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  #21  
Old 31 January 2011, 10:19 PM
Alchemy Alchemy is offline
 
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Originally Posted by Keeper of the Mad Bunnies View Post
The other incidents were not directly forseeable. This one was preventable.
Apollo 1, Challenger, and Columbia were all extremely similar in that in all cases the problem was known, studied, and demoted to low-risk incidents after multiple occasions of that failure were noted without causing catastrophic damage. Apollo 1: a previous fire in a Gemini spacecraft did not kill the astronauts so it was assumed this would always happen; Challenger: multiple incidents of o-ring failure were observed, where the burn-through was sealed by fused alumina, so it was assumed this would always happen; Columbia: multiple incidents of foam shedding were observed without catastrophic damage to the orbiter, so it was assumed this would always happen.

Apollo 13 was sort of unique in that the problem was not one observed before, and the decision to put the damaged oxygen module into the service module was made by a series of workers who had incomplete pictures of that module's design and history. Still a major safety failure but not nearly as egregious as the other incidents.

Challenger also apparently changed the attitude from the Apollo 13 credo "We've never lost a man in space and it's not going to happen on my watch" to the Columbia credo "We've lost people in space before, and I'm okay with it happening on my watch so long as I can clock out on time." "Work the problem" became "Ignore the problem." "We're rewriting the mission plan" became "We don't have a pre-established solution for this contingency and I lack the leadership and competence to even consider developing one on the fly."

Apollo 13 remains NASA's finest hour; the fatalistic NASA management of today would probably have resigned themselves to the loss of the crew immediately, as they did for Columbia. NASA's treatment of Columbia - making a managerial decision that the problem was unsolvable, and repeatedly overriding engineers' attempts to investigate the damage and at least give the astronauts a chance - IMHO, crosses the line from negligence to willful killing. Yes, it's possible - even likely - that NASA could have done everything in their power and the crew still would have died, but that is a terrible justification for doing nothing at all.

Incidentally, the anniversary of Apollo 1 is January 27; Challenger January 28, and Columbia February 1.
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  #22  
Old 01 February 2011, 12:43 AM
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Auburn Red Auburn Red is offline
 
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This was probably the first news that I fully understood and followed. I mean until then I knew vague things stories about a kidnapped boy named "Adam," hearing that the President had been shot, people sometimes talked about a disease that I didn't understand at the time called AIDS, I think I even recall seeing Charles and Di's wedding on TV( I remember because years later when they showed Andrew and Fergie's wedding I actually asked my Mom, "Why are they showing this wedding again?") , but this was the first news that I really followed or paid attention to. I was 8 when it happened and I remember coming home and my Mom telling me about it. Later, the school dedicated a plaque to the astronauts and the teacher took us out to see it. (I wonder if the school still has it).
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  #23  
Old 01 February 2011, 01:05 PM
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ASL ASL is offline
 
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Originally Posted by RivkahChaya View Post
Also, physics was not my best subject, but low tones don't travel as fast as high tones, however, low tone travel farther, which would make a difference at the distances that we're talking about. People right at the launch site heard something different from what people standing much farther back heard.
I think at least half of that is true. I'm not sure if there is any meaningful difference in the speed of sound based on frequency. As for people at the launch site vs. people much farther back... Considering the altitude of almost 10 miles, wouldn't a difference of, say, a couple of miles of horizontal separation result in a not drastically larger radial distance from the actual incident on a 3-dimensional grid? And how much lateral separation was there between the launch point and the actual point of the disaster? I'd imagine there was some transverse movement relative to the launch site.

What I'm getting at with all this is that what you or I might consider "much farther back" might not actually be proportionally that much farther from the actual incident than we'd think. I guess depends on how much farther back is meant by “much farther back.”
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  #24  
Old 01 February 2011, 11:01 PM
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RivkahChaya RivkahChaya is offline
 
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I don't have any idea.

The TV stations that chose to add an explosion may not have been trying to sensationalize the story as much as not had any sound recorded, and no idea of what it should have sounded like. It would have been nicer if they had a voiceover saying that, or just "Technical considerations prevent us from broadcasting the sound of the fire/explosion [whatever word is most appropriate]."
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  #25  
Old 04 February 2011, 04:33 AM
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E. Q. Taft E. Q. Taft is offline
 
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I would agree that the particular disaster that occurred with Challenger was avoidable. On the other hand, I tend to feel that with anything as complicated as space flight, and particularly involving combustion on that scale, disasters are eventually going to occur.

Mike Collins, after Challenger, noted that adding up all the US manned space missions, and pointing to the two disasters (Apollo 1 and Challenger), said that he felt that the rate was about what we had to expect -- one in fifty. His opinion proved eerily accurate when the Columbia disaster occurred roughly fifty missions later.

