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The Eyes of the Space Shuttle 164

Roland Piquepaille writes "Now that Discovery astronaut Steve Robinson has successfully removed two pieces of fabric poking out of the shuttle's heat shield, a question remains: how did NASA discover these anomalies in the first place? In this article, Forbes.com writes that NASA can say thank you to a private Canadian company, Neptec, and its Laser Camera system (LCS). Neptec is working with NASA for ten years now, but it was the first time that its vision technology was used for external damage assessment of a shuttle. As NASA says it may cancel some future shuttle flights, Neptec plans to implement its 3-D imaging technology in military situations and on the battlefield. But read more for other details, references and pictures about this imaging technology."
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The Eyes of the Space Shuttle

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 03, 2005 @08:36PM (#13236464)

    and stop ripping off other websites content

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Roland already has a very nice and probably very profitable job finding interesting articles and posting them to Slashdot.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "and stop ripping off other websites content"

      YEAH! That's Slashdot's job.
    • Just load any image [primidi.com] hosted on Roland's hosting a couple thousand (Million?) times. If his bandwidth charges skyrocket and ad revenue stays constant he'll quickly become unprofitable. A few hundred people do this every time he posts a story and we'll see the end of the Roland wars.
    • I've discovered this piquepaille affair recently and I'm a bit shocked to see what looks likes a vendetta. Still, the first two links points to the original article and company's site, not his blog. So, what's the big deal ? jealousy ?
      • It's not really jealousy, it's more frustration. Roland is the Ebaumsworld of science and technology stories; he finds an article, retypes the article using different words here and there without actually adding any new information whatsoever, and then posts it surrounded by ads.

        Why not simply link to the original article? Why must the information go through some mediator? Why would I want that information to travel through some amateur word filter?
  • by Atlantis-Rising ( 857278 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2005 @08:37PM (#13236468) Homepage
    Maybe the camera's not working right?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 03, 2005 @08:37PM (#13236471)
    Please, please, PLEASE, editors, stop posting these submissions to the front page, or give them a filterable category so that we can choose not to see them.

    You might consider doing the same for all blog-type submissions, or anything that might be construed as an ad (see the "help me port my game" submission from earlier).

    • With the rate at which this Roland guy submits stories, it would probably be easiest just to make "roland.slashdot.org". I mean, really:

      long url [google.com]
    • by Bastian ( 66383 ) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @12:13AM (#13237492)
      Yeah, who wants a website that simply posts small excerpts of and links to other people's news, usually with a little smidgeon of side commentary from the editor, provides space for readers to comment on it? Especially when said site makes its money from selling ad space.

      Oh wait, did I just describe Slashdot? I guess I did. Tee-hee.

      Fuck, people, what's your problem with Roland? At least he reads the articles he's linking, finds his own content to index, puts some effort into citing his sources (which the /. eds themseles neverdo), and checks his grammar and spelling.

      It's really heard to listen to the complaints you folks are raising about him, knowing that they are coming from Slashdot readers.
      • Did anyone also think that maybe because the version on his site includes images (I can't recall ever seeing an image on Slashdot... but maybe there was a crazy experiment to do so long ago).

        Also, his full text is rather long by Slashdot standards. Slashdot readers tend to like their news in 1 paragraph sound bytes, and then clicking a link if they care to read more. Well, isn't that what he did?

        Either way, who cares. It's news. God forbid he post it anywhere outside Slashdot too!

        The News Nazi: "No news
      • I have no problem with a site that posts small excerpts and links to other people's news. I appreciate that there are people who take the time to go out and look for interesting things and post them. Then if I find the same things interesting I don't have to all that work. I love it when people (dj's) who are enthusiastic about music and actively seek out new stuff, and bring it to me every week. I like it when journalists do the same. I am even willing (and I do) support these people with money.

        I do, howe
      • Hmm.... "checks his grammar and spelling..."

        Neptec is working with NASA for ten years now

        Tick. Yep. Checked for bad grammar.

    • The best thing I ever did was to exclude 'timothy' stories from my homepage. Notice how the two suckiest editors, 'timothy' and 'michael' were both lowercase names? These two fuckwads didn't even have the self-esteem (or hygiene, most likely) to capitalize their own names.
  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2005 @08:39PM (#13236488) Homepage
    They keep finding things, though. Here's the latest [msn.com].

