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Small Object Hit Space Shuttle Last Month 122

UglyTool writes "A small object, possibly a micrometeoroid, hit a radiator panel on the Space Shuttle Atlantis in September. The impact also damaged a one-inch (2.5-centimeter) area in the radiator's honeycomb-like aluminum mesh, but did not sever any of the panel's 26 vital coolant tubes as it passed through the half-inch wide panel. This brings up some interesting questions. Is there a better way to protect the shuttle in orbit? Will a serious mishap in space be the end of our manned space program?" From the article: "The impact left a hole about one-tenth of an inch in diameter, NASA reported Thursday on its Web site. The damage 'didn't endanger the spacecraft or the crew, nor did it affect mission operations,' NASA said. The radiators were brought inside the bay before the shuttle's landing last month, so the damaged area did not encounter searing heat during re-entry through Earth's atmosphere."
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Small Object Hit Space Shuttle Last Month

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  • by KingSkippus ( 799657 ) * on Friday October 06, 2006 @03:37PM (#16340633) Homepage Journal

    It just goes to show you that going into space is a very dangerous prospect. All of the astronauts in the space program know and understand this, and accept the level of risk it entails. Sometimes when we do thing like send civilian teachers into space or read about how the latest millionaire hitched a ride on a Soyuz, we forget just how risky it really is, but that doesn't make it any less so.

    I'm not saying that's a bad thing. I really respect the bravery of our astronauts, if given a chance, I'd go up on the next shuttle. The public just needs to understand that it's not a joyride, it's hard, dangerous work.

    Oh, and the good news is that thanks to these pioneers, hopefully, going outside the protective shell that is our atmosphere will become safe, and perhaps even common. If we're lucky, maybe even within our lifetimes. After all, it wasn't very long ago at all that riding in an airplane was a relatively risky proposition, and today, thousands of people do it every day without giving it a second thought.

    • After all, it wasn't very long ago at all that riding in an airplane was a relatively risky proposition, and today, thousands of people do it every day without giving it a second thought.

      5.08 years ago, that statement was much more true.

      • by sm62704 ( 957197 )
        Well, the giving it a second thought part, yeah. But not the safer part; flying is as safe now as it was in 2000.

        The GP says "relatively short time", I'm scratching my head. I'm 54 and it's been safer than driving my whole life. My grandma who was born six months before the Wright brothers flew their motorized kite knew (from a distance) risky flight (Lindberg et al) but she's been dead since 2003.

        "Relatively" is relative, I guess?
    • As you said, space is dangerous, it is inherently dangerous, there's no way to really end the danger. The astronauts know this, I respect them completely. Like you, I'd go up in an instant if ever given the opportunity. With that, I don't think any disaster caused by such space debris would end the manned space program. Rather, like what happened with Apollo 1, Challenger, & Columbia, NASA would probably do a thorough review and try to find a solution to further protect the spacecraft and/or backup
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      "If you can't take a little bloody nose -- maybe you had better go back home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here. It's wondrous -- with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross -- but it is not for the timid."

      -Next Generation 2x16 - "Q who"
  • Raise them!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by abandonment ( 739466 )
      This is exactly what i was thinking - they can come up with deflector shields for tanks these days, why not apply this to space-based craft? while they aren't technically 'shields' - at least they would suffice for protecting a craft from objects large enough to potentially damage them...if they can pick out rpg's, why not a piece of space debris...

      mind you, space debris is typically flying a LOT faster than an rpg...
      • I would guess that the biggest reason 'deflector shields' aren't used in space yet are that military tanks' armor rely on angular deflection for their reactive armor [wikipedia.org]. You can't really rely upon micrometeoroids coming from a certain angle so as to protect the astronauts with this method -- although you could assume that they wouldn't be coming from Earth's direction, I suppose. Not to mention the weight of it all. Oh, and it's dangerous enough being strapped to a rocket without having explosives lathered
        • by sm62704 ( 957197 )
          Not only that, but do you have any idea what a tank weighs? Most of that weight is armor. Not good if you have to lift it >100km.
  • It'll be more common as we continue to place junk up there...

