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NASA's Rollercoaster For Moon Rocket Escape 128

Posted by Zonk
from the funnest-ride-you-never-want-to-take dept.
simonbp writes "NASA's Constellation Project has approved the Rollercoaster Escape System to be used as the Emergency Egress Systems (EES) for astronauts and pad crew to race away from the Ares I pad, should an emergency be called. The Ares I is the first of NASA's new moon/Mars rockets and is scheduled for a first manned flight in 2014." From the article: "An unpowered fixed single-rail system from the access arm level of the ML tower to the existing bunker would be used. The railcars could be enclosed to provide personnel protection. Each railcar can hold four to six people. The rail would follow the ML tower vertically down to the pad surface, then turn and continue close to the ground to the safety bunker. A passive magnetic and friction braking system will decelerate the cars at the tracks end as well as prevent the cars from hitting each other."
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NASA's Rollercoaster For Moon Rocket Escape

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  • The Republican Party has decided to use the same system to safely shuttle away incumbent lawmakers from the Whitehouse.
    • by ScentCone (795499)
      The Republican Party has decided to use the same system to safely shuttle away incumbent lawmakers from the Whitehouse.

      Riotous! Um, other than that whole "lawmakers work in the senate and the congress" part. It's the C-in-C, a part of the Executive branch, that operates from the White House. But never mind what they're planning... it looks like Nancy Pelosi has already used this system, since her party has managed to completely eject her from view so that she doesn't actually say anything in front of a c
      • They will just use this system to evacuate the election results.

        Or they can use the new crowd control area defense weapons to ward off the incoming Democrats.
  • by StefanJ (88986) on Sunday November 05, 2006 @12:44AM (#16722391) Homepage Journal
    Be sure to assign lots of Handymen to the exit area. Sounds like this thing will have a maxed out the Nausea Rating.

    • Bullfrog's Theme Park?
    • it is an escape system...

      FOR A SPACE SHUTTLE

      Compared to what the crew of the shuttle trains for, this escape system is like a trip to an amusement park...
    • by Ltar (1010889)
      but it'll only be used if a mechanic can't get there in time. You should have designed your paths better, or he wouldn't have gotten stuck.
    • I thought it might have been Disney's Roller Coaster Challenge [abcgames.cz] game.. though I understand that was a predecessor to Rollercoaster Tycoon...
  • My first reaction was ... Is this a joke? Even the pictures, with a massive roller coaster running up the side of a booster launcher, look rather ridiculous.

    But alas, this is real NASA "innovation". It seems that any device that allows the crew to jettison themselves quickly from the new rocket just increases the risks associated with it. How many malfunctions (e.g. explosions after crew entry but before liftoff) have happened in the past where this would be useful?

    I view this as being about as use
    • NASA has to cover every little thing, public opinion is a fickle thing.
    • by n17ikh (750948)
      How many malfunctions (e.g. explosions after crew entry but before liftoff) have happened in the past where this would be useful?

      A few. For example, Apollo One [wikipedia.org] was a particularly infamous incident where a ground escape system would have been useful.

      • A few. For example, Apollo One was a particularly infamous incident where a ground escape system would have been useful.

        If the crew had got to the white room they would have been ok. Unless the booster goes you are safer in the capsule. If the booster goes you won't have time to get away.

        There may be a class of disasters which this system can deal with but I think that class is pretty small.

      • by iSeal (854481)
        A few. For example, Apollo One was a particularly infamous incident where a ground escape system would have been useful. Perhaps better would have been a door the astronaut crew could have opened to get out of the burning capsule in the first place.
      • Ok, I'm gonna do something totally crazy before replying; I'll RTFA.

        Yeah, it looks stupid.

        Anyhoo, in the case of Apollo One (which I also read via your link), there were many technical problems that shouldn't have occured. Pressurize, pure O2 atmosphere? Door that opens inward (thus helped sealed by the pressure)? Lots of stuff made of flammable material?

