Shuttle Humor, Risk Estimation

R. A. Hettinga rah at
Mon Feb 3 20:03:00 PST 2003

Hash: SHA1

At 6:21 PM -0800 on 2/3/03, Tim May wrote:

> Or,
> with about 10 days of advance notice, Atlantis could have been
> ready for launch and rendezvous to take the crew off, and perhaps
> even to transfer fuel to let Columbia go into a higher parking
> orbit until repairs could be arranged.


My understanding is that launches are planned so far in advance, and
the events required to do so are so tightly coupled they wouldn't
have had a chance even if they'd *had* that kind of running room.
Just asking, not disputing, here. So, here we go, googling "atlantis
rescue mission columbia" doesn't get any recent hits... Ah. Here's
*one*, in, of course :


>> Q: Were there any rescue options available for the crew?
>> A: Columbia had enough fuel and oxygen to stay in orbit several
>> more days, perhaps a week or more with careful management. The
>> shuttle Atlantis was being readied for a March 1 launch from Cape
>> Canaveral, and could possibly have been ready for an emergency
>> mission in a week or two.
>> "If the problem had been detected at the beginning of the mission
>> and you could get some extra life support up there earlier, they
>> might have been able to wait it out," said MIT science and
>> technology professor Ted Postol. "It would be difficult, but it
>> doesn't sound impossible."
>> Q: Could Columbia have sought refuge at the international space
>> station?
>> A: The shuttle didn't have a docking device to visit the station
>> or enough fuel to reach the station, which orbits 30 miles higher
>> than the path taken by Columbia. However, the station does have an
>> airlock that its astronauts can use for space walks, and some
>> tethered escape attempt might have been made had the shuttle
>> gotten there.
>> Q: What rescue resources could the Russian space program have
>> offered if the danger had been recognized?
>> A: The Russians have two Soyuz space capsules, each able to carry
>> just three people, ready to fly, and those craft have no equipment
>> to connect to the shuttle.

Which gives the lie to the idea that Columbia was in a higher
*altitude* orbit than the space station, which is what I had thought
I had heard, but was in a higher *inclination* orbit, which was
obvious, of course, by its flight path.

Columbia is the only shuttle not actually capable of docking with the
ISS to begin with, and that's why they freed it up for this mission.

They were talking about putting it into mothballs a few years ago
when money was tight.

And, of course, somewhere in my google-walking, I came across the
fact that Reagan issued an Executive Order in 1986 forbidding any
primary shuttle mission to be commercial, which is about when I
pulled the plug on about 7 years of my life, and corresponding
financial resources...

Same shit, etc...


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R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

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