  • How is this news? (Score:5, Informative)

    by csoto ( 220540 ) on Friday October 06, 2006 @03:39PM (#16340657)
    Shit hits our spacecraft all the time! This is why there are basically enough parts to build 1 or 2 new shuttles. They have to replace things all the time. Satellites go dead because of this.
    • For some reason this is modded funny, but it's actually true. Although space is pretty empty, there's still lots of little particles flying around and very high speeds. Micrometeor damage to spacecraft is extremely common, and probably unavoidable until all those lazy scientists get off their asses and invent deflector arrays and energy shields. So far, we've been lucky that none of the damage has been catastrophic for any astronauts, but it's an ever present risk.
    • by Fweeky ( 41046 )
      It's news because it's the second biggest shuttle impact ever.
    • Maybe some slob of a European/Chinese/Russian spacecraft came alongside and swung its solar panels really wide and did this. We tried to return the Shuttle without mentioning this incident, but we got a letter in the mail saying we had the cost of the hole repair charged to our credit card.
  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <{moc.liamg} {ta} {nhojovadle}> on Friday October 06, 2006 @03:39PM (#16340669) Journal
    Will a serious mishap in space be the end of our manned space program?
    Nope. It's going to be something that seems innocuous that occurs that will be the end of our space program.

    I think it's important to remember that with space exploration, it doesn't have to be a serious mishap but it could be any mishap at all. Fuel tank O-rings not being tested down to low enough temperatures, insulation breaking off the shuttle, pea-sized particles piercing the shuttle--these are the things that pose risk to our space program.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Nope. It's going to be something that seems innocuous that occurs that will be the end of our space program.

      Like budget negotiations?

    • But...all these mishaps you just mentioned were serious.

      "Seems innocuous" and serious are not mutually exclusive. In fact anything that does not seem innocuous has undoubtably been accounted for with quadruple redundancy backup preventative measures. All serious mishaps are thus likely the result of overlooking something small and innocuous.

      I think a better question would be "Are the unaccountable and unpredicable points of failure threatening to overwhelm our ability to prepare for them potentially leading
    • Fuel tank O-rings not being tested down to low enough temperatures

      Technically it was o-rings on the solid rocket boosters, not the external fuel tank.
  • by VTMarik ( 880085 )
    Call me uninformed, but it seems to me that these sorts of things have been quite common and are only receiving scrutiny since the Columbia disaster. That leads me to ask whether or not foam or other debris has struck the shuttle before hand and caused little or negligable damage to the orbiter, and if the fact that these impacts are causing more and more damage is due to the age of the craft itself. Perhaps, if it is related to the age, it is time to retire these current orbiters, sell them to some priva
    • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )
      I might be wrong in this, but as far as I know, the craft are made from metal. Metal, properly smelted and what have you, does not weaken with age unless coroded or put under significant stress.

      Granted, it could simply be that the vibrations of re-entry have weakened the metals at the molecular level, but that should only impact operational strength not tolerance to such injuries.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by VTMarik ( 880085 )
        True, but it's not just the fuselage that can be affected. The bolts, welds and other attaching things could weaken from repeated super-heating and cooling as well as the vibration. Sure, the amount per re-entry would be minimal, but these things have been in service for nearly 30 years. Maybe age may play a factor. Then again, I'm no metallurgist. I'm sure that NASA would've decommissioned these things if they were past their expiration dates, so to speak.
        • It's been a while since I researched this, but IIRC each shuttle was designed for 100 launches. No orbiter has come even close to this. Number of launch cycles is more important than age for the aluminum parts and the fasteners. Aircraft, for instance, are typically judged based on takeoff/landing cycles or hours rather than age. Also, the orbiters have been overhauled over the years.

          In any event, all of this is not really relevant to a micro meteor strike, since a particle moving at that velocity isn't go

      • by Laur ( 673497 )

        Metal, properly smelted and what have you, does not weaken with age unless coroded or put under significant stress.

