Updated: 18/08/2003; 12:58:16.
rodcorp: Transport systems, safety, maps
Transport systems, safety, maps, design
        

04 February 2003

Columbia fact-file
Includes a timeline on which we can see that the project to build Columbia took from 1971 (project approval) to 1981 (maiden flight). A long development cycle.

Washington Monthly reprints its 1980 essay on the drawbacks (dangers?) of the shuttle: Beam Me Out Of This Death Trap, Scotty:
The main cause of delay is currently the shuttle's refractory tiles, which disperse the heat of reentry from the ship's nose and fuselage. Columbia must be fitted out with 33,000 of these tiles, each to be applied individually, each unique in shape. The inch-thick tiles, made of pyrolized carbon, are amazing in two respects. They can be several hundred degrees hot on one side while remaining cool to the touch on the other. They do not boil away like the ablative heat shieldings of capsules and modules; they can be used indefinitely. But they're also a bit of a letdown in another respect--they're so fragile you can hardly touch them without shattering them.
[...]
The tiles break so often, and must be remolded so painstakingly, the installation rate is currently one tile per technician per week.
[...]
Some suspect the tile mounting is the least of Columbia's difficulties. "I don't think anybody appreciates the depths of the problems," Kapryan says. The tiles are the most important system NASA has ever designed as "safe life." That means there is no back-up for them. If they fail, the shuttle burns on reentry. If enough fall off, the shuttle may become unstable during landing, and thus un-pilotable. The worry runs deep enough that NASA investigated installing a crane assembly in Columbia so the crew could inspect and repair damaged tiles in space. (Verdict: Can't be done. You can hardly do it on the ground.) "


Hopefully the Columbia tragedy won't affect projects like these, which are designed to make it a little easier for humans to work in space:
Constance Adams: Space Architecture After 2001
Constance is working on the International Space Station's TransHab crew module. The article has these interesting quotes:
all architecture is space architecture; terrestrial architecture is just the specialized subset with which we are most familiar"
[...]
in this world of increasing specialization in every field, the last professions that demand multiplicity of thought at every scale are Architecture and Design; we may well be the world's last trained generalists"

On the other hand, those that prefer the thought of unmanned space exploration and science will appreciate this from a 2002(?) talk on The Cyborg by William Gibson:
Martian jet lag. Thatís what you get when you operate one of those little Radio Shack wagon/probes from a comfortable seat back at an airbase in California. Literally. Those operators were the first humans to experience Martian jet lag. In my sense of things, we should know their names: first humans on the Red Planet. Robbed of recognition by that same old school of human literalism.
[links via the usual places, nasa and google]
3:16:49 PM     comments

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