    Amazing how NASA turned into "Paranoid Scientists Incorporated" since Columbia...
  • They didn't have this technology when the previous space shuttle was launched and destroyed.

    Really, you shouldn't need this technology as your own designs should be pretty stable and inspected before launch.
    • /sarcasm
      By that logic we could probably save Aviation billions by skipping all the pre flight checks on aircraft too.
      I mean they consume time, manpower, resources not to mention we could nearly eliminate the stockpiles of spare parts too.

      I mean hell, if the thing flew last time why should we need to check those pesky breakables again! /.
      Next time Ill have a real sig, yea thats it thats the ticket!
      • You said:

        By that logic we could probably save Aviation billions by skipping all the pre flight checks on aircraft too.

        But he said: (emphasis mine)

        your own designs should be pretty stable and inspected before launch.

        So what part of his logic are you having trouble with then? It looks like you're both using the same logic and teh disagreement itself is not logical.

    • [i]Really, you shouldn't need this technology as your own designs should be pretty stable and inspected before launch.[/i] What? You do realize that the previous accident was caused by damage sustained on takeoff.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Roland Piquepaille shows his plagarist mug again, and the Slashdot editing staff is more than happy to give front page space to this known thief. Why can't the cowardly Slashdot staff simply confront the many who protest Roland's "stories" being posted? Where's the "open source" mentality which gets thrown around here so frequently. When will Slashdot admit they are hypocrites?
    • Why do you think so highly of the people who run Slashdot? Is it because they are Linux/OSS fans and should therefore be morally respectable and incapable of potentially sleeping with Roland or because you're so naive to think that they care?

    • I really don't see the problem with Roland's stories being submitted to Slashdot. I actually find the majority of them fairly interesting, and if he did not submit them then I probably would not see them at all.

      The vitriolic critism dished out to him seems to be undeserved, or at least hypocritical - many other story submissions are self-serving, not just Roland's.

      The objections seem to be that he is making money via ad impressions when Slashdot runs a story. How much can he really be making - $5, $10 extra
      • Sure, articles are self-serving, but they generally contain more information than his blog entries.

        It's really about style points (which he is sadly lacking) and being grotesquely self-serving.
      • Thank you for your balanced assessment of this situation.

        Many slashdot readers detest the idea of their own comments being censored... but then whine about when slashdot excercises it's right to post what it bloody well wants on it's front page. They did the same thing with Jon Katz, their doing it with Roland, and when he's gone they'll find another target.

        BTW- I think the filters are a fine idea too... The Right to not listen is just as important as the right to speak.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        OK, here is the beef, since you're apparently too naive to know:

        Plagarism - He lifts images and content from other websites. Only very recently did he start attributing the works he lifts. However even now, his citations are often incomplete.

        Spamming - Yes, I do have a beef with making money the specific way he does. He takes news stories that other people write and then basically puts this pop-sci techno-babble spin on it to make appeal to neophytes like you. He then, with ads in place, spams his bullcrap
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2005 @08:47PM (#13236539)
    NASA has flown the shuttle well over 100 times, I believe (can't be bothered to check the exact number right now). So, how comes issues with falling pieces of foam and bits sticking out of the tiles are only cropping up now? I realize the STS fleet is aging, but still, it almost sounds like they've been incredibly lucky 100 times and haven't spotted the flaws until now, which sounds quite incredible.

    Anybody in the know here could explain this?
    • Did they subcract any of it to Microsoft? Sounds just like a normal Windows OS beta cycle.

    • Sigh...replying to a troll.

      OK, if you're truely ignorant, yes, falling pieces of foam have always been a problem. However, the problem was exacerbated when envro-freak wackos used the EPA to force NASA to stop using freon to spray the foam. Basically, the new spray doesn't stick the foam as well.
      • Ok, but why speak of canceling flights now? Because a few bits of fabric are poking out? There's been an error on every flight so far.

        • The slightest tile chip damage is news because the media perception is that the thing is very fragile and NASA's hasn't bothered to dispel that perception (fer craps sake, a little cover fell off a window pre-launch and forced a standown while NASA checked for damage).

          Also, I think a lot of people inside and outside NASA are very ambivalent about the shuttle. It's hideously expensive, both on a cost-per-kilogram launched and lives lost basis. I wouldn't be suprised if most NASA people have lost heart in the
        • "Ok, but why speak of canceling flights now? Because a few bits of fabric are poking out?"