        Haven't you ever heard of fatigue? Besides, "metal" is a pretty useless term here, do you mean steel, aluminum, titanium, beryllium, magnesium, etc.? What alloy? All of these have very different properties. There are also thermal cycling issues (as the craft travels from shadow to sun). I believe that there can also issues related to using materials in a vacuum and exposing them to radi

  • by arthurpaliden ( 939626 ) on Friday October 06, 2006 @03:45PM (#16340749)
    Put them in glass cases and on display.
    • Seriously. How many billions of dollars are spent on these things each year? And for what? To keep the space station running? For what? IMHO I think those billions of dollars could be much better spent elsewhere.
      • Exactly. Dump the shuttle and use the Russian manned and supply systems to maintain the ISS. Then use the freed up shuttle money to build a propper 'space only' bus, via the current heavy lift systems sending up parts, to go places like the Moon, Mars, asteroids and Venus. Using the ISS as its home port.
  • Smaller sattelites (Score:4, Insightful)

    by popo ( 107611 ) on Friday October 06, 2006 @03:49PM (#16340781) Homepage

    The likelihood of a sattelite being hit by a micrometeor decreases with smaller scale sattelites.

    The only problem is manned missions. Low mass, unmanned nano sattelites are the future.

    • Nano-sats are a particularly poor idea. A satellite needs a certain amount of power if it is to communicate. An antenna has to be of a certain minimum size if it is to pick up or transmit a signal. A solar panel has to have a certain undiminishable size to pick up enough energy to run the satellite. These are very basic and mostly unmoveable limits. There's also the problem of space-wind and drag. A satellite's mass goes down as the cube of its linear dimension, but the drag only goes down as the squa
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bunions ( 970377 )
      > Low mass, unmanned nano sattelites are the future.

      yeah, the boring future.
      • by sm62704 ( 957197 )
        The future is NEVER boring. Until you're dead, anyway. And, er, this IS the future. Check your calandar, it's the 21st century. They can even fix eyeballs now (click my sig for details), even though Doctor McCoy can't in the 23rd century.

        In fact, the future according to the original 60s Star Trek is almost primitive compared to today's reality.
        • by bunions ( 970377 )
          > The future is NEVER boring.

          If the future is just watching our toys have all the fun romping around on faraway planets, I am not in favor of it.

          > Until you're dead, anyway. And, er, this IS the future. Check your calandar, it's the 21st century.

          Right. 2006. That means it's the present.

          > They can even fix eyeballs now (click my sig for details), even though Doctor McCoy can't in the 23rd century.

          Ok, yeah, but Dr. McCoy ran Spock by remote control. Can we do that, mister smartypants?

          > In fact,
    • Careful with that nano word there. Apple has a track-record of going after people with names that even seem to be slightly associated with their products. [slashdot.org] iWhatever, whateverPOD (mypod), PODwhaterver(Podcastready).

      Don't want NASA to become the next target for using NANO satelites. Hell, anyone into NANOtech could have problems.
  • Obvious fix (Score:5, Funny)

    by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Friday October 06, 2006 @03:55PM (#16340861) Homepage Journal
    Is there a better way to protect the shuttle in orbit?

    How about some sort of shortwave radar system that tracks inbound threats, combined with a fast-firing gatling gun that shoots thousands of projectiles per second at the incoming material in order to deflect or destroy it.

    Ok, it might not seem like a good idea at first, but after each mission, it'll become more and more necessary. The perfect money-making idea for that special aerospace contractor in your life.

    • How about some sort of shortwave radar system that tracks inbound threats, combined with a fast-firing gatling gun that shoots thousands of projectiles per second at the incoming material in order to deflect or destroy it.

      Is that why they had that gun in the moon jeep in Armegedon?

    • How about some sort of shortwave radar system that tracks inbound threats, combined with a fast-firing gatling gun that shoots thousands of projectiles per second at the incoming material in order to deflect or destroy it.