        Yes, they could have used a better ground escape mechanism but even if they had that roller coaster at the time, they'd still have died from smoke inhalati
      • by adinb (897001) *
        Being from Central FL, I had a chance to talk to one of the workers who closed the hatch on the Apollo 1. In his words, the fire flashed so fast that no escape system would have helped the astronauts. And the fire was hot enough that it actually melted quite a bit of the metal on the hatch when they initially tried to open up the Apollo 1.

        The rollercoaster is a nice thought, but I really see very few situations where it'll have any chance to help avoid loss of life. This sounds like a contractor ploy to kee
    • by foo12 (585116)
      I don't think it's to eject directly out of the capsule. Rather it's to quickly egress off the tower if all hell breaks loose.
    • by Legatic (318255)
      Even if this is the wrong approach to this individual issue I think we can all agree that a new launch and delivery system was badly needed.

      The space shuttle was amazing, and served as a good workhorse, but I'm excited to see how Ares can carry us forward.
    • by Rakishi (759894)
      How many malfunctions (e.g. explosions after crew entry but before liftoff) have happened in the past where this would be useful?

      The Soyuz T-10-1 rocket blew up on the launch pad, they used the built in ejection system to launch the capsule to safety.

      Seems to me that such an ejection system is safer (ie: you stay in the well protected capsule) and pretty much makes a roller coaster redundant, the later would only be of use if the crew is on the tower but not in the capsule yet. And I'm not aware of any acc
      • Seems to me that such an ejection system is safer (ie: you stay in the well protected capsule) and pretty much makes a roller coaster redundant, the later would only be of use if the crew is on the tower but not in the capsule yet.

        Simply using the LES (Launch Escape System) is not a complete solution - because during test countdowns the full air-sea rescue teams are not deployed (and the white room is still in place), but there is still a possibility of an accident requiring the astronauts to evacuate.

    • Apollo solution... (Score:3, Informative)

      by Hamster Lover (558288) *
      I couldn't tell you if this system was developed before or after the Apollo 1 fire, but there was a launch tower escape system that consisted of a guy wire to the ground. In an emergency the crew would evac to a tower platform and into a harness, down the guy wire and into a block house. While not as sexy a high tech roller coaster, thanks to its simplicity probably more reliable. Why make things more complex than they need to be? I tried to find some information on the web but came up empty handed.

      This sys
      • by jollyplex (865406)
        The LES is now called the Launch Abort System (LAS). *shrug* Perhaps the coaster is a faster way to move the entire crew away from the Stick? Keep in mind Orion seats four to six astronauts.
      • I don't think that it was a harness. I recall seeing clips of them practicing, and it looked like a rectangular basket that they sat in as the went down the wire.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Keebler71 (520908)
        The system you describe is still in use for the shuttle. The problem is that the launch tower for Ares I will be at almost double the height and the crew escape level will be so high that a simliar guy-wire solution would deliver the crew outside the radius of where the bunker is. NASA will need to either move the bunker radially outward, or come up with an alternative escape system. (This is a proposal for the latter).
    • by Mike73 (979311)
      Ridiculous... or awesome?
    • I had the same thought exactly - is this some sort of joke?
      Why take the crew vertically down the side of the rocket, closer to the out-of-control conflagration before sending the carriage outwards from the pad?
      How many seconds would be wasted getting into the carriage and strapping in?
      What if one of the crew were injured and could not make it out the cabin as quickly - would the others hold the carriage until that person was out (thus endangering themselves more than necessary) instead of each crewmember
    • The last time I checked, we all went to engineering school to find the simplest,most efficient solution to a complicated problem. Here we are taking the most complicated solution to a simple problem. No offense, but the lives of the pilots aren't worth the system to deliver them to safety. I don't want to see anyone get hurt or die, but it's part of the job. This is absurd. If a system this complicated is needed to save a life, the life isn't worth it. If peop;e think that safety is a 'Must Have', they shou
  • To use the escape system you have to egress from the spacecraft and enter the "rollercoaster". To me this seems like the ideal time for the final explosion which might have actually left the crew alive had they been in a capsule, which after all, is suposed to protect the crew in a hostile environment.

    So I can see the crews weighing the risk of staying aginst the risk of trying to get away and deciding to stay.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by cyclone96 (129449)
      I think some of the comments are missing a critical point here...