          You seem a little mixed up on what's been going on. First, no flights are canceled. There will be likely delays until a few things are looked at and fixed, but nothing has been canceled. The media just likes to sensationalized things with words like "shuttle fleet grounded". There is no regular schedule for shuttles so the words "grounded" are meaningless here. No launch happens without a Flight Readiness Review

      • He's correct about the change in spray on the foam - and that the old spray worked much better. I can't confirm if the change in spray was because of environmental reasons. I would advocate that NASA re-consider their decision on the old spray. I would even suggest that if the reason for no longer using the old spray was EPA related that NASA take the fight public; release all the pertinent data and see how many people would advocate an EPA exemption for the shuttle flights. Oh and for those of you who
        • I doubt the "environmentalists" (which I would hope that every member of the human race is, except for maybe Hitler) forced the change anymore than they caused the power outages in California (which all the clucking little right-wing sheep were bleating about, while Enron and friends were laughing their asses off at how stupid some gullible folks are).
          • I won't try to make any joke about pollution, but why couldn't Hitler (specifically) be an environmentalist?
            • "...but why couldn't Hitler (specifically) be an environmentalist"

              Because, anything Hitler believed is automatically evil and wrong because he believed it. You wouldn't want to be associated with the beliefs of someone as evil as Hitler, would you? I hear he believed in gravity so I personally do not believe in it anymore. I mean, come on, an unseen force pulling things together. Get real.

          • Everybody go read Fallen Angels by Larry Niven (et al). You can get it from the Baen Free Library, here [baen.com].

            Why do I think you should all go read it? It's a very interesting alternate presentation of the environmentalist movement, and it was a strong enough presentation that I found my own position being pushed away from where I thought I was going.

            Hrmph. Who wants to stop global warming? Those that want to start the overdue ice age!

    • I'd be more inclined to ask this question - if pieces of the shuttle can be removed by hand and would supposedly pose a danger if they were not, how can the shuttle be considered even remotely safe?
    • "can't be bothered to check the exact number right now" how about 113 times before? eg: STS-114
      • Well, yes, it is correct that this is the 114th mission [nasa.gov], but the previous mission (Columbia) was numbered STS-107 (STS-113 was actually the 112th mission). It's not that straightforward.
      • "can't be bothered to check the exact number right now" how about 113 times before? eg: STS-114

        Unfortunately, the numbering scheme NASA uses for the shuttle flights is a bit more complicated than that. The last shuttle launch was STS-107. That one just happened to be out of order somewhat, but if you look at the history of shuttle missions, you will see the numbering scheme is very odd. I believe the 10th shuttle flight was STS-41B or something similar. Challenger's last flight was STS-51L, even th

    • Milton Thompson in Edge of Space relates the bugs introduced by modifying the X-15 into the model with the extra drop fuel tanks.

      They crumped an X-15 with a hard landing during a rocket-failed-to-light landing emergency -- this accident caused serious back injury to pilot Jack MacKay leading to long-term health problems. While the pilot was able to recover to return to flying the X-15, the powers that be decided to rebuild that X-15 with extra fuel tanks.

      When they tested that X-15 in high-speed flight,

    • Two reasons really.

      The foam has always fallen. The problem is that some years ago the use of Freon was banned and Freon was an integral part of the foam application process for the External Tank. NASA was granted a waiver to continue using Freon, but they opted to ignore the waiver and go with a new method. The adopting of this new method (the specifics of which I am not knowledgeable of) coincided with a sharp increase in the size and frequency of the foam shedding from the ET. Despite this, NASA contin
    • It isnt an issue. The reason they are doing this is to show that they are being extra careful. Very much like your mother punishing you for not doing something you are suppose to and you going out of your way to show her that you have reformed your ways.
    • I realize the STS fleet is aging, but still, it almost sounds like they've been incredibly lucky 100 times and haven't spotted the flaws until now, which sounds quite incredible.
      Go read Richard Feynman's brief observations of reliability in the shuttle program [fotuva.org], and you'll understand.
    • I'm not in the know (and the people that are won't be talking until the mission's over), but I can hazard a guess. Take it with as much salt as desired...