      Excuse me, wouldn't firing thousands of projectiles per second increase the number of projectiles in orbit, making things EVEN WORSE?

      Ok, it might not seem like a good idea at first, but after each mission, it'll become more and more necessary.

      Yes, it will become more and more nec

      • by kfg ( 145172 ) *
        Yes, it will become more and more necessary as you'll be spewing out THOUSANDS OF NEW PROJECTILES PER SECOND. You're creating your own nightmare scenario.

        Might just as well invade Iraq or bomb Iran. I'm not sure you percieved the point of the OP.

        KFG
        • Might just as well invade Iraq or bomb Iran. I'm not sure you percieved the point of the OP.

          My bad. There are so many stupid decisions (from Bush & Co) to be mocked, I just lose track.

      • by Sloppy ( 14984 )

        Yes, it will become more and more necessary as you'll be spewing out THOUSANDS OF NEW PROJECTILES PER SECOND. You're creating your own nightmare scenario.

        That's the whole point! "Nightmare scenario"?! PROFIT SCENARIO!

        I wrote:

        The perfect money-making idea for that special aerospace contractor in your life.

        The first shuttle goes up with just one of these guns. The second one goes up with two of them, the third goes up with a whole battery...

    • by mtm_king ( 99722 )
      "How about some sort of shortwave radar system that tracks inbound threats, combined with a fast-firing gatling gun that shoots thousands of projectiles per second at the incoming material in order to deflect or destroy it."

      Great Idea - put thousands of more little chunks of metal in orbit. If you aimed it right the shuttle could orbit into them in a matter of hours.
      • by Tiger4 ( 840741 )
        As DUMB as this idea is, it could be done.

        The trick is to not use conventional bullets. They would have to be some kind of material that would sublimate in space over a very shot period of time. Fire the bullets, the hit the target to slow or deflect it, then the fragments evaporate to relatively harmless gas.

        The rounds themselves would have to be either caseless, or the gun would have to capture the spent "brass" to be sure it wasn't a hazard in its own right. Plus the "powder" would have to be extremel
  • Particles of sand (Score:1, Interesting)

    by niola ( 74324 )
    The hubble gets hit by particles of sand every month. So far none has done anything more than leave blemishes on it yet. But you get something like the space shuttle pushing 18,000 miles per hour in orbit even a pebble that is a centimeter wide could be very damaging.

    Like one of the above posters said, it won't be something bit that ends the space program, it will be something that is seemingly innocuous that causes problems.

    • Hubble circles the earth every 96 minutes which is a distance of close to 25,000 miles so calculate the speed...hint it ain't exactly sitting still...

      So what is the correlation between the speed and damage chances between the shuttle and hubble?
      • Your math has a small flaw. The Earth is about 25,000 miles around, yes. The last time I checked Hubble is NOT however orbiting at an altitude of 0 feet. Therefore the orbital radius is just a tad larger than the Earth's radius.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by PagosaSam ( 884523 )
          Earth's radius is about 4000 miles. Besides orbits are measured from the surface not the center of the Earth. Hubble's orbit is 353 miles and orbits once every 97 minutes at about 17,500 mph.
    • by sm62704 ( 957197 )
      This one was only 2mm and it could have been very serious if it had pierced something vital.

      If Zonk had linked New Scientist instead of (sheesh!) Forbes you'ld know that.
  • During the last trip, there was a lot of ISS construction work in EVA. There was a lot of commentary about a bunch of bolts and other small items that got "lost" (dropped) during the activity.

    Then there was talk about unknown objects which were sharing the orbit with the shuttle before it descended. They delayed for a whole day just to look at the shuttle again, and to keep looking for lots of parts. But none of the news commentary seemed to draw any connection to the lost bolts.