It is in many was amazing how few astronauts and spacecraft we have lost. This is not meant to excuse the particular decisions or errors that led to any of these incidents (or for that matter, the mistakes leading up to Apollo 13, which could also have been prevented -- but could also have been a lot worse, had the oxygen tank exploded at a different point in the mission). I guess what I'm trying to say is that while individual accidents could nearly always have been prevented with sufficient foresight, you can't expect therefore that you can ever reach a point where no accidents ever occur.
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  #26  
Old 04 February 2011, 05:04 AM
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ganzfeld ganzfeld is offline
 
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I agree, EQT. People who are clamoring for more manned missions and even missions to Mars should take note. Yes, there's room for improvement but manned missions are extremely risky and novel. Any missions to Mars in the next 100 years will be lucky to have 90% success.

In retrospect and with a proper accounting, the moon missions were far more risky than any shuttle missions, even if the NASA back then had lived up to this myth of "their finest hour". There were only eight trips there and six landings. After fifty trips, we would have almost definitely lost some.
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  #27  
Old 04 February 2011, 05:21 AM
Nick Theodorakis Nick Theodorakis is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ganzfeld View Post
...There were only eight trips there and six landings. ...
Nitpick: 9 trips, 6 landings. Are you forgetting Apollo 8?

Nick
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  #28  
Old 04 February 2011, 05:31 AM
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ganzfeld ganzfeld is offline
 
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Oops, thanks. I was forgetting 10. How could I forget that? I have a beautiful poster of their photo of the Earth on the Moon's horizon.
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  #29  
Old 04 February 2011, 12:37 PM
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Lainie Lainie is offline
 
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I agree that in general, accidents and fatalities are likely inevitable in space exploration. That's all the more reason to do everything possible to prevent the avoidable accidents. And this:

Quote:
Originally Posted by E. Q. Taft View Post
Mike Collins, after Challenger, noted that adding up all the US manned space missions, and pointing to the two disasters (Apollo 1 and Challenger), said that he felt that the rate was about what we had to expect -- one in fifty.
Makes me want to head-desk. That may have been the rate "we had to expect," but if we'd prevented the preventable accidents, we would have lost fewer people than "we had to expect."
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  #30  
Old 04 February 2011, 12:50 PM
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ganzfeld ganzfeld is offline
 
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That's true Lanie but it's no more of a head-desker than saying "We should have..." about every accident and acting like that is an incredible insight into the extremely complex process of sending people into space. Even so-called "group think" isn't something you can get rid of just by knowing that it exists. In fact, I would say that the "we should have" is what really contributes to accidents because it makes the teams think that simply by changing the way things are done the accidents will be reduced when in actuality it takes a lot more work, not just doing things a little differently.
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  #31  
Old 04 February 2011, 02:34 PM
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GenYus234 GenYus234 is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alchemy View Post
"We've lost people in space before, and I'm okay with it happening on my watch so long as I can clock out on time."
Technically, we've not lost any one in space.
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  #32  
Old 04 February 2011, 02:38 PM
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Lainie Lainie is offline
 
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Originally Posted by ganzfeld View Post
That's true Lanie but it's no more of a head-desker than saying "We should have..." about every accident and acting like that is an incredible insight into the extremely complex process of sending people into space.
Depends on what comes after the ellipse, doesn't it? If it's "we should have prevented that preventable loss of life," no, it's not an incredible insight (although I'm not clear on who you think is pretending that) -- but it's not wrong, or worthless.

The people who pay for space exploration, and on whose behalf it is conducted, have every right to be angry and frustrated when its risks, and the associated loss of life, are unnecessarily increased by avoidable errors.
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  #33  
Old 05 February 2011, 05:15 AM
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E. Q. Taft E. Q. Taft is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lainie View Post
Makes me want to head-desk. That may have been the rate "we had to expect," but if we'd prevented the preventable accidents, we would have lost fewer people than "we had to expect."
*shrug* For his part, Collins was very surprised when it turned out that the SRB's were the culprit -- he had been worrying about the main engines for years. In addition to coming up with a fix for the solids, a lot of other changes were made to improve shuttle safety.

What Collins really meant was not that we shouldn't be angry at NASA for the errors that led to the Challenger accident -- and he felt that the whole picture it painted of the agency's operation was pretty damning -- but that we're fools to expect perfection. (He talked about how problems were being discussed and solved at different "levels" in the organization, and compared it to Apollo -- Jim Webb, he said, would have known somehow; he might not have known an O-Ring from an X-wing, but he would have known one of his contractors was waving a red flag.) He pointed out that thousands of people die on the highways every years, and while we should and do continually work to improve safety there, we accept the fact that some fatalities will occur. We should not let the occasional accident affect our determination to keep pressing ahead -- though neither should we shrug it off and keep flying without fixing the problems.
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  #34  
Old 05 February 2011, 01:35 PM
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Lainie Lainie is offline
 
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Since I have never in my adult life expected perfection from space travel (or anything else in life, for that matter), Collins comments really don't pertain to me.
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  #35  
Old 06 February 2011, 09:30 AM
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Rachael Rachael is offline
 
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That bit about them not dying instantly made me feel really depressed.
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