      Firstly, the heat shield is well known as one of NASA's less brilliant ideas; if you read James Michener's novel Space one of his characters shakes his head at the inelegance and horrible complexity of the design, I believe reflecting the views of many within NASA at the time about the whole concept.

      As far as why they're finding these problems now: it's

  • by Kilkonie ( 178841 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2005 @08:53PM (#13236574)
    Neptec's vision system is running QNX's Neutrino RTOS.
    QNX(R) Neutrino(R) RTOS is powering the Neptec Laser Camera System (LCS) for NASA's Return to Flight mission. Designed and built by Neptec, a developer of space vision systems, the LCS will play a key role in ensuring the safety of this mission, the first since the Columbia disaster in 2003. This mission is scheduled for takeoff Wednesday, July 13, from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

    The crew of the space shuttle Discovery will use Neptec's LCS to inspect the exterior of the shuttle during the 12-day flight. The LCS, which will be attached to a boom at the end of the shuttle's Canadarm, uses a scanning mechanism to generate three-dimensional maps of the shuttle's exterior surface in real time. During the mission, NASA will use the generated images to identify even the smallest amount of damage to the outside of the spacecraft.

    Neptec has also used QNX RTOS technology in earlier devices it developed for NASA, including the QNX-based Advanced Space Vision System (ASVS), which helped guide the Canadarm in previous shuttle missions as well as on the International Space Station." The LCS is a critical element of NASA's Return to Flight mission and we have to be sure it is running on the most reliable operating system available," said Iain Christie, vice president of research and development at Neptec. "Selecting the QNX Neutrino RTOS was an easy decision because we already know that the system can handle the extreme conditions found in space and that it meets our demands for ultra-reliability. We will continue to use QNX technology in all of our real time embedded projects."

    Full Article [sys-con.com]
    Older QNX PR Piece [qnx.com]

    • I did a co-op there - very good company - QNX that is. Also, a Canadian operation. At the time I believe the QNX kernel was the only piece of software in the world that came with a guarantee, not just a warrantee. It's used a lot in medical devices and avionics.
      • Scariest thing I ever saw. When my wife was in the hospital for our third kid, before the kid was delivered, they had her hooked up to all the sensors. The computer controlling the sensor was sitting on a table next to the bed, of course.

        And on the screen of that computer, every five minutes or so (until a nurse showed up to dismiss it) was a dialog that said "Illegal instruction at 0x0fffffff" or something to that effect. (I'm sure you all know the dialog I saw)

        I was going to go into a Linux sales pit

  • I wonder what the reaction rate of this system is to sudden changes. For example, could it be used in a CIWS [wikipedia.org] design on smaller vehicles to destroy incoming anti-vehicle missiles?

    I guess this would be similar to the Arena [wikipedia.org] that the Russians designed for their tanks, save that it'd use laser instead of millimeter-wavelength radar.

    If you could really beef up the range on it (say if you could use it for scanning the skies) perhaps you could use it in lieu of radar on SAM batteries, thus nullifying the use of HAR
  • Total Agreement (Score:2, Insightful)

    Roland's constant inane postings are just bringing down the overall quality. It should be a hint when there's a Firefox extension to remove him from the front page.
  • The need to repair that shuttle comes from, what I think is, the primary design flaw of the shuttle.

    Well, it's really a re-design flaw.

    The original orbiter should have, and would have, been carried aloft via a secondary, jumbo-jet-sized, lifter vehicle.

    The vietnam war, and little scuffles about bus-seating back in the 60's and 70's caused a great deal of capital to be reallocated. Hence NASA goes to the airforce, strikes a deal, and with a lower budget and military-grade load requirements the shuttle is mov
  • Is he the guy behind Duke Nukem Forever? I'm getting my developers confused.
  • Roland (Score:5, Funny)

    by zaguar ( 881743 ) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @12:53AM (#13237615)
    Every time you click onto Roland Piquepaille's blog, God kills a kitten.
  • by GISGEOLOGYGEEK ( 708023 ) on Thursday August 04, 2005 @01:09AM (#13237690)
    If we can put aside all the Roland protests for a second, lets go a bit deeper into the actual story ...

    Yes it is Canadian lidar technology that was used to scan the shuttle for damage.