    Now we are hearing a

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      This type of responsible maintenance is nothing new to some trades. I worked in radition and contamination areas. We had very strict guidlines for tools and containment and everything was logged in and out, including scrap o-ring pieces, connectors, zip ties, pieces of pipe lagging etc..). Every piece that went into the controled area HAD to come back out and every piece dislodged or removed from equipment had to come out as well. Precautions were taken to prevent mistakes (tape, string, velcro, bags, e
    • "Lost bolts" are not a collision hazard. They just float around. When the Shuttle fires its retrorockets, the bolts stay behind in orbit. In a few months their orbits decay and they reenter, making a nice streak across the sky.

      Even wheile they're in orbit, they're not a significant hazard. Due to the tyranny of orbit mechanics, anything at their altitude will be moving mostly in the same direction, at much the same speed.

      Now if somebody was crazy enough to launch in the opposite direction, THEN th

      • by Sloppy ( 14984 )
        Now if somebody was crazy enough to launch in the opposite direction, THEN the bolt would be a heck of a hazard!
        And so would the space station that the bolts were supposed to screw into. :-)
      • by Speare ( 84249 )

        If the loose mystery objects were the lost bolts, then their mere presence wasted a full day of head-scratching.

        If a bolt settled in the bay and bounced during landing, causing damage to the panels as discovered this week, then their mere presence has not been harmless either.

        There are many useful orbits below the ISS and those satellites don't want runaway bolts accelerating toward them, either.

        Need I remind you that it was a few-ounce piece of foam that everyone THOUGHT was harmless yet destroyed a

        • I understand your concern, but the physics of the situation make the problem unlikely.

          First of all there are just a few bolts, and several billion cubic miles of space.

          Secondly, the bolts have NO means of "accelerating", they are constrained to orbit at the same speed as everything else at that level, so the relative speeds of the objects tends to be miniscule.

          Now there *is* a big problem if the satellite is in a "spy" orbit, a north - to - south mostly "polar" orbit. Then the relative angles are wic

  • Or was it the result of a test run of the laser anti-sattelite weapon system being designed by the Chinese?
  • "Sssssssssssssssssssssssss. . ."

    • "I hear hissing in my suit! I hope it's a snake!"

      "What? You hate snakes!"

      "When you're in a spacesuit and you hear hissing, you damn well hope it's a snake!"

      (with apologies to the online comic Freefall)

  • by jpellino ( 202698 ) on Friday October 06, 2006 @04:09PM (#16341031)
    In other words,

    (1) The shuttle is inspected with magnifiers after every flight for such hits. Most are tiny, but the windows are the most common part in need of replacement from these hits / pits. This is not the first time, it's not the last. Impacts by micrometeorites make up about half the critical things that could end a flight. They always have. They've known the risk for some time now. The astronauts all understand it. The shuttle flies tail-first in order to minimize the risk to reentry-critical parts. It's mostly news now because of the hype and drama about the return to flight.

    And (b) the other previous US and Russian major mishaps didn't end the manned program, the next one won't either.
  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Friday October 06, 2006 @04:13PM (#16341091) Journal
    It seems that this is a rather larger problem than they consider.

    Is there a better way to protect the shuttle in orbit? Will a serious mishap in space be the end of our manned space program?

    If whoever going into space doesn't have a plan for coping with the amount of litter in the immediate neighborhood of the earth, then they are stupid and probably WILL suffer catastrophe.
  • First off, one inch is 2.54 centimeters. Haven't we learned that precision (as well as decimal places) are important when it comes to dealing with space stuff?! Seriously, I doubt that this will cause the cessation of the space program. More likely, safeguards will be put into place at an enormous cost to the taxpayers that protect against 0.001% chance of something catastrophic happening. On second thought, maybe the ballooning cost *will* cause the cessation of the space program, or, in the very least, i
  • Well, if Geordi LaForge would stop diverting power from the deflector shields for his crazy experiments, this wouldn't be such a problem, would it?
  • God, this news is sooo last month.