      Not all emergencies requiring rapid pad evacuation necessarily involve just the crew in a capsule on a fueled booster ready to go. During the final count, the normal method of escape is going to be to fire the escape tower and pull the whole capsule off the booster.

      However, before the crew is strapped in and the access arm is retracted there is the possibility of an emergency arising where they (and the closeout crew) need to leave in a hurry
  • Rollercoaster Escape System.....RES ME!!
  • / Slidetude System: / 'A fixed slide tube made of either metal or hard plastic/fiberglass will extend from the access arm level of the ML tower or FSS / to the existing bunker located on the west side of the pad. / 'The egress route will be across the access arm to the slide tube, down the slide tube to the bunker, and into the bunker. Each / person would enter the tube one at a time from the crew access level on the tower and slide the distance to the bunker.' The first thing that came to mind wh
    • by cjanota (936004)
      Hmm formating problem. Sorry for double post.

      Slidetude System:
      'A fixed slide tube made of either metal or hard plastic/fiberglass will extend from the access arm level of the ML tower or FSS
      to the existing bunker located on the west side of the pad.
      'The egress route will be across the access arm to the slide tube, down the slide tube to the bunker, and into the bunker. Each
      person would enter the tube one at a time from the crew access level on the tower and slide the distance t

  • Just imagine how crazy this would look to someone from 1950.. "Oh yes! we went to the Moon 40 years ago... this rocket is on its way to Mars.. Now, look to your left and you'll see our amazing new state of the art roller coaster escape system"

    Come on NASA you can do better than this.. it is nearly 2010 !
  • ohplease ohplease ohplease ohplease call an emergency PLEASE PLEASE!
  • Just a big excuse to train at Magic Mountain.
  • Looking at those pictures - I'll take my chances with the rocket thank you very much.
  • So, what's the point? The current shuttle seems to have a rather serviceable, *simple* cable-based basket escape system [space.com]. This new one seems way too complicated. For example, the new system: A passive magnetic and friction braking system will decelerate the cars at the tracks end as well as prevent the cars from hitting each other. The old system? The baskets hit a net at the bottom. Keep it simple, stupid.

    And like someone mentioned before, the crew would actually have to exit the capsule to use this escape
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ityllux (853334)

      Passive magnetic = magnets, with like poles repelling each other
      Friction braking = hand brakes

      They are keeping it simple, stupid.

      • by rcw-home (122017)

        Passive magnetic = magnets, with like poles repelling each other

        Even simpler actually - slide just about any piece of metal between strong magnets [wikipedia.org].

        For a wicked cool demonstration of this, take apart a dead hard drive and rip the seek head magnets out. Keep the magnets bolted to each other if you can, and then drop a nickel or a piece of a metal floppy disk's dust shield through the slot where the seek head would normally fit. It'll fall slow enough for you to turn the magnet upside down and let it fal

  • Anyone else remember seeing pics of big liquid fueled rockets ah "malfunctioning" on the pad? It is a rather energetic event. Personally, I'd rather have an ejection handle that would fire the explosive bolts holding the capsule to the vehicle, fire the escape rockets (solid fuel and stone-stock reliable), with a simple parachute system. This would keep the personnel safely within the capsule (not out and exposed to all that flame and debris), and no-doubt be much faster than manually exiting the capsule
    • by DerekLyons (302214) <(fairwater) (at) (gmail.com)> on Sunday November 05, 2006 @04:27AM (#16723227) Homepage
      I mean, 'cmon... We've been doing ejection seat type systems for what, 40 to 50 years now? These kinds of systems are very, very reliable.

      Not particularly. It's not unheard to fail to eject, or to have the ejector fire without being commanded to do so.
       
       
      Other spacecraft have used similar systems. The F-111 had/has such a system if I remember correctly.