    But, what you'll never hear from any American media outlet is that the laser camera was mounted on the Canadian extention arm ... used to give more reach to the Canadarm. ... you know, that device that american media refers to only as the remote manipulator arm, never by its proper name, yes, the device that hauled in the Hubble telescope for repairs must never get the credit it is due. Remember how it's Canada insignia was removed to hide its origin during the big media coverage of the hubble events? Wouldn't want anyone to think that anyone other than the US can do anything great now would you!

    And of course the lets not forget about the other big tool that helps assemble the space station ... as well as taking more pictures to investigate the shuttle, the robotic arm that can go end over end inch worming between connection points along the space station ... the Canadarm2

    Do you Americans build any of the space hardware you use?

    • don't bother, Yanks have their ears plugged and their eyes covered if it isn't "made in the USA". And as you so well pointed out, if it isn't made in the USA they simply ignore it or trivialize the role it plays...PS don't get me started about how it was Canadians that got them into space in the first place....(here is a hint...Arrow)

    • Well said. But of course, your post will most likely get modded down now. See my sig.

    • Woa! You serious?

      Did Canada willingly agree to the removal of their flag? You got some more info on this? I clearly remember the quite noticable, proud "Canadarm" logo-flaf on the arm on the first few flights. But now that you mention it... I haven't seen it in a while, always subconsciously thought that was a P.O.V. thing, not that it was actually removed...

      Why such childish behaviour?
      • Erm... That should be "flag", not "flaf"

        Yea,yea, there's a preveiw buttan, I kow...
      • No, Canada did not agree to have our flag and the name removed from the Canadarm for the Hubble repair missions.

        The repair missions were huge publicity opportunities to gain US public support for NASA and to show the world how great the USA is.

        Wouldn't want the average american dumbass to know that the star piece of hardware that made the repair possible was Canadian ... so the flag and name simply disappeared for those missions.
    • Do you Canadians ever do anything? Ever?
      • what, like spread rediculous lies to justify invading a souvereign nation that not only had ZERO WMD's but definately had nothing to due with Al Qaeda?

        While you 'did something' ... we had the balls to stand up and say you were wrong, and to not join in on the murder of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civillians.
    • Do you Americans build any of the space hardware you use?

      Uh, besides the Space Shuttle?
      • hmmm lets see, how did that shuttle time line go again? . . ...

        -early on lots of heat tiles used to just fall off during launch.
        -several launches showed obvious evidence of dangerous O-ring problems in the SRB's .. ignored of course.
        -then a shuttle blew up due entirely to pure american arrogance.
        -2 years of delay
        -years of not being able to keep up with the needed launch schedule, causing the scaling back of the ISS.
        -chunk o foam makes shuttle go boom.
        -2 years of delay, great expense reworking things
        -first n
        • Still care to take credit for the flying brick?

          Gladly! Sure it didn't turn out as good as originally expected, and it will be a welcome reversion to capsule systems like those we used well into the 1970's. It might have helped if NASA hadn't payed any attention to the environmentalists belly-aching about the use of asbestos in the external tank foam and switching to a weaker material. It would've been great if people without engineering background had not been allowed to make the decision to launch Challe

  • well nasa is a bit more scared then befor sence this is are last shuttle left. the space project isnt gonna get anywhere untill we try to go to mars yes mars. just like the moon it will relly be something people wana see and the funding will roll in. somone was going on abought how shuttles should be inspected befor liftoff. trust me they are many times over. the problem is they go threw hell at liftoff. where talking hurling something into space with a high yeald rocket thats aot of force. the speeds they
  • I've been reading all this Roland nonesense and then I decided to visit his page. It seems that he has been spammed to the ground. He had to disable his comments because they were overrun. Is this the way we deal with problems like this? Whoever is responsible for this better have good proof that this man is a fraud. The last time I checked, vigelante justice wasn't an approved way of dealing with problems.
    I'm not siding with anyone here; however, it surprises me that people would at
    • If it were me with the concern, I would have sent a serious letter to slashdot, and then I would have made a post showing my concerns. This has gotten way out of hand.

      It's rather clear that ./ doesn't care or is chosing to ignore the problem: see here [thedarkcitadel.com], this isn't new.
  • They just went to APOD [nasa.gov]...

    The triangular piece is obvious, what I believe is the other piece is being looked at edge-on so it's tricky to see. You can even see the damaged heat shield on the left.

Were there fewer fools, knaves would starve. - Anonymous