  • Seriously... somebody needs to come up with a shield generator. X-prize anyone?
  • Whipple Shields (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TTK Ciar ( 698795 ) * on Friday October 06, 2006 @04:58PM (#16341721) Homepage Journal

    qv: Whipple Shields [ciar.org]

    The idea behind whipple shields is that you put several thin barriers in front of a hypervelocity threat, and the shock waves induced inside the moving body (from rapidly loading and unloading it with compressive forces) tears it apart. What emerges from the other side of the whipple shield is a cloud of dust rather than a rock (or steel bolt, or whatever), and this cloud of dust is incapable of penetrating the side of your spacecraft.

    The document linked above describes research which demonstrates that the strength and thickness of the individual barriers is much less important than the number of barriers, and the ratio of barrier thickness vs space between the barriers. Thus whipple shields can have extremely high mass efficiency against hypervelocity threats, equivalent to 0.6 of the same thickness of hardened steel. A foamed polystyrene solution (where the cell foam wall thicknesses are tuned to the correct ratio of foam cells' widths) could therefore provide the same level of protection as ~135 times its weight in hardened steel plate.

    This technology is being actively developed for protecting battletanks from shaped charges (which generate explosively-formed penetrators moving at high hypervelocity speeds of 8,000m/s and more), but its relatively low thickness efficiency (0.6x, as opposed to ~3x-4x for some modern composite armor systems) limits its usefulness in this role, as battletanks have limited space to play with. Spacecraft are much less limited in this respect.

    Other so-called "Active Defenses" [ciar.org] developed for battletanks might also be applicable.

    -- TTK

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Other so-called "Active Defenses" [ciar.org] developed for battletanks might also be applicable.

      Maybe, but these objects are an order of magnitude faster than an RPG round. And they work by firing off a charge to intercept the incoming round. You think the debris problem is bad not? Try setting off a few of these in the ISS's orbit. "Cleanup in aisle 5"...
      • Maybe, but these objects are an order of magnitude faster than an RPG round. And they work by firing off a charge to intercept the incoming round. You think the debris problem is bad not? Try setting off a few of these in the ISS's orbit. "Cleanup in aisle 5"...

        Yes, the anti-missile grenade systems (like Russia's and Ukraine's ARENA and Drozd, and Israel's Trophy) are not a very good fit. These systems cannot deflect anything moving faster than a few hundred meters per second. I was thinking more in t

    • Whipple shields won't work for radiators (which have to 'see' open space). Nor will they work for antennas (which can't be blocked), or for TPS (tiles or ablative) because they aren't strong enough, nor for solar panels (which have to be able to 'see' then sun), or over windows/optics/sensors...
    • I watched a TV show about the space probe that sent an impactor into a comet a few years back, and they had to deal with this problem with the "mothership" craft that would follow behind the impactor and take measurements of the impact. They were testing a shield using the same basic design, except I think it used copper for the sheets. They used some super high speed guns at a university in Colorado I think. The point is, it was designed to protect against the sorts of speeds common in space-borne particle
  • by Tiger4 ( 840741 ) on Friday October 06, 2006 @05:29PM (#16342061)
    There isn't any one way to protect the shuttle or astronauts. As time goes one, there will be an increasing amount of space junk. To the extent it has a high velocity relative to something we care about, the junk will punch holes through that thing.

    At best, we have a whole list of things we can do to minimize impacts:
    1. minimize the junk new satelites spew out. This has been in work for quite a while now.
    2. track the paths of known junk, or old junk producers. Again, being done.
    3. toughen critical structures on spacecraft, especially pressurized habitats. Also, provide retreat areas that are secure.
    4. plan flights around the worst of the known debris clouds. Again, they already do this, but it is increasingly impossible.
    5. provide advanced warning of impending collisions. This could come from ground based and vehicle based radars. But frankly, at best you are only going to get a few seconds warning for the smaller stuff. Maybe enough time to say "Duck and cover!"
    6. rest assured in the knowledge that, if it isn't big enough to kill you, chances are you can ignore it. And if it does kill you, your problems are all solved.

    By the way, the note about the shuttle radiators being pulled in before the shuttle returned to Earth? They HAVE to be pulled in. The Radiators are inside the cargo bay doors. The only way to not pull them in and get the doors closed would be to jettison them, which I doubt the crew could do on orbit, even if they wanted to.