      The FB-111 capsule escape system has been used (IIRC) 20-25 times across its history in US service - and one or both of the crew was severely injured each and every time. In the aviation community ejecting from an aircraft is reffered to as "attempting suicide to avoid being killed".
    • by ScentCone (795499) on Sunday November 05, 2006 @05:56AM (#16723575)
      You've also got another scenario: big ol' nasty fuel/oxidizer leak. You could hop in a passive (enclosed) car for a 32 f/s/s-quickening ride out to a bunker, or, you could use the ejection method, and light a big ol' ejection rocket right on top of the giant leaking tower of flammable stuff. I think you'd want both options, so that you can react to a range of hazards. If they need to bug out, they'll usually know why... and they may very well not be in the capsule (yet) when they see they need to. For that matter, the pad workers may have the need hours before the crew even saddles up.
      • Excellent point. And as you mention, in a broader sense, for something as critical as crew evac... A redundant system or set of systems is just good design.
  • by kahrytan (913147)
    Please, someone tell me why they are building these retro rockets for man mission to Mars?

    NASA should be focusing on a new Shuttle capable in carrying a sizable payload to mars. Payload that can be left behind on Mars. I would leave behind a Nuclear Powered Device capable in releasing more C02 into the atmosphere. Those who don't know, releasing additional greenhouses into Mars' atmosphere might stimulate terraforming.

    And oh yeah, Roller Coaster idea is a simple, inexpensive and effective way to provide es
    • Last time I checked it was CO2 not C02.
    • Anything shaped like the current shuttles is wrong for a Mars trip.

      You will be carrying useless wings there and back.

      We're going retro because that's what works.
  • by augustz (18082)
    This is nuts on so many levels.

    The system is insanely complicated for an insanely expensive program to go to MARS! Are you kidding me? They should pull the plug on the entire NASA program, and fund John Carmack and Richard Branson with the money.

    The international space station is basically a big ego stroking excercise. For anyone following the actual science being conducted up there over the billions being spent, you'll instantly realize about 100x more space science could be done by others for the same cos
    • The question is whether or not Branson will have any escape system at all, other than a waiver of liability written by Solomon the Wise. The SpaceShip One craft had no ejector seat. The pilot was supposed to throw a lever to release the nose, then squirm out the resulting hole, then free-fall for a couple of minutes, then deploy the chute, without a pressure suit. They had a better escape system on a B-17 in 1943.
  • It seems to be missing any exhilarating features, other than the exploding 8 million pound rocket, which really seems like old hat by today's theme park standards. They should really add in a corkscrew or something.
  • The title and article text is a bit misleading, as the Ares I will be used for more than just the moon and Mars... The Orion capsule on the Ares I can be configured to carry crew or supplies to the ISS, or do "solo" orbital flights, or mate with the moon/Mars vehicles lifted by the Ares V...
  • Everyone knows that Ares 1 is a fake project. We are never going to go back to the Moon or elsewhere this century. Manned spaceflight beyond LEO is essentially dead. Instead we are weaponizing near-space.
    • by JustNiz (692889)
      >> We are never going to go back to the Moon or elsewhere this century.

      Yeah the real reason is that Bill Gates doesn't want anyone to find his secret moonbase.
  • This is a scheme for losers. Real men go to Mars like this:
    1) Test, build and launch a powerful ion-drive (no 1). Put it in Earth-orbit, let it pick up speed during a few months.
    2) Build a second one (no 2), after a few months of speed-gathering around Earth send it unmanned to Mars, let it orbit there. On board it has a rocket engine and some fuel that is to be used later on.
    3) Test, build and launch a space-plane with big enough wings to allow horizontal take-off. Prior to launch, be sure to put the cr
    • by JustNiz (692889)
      >> 4) Dock the space-plane to the orbiting ion-drive no 1,

      How is the plane gonna catch up with it, given that the ion-drive been in orbit and gathering speed for a few months?
  • I've wondered how people might be able to evac very fast from a damaged skyscraper - stairs suck, they're too slow, too prone to blockage, and they crowd up in proportion to building height. So, how about copying this NASA idea and using some system of escape pods and vertical free fall roller coasters?
  • That sounds like an E-Ticket[tm] ride to be sure. How long before Journey to Mars becomes Escape From the Journey to Mars at EPCOT (Every Person Comes Out Tired)?

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