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Space Shuttle Has Landed

Discussion in 'The Pub' at netrider.net.au started by grange, Jul 21, 2011.

  1. As the last shuttle has now landed, and the ending of an era in space travel,
    here is a few facts and clips for those interested....

    An Xbox 360 has far more power than the flight computer

    The flight computer aboard the space shuttle has less than one percent of the power of an Xbox 360 game console. Astronauts load programs directing the phases of a mission - liftoff, orbit, landing - into the computer one at a time after removing the program for the previous segment. Why hasn't NASA upgraded the computer? The agency values its 30-year history of reliability. That said, astronauts don't go into space with only one computer. Crew laptops and other laptops also make the trip.

    The orbiter vs. a Boeing 747

    The orbiter is 122 feet long and 78 feet wide (wingspan) and it weighs 200,000 pounds. A Boeing 747, by comparison, is 231 feet long.

    State-of-the-art materials make up the orbiter;/B]

    The orbiters' flight computers may be primitive by today's standards, but its forward wing edge is composed of layers of state-of-the-art composite materials. That edge takes the maximum heat on re-entry. The oribters' "glass cockpits" are another example of cutting edge equipment. NASA installed them to replace 32 gauges, four cathode-ray tubes and a variety of electro-mechanical devices with 11 full-color electronic screens displaying critical flight information. The work NASA did to certify the cockpits led to FAA certification of glass cockpits for commercial airplanes.

    Thank 'Star Trek' for the first shuttle's name

    The space shuttle has a "Star Trek" connection. Fans of the original TV show flooded NASA in the 1970s with letters urging the first orbiter be named for the spaceship in the show, and the White House responded by changing its planned name to Enterprise. The Enterprise, however, never had an engine and never flew in space. It was used for tests to prove the craft could fly through the atmosphere and land. What was the name originally planned for the Enterprise? Constitution.

    2.5 million parts make up orbiter

    The most complex machine ever built, the orbiter has more than 2.5 million parts, including almost 230 miles of wire, more than 1,060 plumbing valves and connections, more than 1,440 circuit breakers, and more than 27,000 insulating tiles and thermal blankets.

    Faster than a speeding bullet

    In the eight minutes after launch, the shuttle accelerates from zero to about nine times as fast as a rifle bullet, or 17,400 miles per hour, to attain Earth orbit.

    4.5 million pounds of shuttle

    The space shuttle "stack," including the orbiter, solid rocket boosters and external tank, weighs more than 4.5 million pounds at launch. It has 3.5 million pounds of propellants that will be entirely consumed in liftoff.

    Gas sucker

    If the orbiter's main engines pumped water instead of fuel, they would drain an average-sized swimming pool every 25 seconds. Because liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuel the main engines, the majority of exhaust produced is water vapor.

    Sparklers aren't for show

    Hydrogen is the reason videos of shuttle launches always include a burst of sparklers around the base of the pad seconds before liftoff. The idea is to burn up any liquid hydrogen that might have leaked during fueling.

    Solid rockets generate 14,700 locomotives worth of power

    The shuttle's two solid rockets generate 44 million horsepower, equal to 14,700 locomotives. They produce power equivalent to 13 times that produced by the Hoover Dam.

    Not your average kitchen aluminum

    The shuttle's solid rockets burn powdered aluminum as fuel - a different form of the same type of material that is used as a foil wrap in most kitchens.

    Extreme cold to extreme heat

    The temperatures inside the shuttle's main engines and solid rockets reach more than 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit, higher than the boiling point of iron, yet the main engine's fuel, liquid hydrogen, is the second coldest liquid on Earth at minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures experienced by the shuttle range from as low as minus 250 degrees Fahrenheit in space to as high as 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit as it re-enters the atmosphere.

    Night launches rare

    The space shuttle launched at night for 34 of its 135 total flights, counting the scheduled last launch on July 8.

    Michelin-tough tires help shuttle land

    The orbiter lands on special Michelin tires not much larger than truck tires. Like most aviation tires, the shuttle's tires are filled with nitrogen to a pressure of 340 psi. Michelin says "a main landing gear tire can carry three times the load of a Boeing 747 tire or the entire starting line-up of a NASCAR race - 40 race cars - all hitting the pavement at up to 250 miles per hour."

    Time lapse clip of STS131

    This clip is of the launch of Endeavour, and has external cameras mounted to the tanks, that follow the seperation and return to earth of the tanks (nearly 37 mins long)

    Attached Files:

  2. Doesn't the shuttle run on 8080 processers??
  3. Loved the time lapse clip, had heard of 'old technology' being used purely for 'if it aint broke, dont fix it' seems to have worked over n over many a time.
  4. Yes, the end of an era. The first flight was one of those 'where were you' moments.

    I remember I was in grade 5 and we all went in to the library to watch it.
  5. NASA’s space shuttle is controlled by a computer running on only one megabyte of RAM.

    How is this possible?

    Since the space shuttle and all its hardware is over 30 years old, so is its computer. The current computer is actually an upgraded version of the 500-kilobyte computer that was used until 1991, but still based on the same outdated technology from the 1980s.

