17 September 2006

NASA Question

Partly, this is a test.
I once published a post about what it must have been like for the Challenger Astronauts to know they were gonna die as they fell to the ocean's surface after the explosion. An almost immediate commenter was a NASA employee.
So NASA is keeping an ear out, paying attention to blogs...... good for them!

It seems to me that some time back, one of the shuttles came home with a cracked windshield. Upon investigation, they found that the shuttle had collided, at 17,000 miles per hour, with a paint chip.

Makes sense to me....... traveling at almost 5 miles per second, hit something with even the slightest mass, and it's gonna hurt.

The shuttle detached itself yesterday from the International Space Station after delivering supplies and doing some extra-vehicular activity, (work on the ISS). Apparently, while doing the work, Bolts/Nuts/Washers escaped the grasp of the Astronauts and floated off on their own to encounter life somewhere in the reaches of outer space. They obviously weigh more than a chip of paint.
If any space vehicle should encounter one of those things later, it could go through the craft faster than a knife through room-temperature butter.

Space is a big place, thank God. But how long can we go on allowing stuff like this to happen?
What steps are we taking to protect the Shuttle and other Spacecraft from this potential disaster?

I know it's unintentional. I know it's hard to work in that environment, and humans make mistakes. But the potential for catastrophe gets greater and greater with each piece of debris that gets away. At some point, I can foresee trash making Space a prohibitively dangerous place to explore.


SimplePieman said...

PitchPull; My first comment, after lurking for months.
While I agree space junk is a problem that needs constant monitoring, I thought that the problem took care of itself after a couple of decades or so. Most satellites eventually succumb to earth's gravity, since they constantly ride through the upper reaches of the earth's atmosphere and slow down gradually. To compensate for this, satellites' orbits have to be trued up periodically via on-board burns. This is especially true of the lower flying spy satellites, which have a limited life span due to drag. The small miscellaneous debris from the satellites would eventually lose speed and altitude and burn up in the denser atmosphere.

Anonymous said...

A couple of quick points:

The windshield wasn't exactly cracked. The Space Shuttle has three different window layers separated by air spaces. An external heat barrier, an intermediate window and an internal pressure window. The window you're talking about was pitted (the pit was less than an inch wide), deemed unsafe and replaced. The exterior heat barrier window in a shuttle has never been breached and an impact that would breach it would also penetrate the aluminum skin. Even the few cracks that have occurred have not been through cracks.

The maximum velocity that could occur between the shuttle and a manmade object is twice the shuttle orbital speed or between 13 and 15 KM/second. Which usually isn't fast enough to breach the outter skin (including the windows). Only natural objects ever reach 70km/second and some scientist don't even agree on that fact.

Rubberducky1.0 said...

You really want to hear about “potential for catastrophe?” I just got a job offer from Mesa, AZ and I am still about a month from my CFI. Yummy! I get my commercial on Thursday and already they come crawling. Man I’m good, or they are REALLY desperate. Either way, its great news for they rubberducky!

Greybeard said...

What great news, RD!
Keep us updated. I want to hear the who/what/where when you're ready to start!