  • Look, when our ancestors were exploring the seas and new continents, they found a whole new assortment of ways to die. They lost quite a few ships (and the crew). Space exploration is very much the same. If we want to go back to the moon, to Mars and beyond, we have to face the facts that people WILL die in the attempt. Spacecraft will leak atmosphere, power will go out, airlocks will fail, space debris will hit and kill someone or total a CEV. Exploration of the depths of the ocean and the vacuum of s
  • Why doesn't NASA equip its satellites and shuttles with some of the advanced technology available to fighter jets today, tuned to meet cosmo-specs? If you can dodge the bigger chunks then all you need to stay in business is good armoring against the pea-sized debris. Right?
  • Forbes??? Here's a much better article [newscientistspace.com].

    Do you link New Scientist when you have a story about finance?

    The story I linked has two big photos of the hole, as well as a much better writup, more details, and far fewer ads.

    Sheesh.... Hope your day gets better, Zonk.
  • Why is NASA/the Government/the Public so quick to shut down the space program every time something bad/fatal happens?

    I respect the hell out of anyone who has a job that takes them into harm's way. I also think it's amazing that the US has yet to lose one astronaut IN SPACE. However, how many test pilots have been killed jockeying experimental aircraft for NASA and private companies? Should we not build new aircraft because someone might get killed flying it?

    We do need to take a serious look at shuttl

  • How about ceramics and/or ballistic plates? I know they're heavy, so it's probably not viable - and I really don't know what's currently being used. But unless the object had a velocity over, say, 3000fps and wasn't heavy metal, it'd probably be stopped by such materials. They work well enough for body armor.
    • meteoroids are often going many kilometers a second. In order to maintain steady planetary orbit, everything up there must be traveling really very fast compared to the earth. However, chances are that if you hit them, they are not in the exact same orbit as you, meaning that no matter what, the relative speed difference between you two is going to be huge.

      a meteoroid in space that is moving relatively slow compared to you would actually be a very novel thing to encounter. probablistically, if you are gonna
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      3000 Frames Per Second???

      damn didn't know we measured speeds up there the same we measure UT.

      Note: Damn americans with their 12" feet lol
  • In high school I remember watching a documentary about NORAD and how they track space debris. They showed an animation that illustrated how a serious high-impact collision (think 20,000MPH) that resulted in the total distruction of a vehicle could, in the right orbit, cause a chain-reaction type effect destroying dozens and dozens of other craft. This essentially could make that orbit level non-usable. I'm no astrophysicist, so perhaps an expert can comment. The documentary mentioned this possible scenario
    • That is correct. In fact the worst case is that the earth develops a shell of very fast moving particals that makes it impossible to travel through and we all end up stuck here. this is one of the reasons why some people say that there are no space races because the never paid any attention to what they were leaving up there. The same as we are now. All it will take is one 'space war' people shooting down spy satalites left and right for it to happen.
  • Hyper-over-reaction in the original article, and the summary.

    This sort of thing is not particularly unusual. The shuttle gets hit with perceptible impact dozens to hundreds of times per mission. They have polish out a few to dozens of divots from the windows alone after each flight. The rocks/paint chip/aluminum particles that make up most of the impactors don't have window-seeking guidance systems, so there are proportionally more hits on the rest of the vehicle too. It's just a matte
  • Lamest...railgun....EVER!

    Tom Caudron
    http://tom.digitalelite.com/ [digitalelite.com]
  • Good thing they fixed it with an inanimate carbon rod! :-)
  • Not sure about the shuttle but Congreess & NASA just tossed away a good idea for a better material for constructing the space station out of years. It was called Transhab [wikipedia.org]. I saw the prototype at NASA in '99 before Congress pulled funding on it 2000. It's much better than what they are using now to build the crew modules. Bigelow Aerospace bought the rights to it from NASA for their space station.

The IBM purchase of ROLM gives new meaning to the term "twisted pair". -- Howard Anderson, "Yankee Group"

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