps totally expected) is that once again we hear managers and engineers differ on what is acceptable levels of risk.

    For those who don't know Richard Feynman, he won the Nobel prize, helped develop the atom bomb, and suggested ways for geeks to pick up women.
    • It's really the boy who cried wolf all over again.

      NASA engineers demand precision to the point of insanity. The managment knows this is not possible, and that if the engineers were in charge, the thing would never even get off the ground.

      The problem we have is that the engineers tend to over-dramatize the risks, causing the managment to often disregard them completely.

      It's a problem, and honestly, I'm not sure that there's any easy solution other than redesigning the craft to be significantly simpler (less
      • I would have to strongly disagree almost completely here. The engineers are the people who are designing this stuff, and they put themselves in the pilot's chair when it comes to safety. When an entire engineering team (this is not just a rogue parnoid person saying this) is complaining about safty and their chief of that team is voicing grave concern over safty, it is time to stand up and take notice of what is going on.

        The Shuttle was a good experimental design, and it did push some technologies further
      • engineers tend to over-dramatize the risks

        Consider the question: "what is an acceptable risk?". The important point is that there is no correct answer to this question. When you decide whether or not to take a risk you usually perform a cost-benefit analysis (even if it's a trivial one like "just one more drink won't do me any harm") and that analysis is a function of your costs and your benefits. Those costs and benefits differ between people, and between groups of people. Engineers and management have

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