    So how does the computer process all those complex calculations with only one megabyte of RAM? Well, the shuttle, unlike the average modern computer, doesn’t need a complex graphical user interface and all the fancy programs and games we use. All it does is process the raw data it gets from all the sensors and coordinate the shuttle’s functions, in a simple UNIX-like environment. True, all those calculations are complex, but they do not require a more powerful computer than they already have.

    Still, why weren’t the old computers replaced with newer ones? As the popular saying goes, don’t repair what’s not broken. If new computer systems were to be installed, they would require massive testing until they were nearly 100% fail-proof. You wouldn’t want to get a “Blue Screen Of Death” in the middle of a launch, would you? And during the past 30 years the computer system performed nearly-flawlessly. Another reason would be NASA’s budget constraints. Why spend money on something that’s working well anyways, instead of doing something useful in space?

    Similarly, the Russian Soyuz capsule’s computer ran on only 6 kilobytes of RAM until it was replaced with newer systems in 2003, which most probably was the cause of its subsequent crash-landing in Kazakhstan.


    It's no secret that the space shuttle is now based on very old technology. In fact, even NASA admits that it's the equivalent of an old pickup truck. In fact, at times, NASA has turned to the likes of eBay to pick up old pieces like 8086 chips to replace original parts on the shuttle. So, perhaps it shouldn't come as a huge surprise to then find out that NASA isn't at all comfortable that the shuttle's computers can survive New Year's in space. Yes, that's right. The folks at NASA have worked hard to make sure that a space shuttle is never in space from December 31st to January 1st of any year, for fear that its computers would go haywire in a Y2K manner -- perhaps causing serious damage to the ability of the shuttle to continue its mission. Still, you would think they'd be able to, you know, test that sort of thing out -- but NASA says they simply have no idea what would happen, and they'd like to avoid finding out. They're not all that worried, but a statement like the following hardly seems confident: "if we have an 'Oh my god,' and we have to be up there, I am sure we would figure out a way to operate the vehicle safely.... It just wouldn't be flying in the normal certified mode that we are used to flying." If I were one of the astronauts, hearing "I am sure we would figure out a way..." can't be the most comforting of thoughts.

  6. That's amazing how the same flight control computer is still working after 30 years
  7. The US military spends as much in 23 days as NASA spends in a year - and that's when there not fighting a war.

    According to Steve Anderson, a retired brigadier general who served as Gen. Petraeus' chief logistician in Iraq, the Department of Defense spends $20 billion air conditioning tents and temporary structures for the military. That's more than NASA's entire $19 billion annual budget.

    The entire half-century budget of NASA equals the current two year budget of the US military.

    Total of 61 pics looking back at the history of the shuttle program
  8. Wish I had of put two and two together to watch the landing live. I watched the first take off live. Mum got me out of bed early to watch it.
  9. Not as much dedication there ibast, unlike these two....

    Chris Bray and his father were able to attend the very first Space Shuttle launch in 1981 (left), when he was 13 years old. Some thirty years later, the two were able to attend the final launch as well, and recreated the original image.

    Attached Files:

  10. A previous post asked 'Where were you when?' I was sitting in front of my grand parent's B&W tv - quite a recent addition to the household - when Armstrong stepped off the ladder, and I ... I don't know how to explain it. I was 6 years old, and I knew that in the entire history of the world this was the most technically significant thing that we'd ever done. It was an achievement to dwarf Columbus and Cook and Magellan, the great pyramid, everything. I knew that since before the first human had stood on its back legs and looked at the sky, we'd seen the moon, and wondered and wished, but during my lifetime I'd lived to see that ancient wish realised. I had the thought even then, that I really hoped that before I got old and grey and forgetful, I could watch a man step off the ladder on Mars. It meant a lot to me as a kid and it still does.

    I also remember where I was while the engineers at NASA performed another miracle and got three men home who were already dead. If you don't remember it then a few words from the old folks now can never really convey what it was like, but for a few days there the world stopped and held its breath. What those engineers did to save the crew of Apollo 13 makes the 'miracles' in the bible look like child's play. You can turn water into wine? I can get three men around the back of the moon in a frozen wreck, with stuff all electrical power and not enough oxygen no heating and no working carbon dioxide scrubber and no working guidance or autopilot, and re-enter them and pick them up alive. Top that! The Bible says Christ brought Lazarus back from the dead. Well Mission Control brought the Apollo 13 crew back and there were a f#cking lot more witnesses to that, including me.

    If those guys said to me "I am sure we would figure out a way..." then I would bet the lives of my grand children on it.
  11. Awesome thread!! I particularly liked the time lapse video.
  12. I read this one earlier in the week...


    These couple of quotes...

    I still reckon they should have found a way to leave one up there...
  13. Nice idea but I guess there's already enough space junk in Earth orbit to be hazardous.

    Sending one off (unmanned of course) on a one-way trip out of the Solar System though. Now that would have been a gesture, although impossible in practice.
  14. Park one on the moon???

    I'm just a sucker for machines, especially stuff that flys.

    I hate looking at aircraft in museums knowing they'll never fly again...

    Every now again one gets away though...