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back to article Space Shuttle Columbia disaster remembered 10 years on

On February 1st, 2003 at 08:00 CST residents of Texas witnessed the once mighty Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrate into a 12,000mph fireball. Almost 17 years to the day since the Challenger disaster, President G. W. Bush delivered the news to the world, “The Columbia is lost. There are no survivors.” Space Shuttle Columbia …

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Re: The rescue options?

$450 million was the launch. It was a couple of billion to refurb the shuttles after each flight. This swung on the side of making disposables a lot cheaper - but NASA had no man-rated gear to go on a disposable stack.

One of the more fanciful "rescue" options for shuttle involved siwnging a bar out the side hatch and firing astronauts out the door at about 100-150,000 feet but it was acknowledged as more "wishful thinking" than practical - and in any case could not be used until after the reentry stage.

Other rescue options proposed as far back as dyna-soar days involved inflatable bubbles that astronauts would ride in on over a 2-3 day period (with utterly no control over where they ended up)

Even though it was a horrible kludge from the outset, what really killed Shuttle was the stark reality that disposable rockets are cheaper - paying the russians to use their man-rated kit was a lot cheaper - and a disposable stack cable of sending a shuttle-mass payload (vs a shuttle payload bay sized payload) would have built ISS in a lot less time.

Of course if they hadn't spent 20 years fartarsing about trying to do flights which justified using a machine designed from the outset to be a pickup truck hauling - and far more importantly returning - space station components, then there might have been a ISS a lot earlier.

The russians built Buran to prove they could, from publically available documentation for the shuttle.

The designers realised it was incredibly dangerous as-is and wanted to move the orbiter to the top of the stack, but they were told to leave it as it was so it could be flown in minimum time - but that configuration would never have been man-rated under russian flight rules and was one of the reasons Buran only flew once (Buran's undercarriage could be deployed under computer control. The Shuttle's had to be manually deployed (non-retractable) and that's why it could never fly unmanned)

(The russians were similarly shocked at how dangerous the apollo LEM units were. After losing several people early on they were acutely aware of the level of bad publicity they'd get if they lost anyone on a lunar sortie.)

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IT Angle

Killed by numeric overflow?

Because CRATER looked at the hole size, threw a wobbler and crashed out?

You can bet that went through when a manager looked at those results and said "Can't happen IRL, no problem. No point in upgrading the software"

When a manager says "Can't happen" you should get very twitchy.

STS was not a robust system. Apollo 13 suffered an in fight engine failure and a huge explosion but the crew came back. A design built at break neck speed (but near unlimited funding). STS was built slower but near choking funding.

People might like to consider if the current SLS is more STS or more Apollo.

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Re: Killed by numeric overflow?

The Block 2 Apollo CSM design also benefited hugely from the loss of three astronauts during a 'plugs out' pad test. The subsequent investigation turned up massive deficiencies in the design ultimately leading to the robust design that you speak of.

It's interesting to note that STS-1 (the first real test flight) had a similar issue where the thermal protection system was damaged on launch and hot gas was allowed to duct into the landing gear well severely damaging part of the wheel brace. John Young has gone on record as saying that if he had been aware of this he and Crippen would have bailed out of the orbiter rather than attempt the landing.

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Boffin

Re: Killed by numeric overflow?

"When a manager says "Can't happen" you should get very twitchy."

Like Boeing said about the 787 battery fires?

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Re: Killed by numeric overflow?

Atlantis was almost destroyed in a similar foam-shedding incident on STS-27. In that case they got the Shuttle home, but they were very lucky that the damage hadn't hit the leading edge of the wing. But in places the tiles had been destroyed and it was bare metal.

It was kept very quiet for a long time because the mission was a DoD flight, but Astronaut Mike Mullane gives a huge amount of detail in the utterly brilliant "Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut".

More info and super scary photos of the damage here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/STS-27

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Re: Killed by numeric overflow?

CRATER was the wrong tool. It was designed to predict ice damage during the time between the main engines fired and take-off and for analysing post-flight damage. It was never intended to provide information about impacts in-flight. Unfortunately, NASA didn't have an in-flight tool to help them come to a decision, so CRATER was the best they had and it predicted serious damage to the wing.

However, CRATER's authors at Boeing recommended ignoring the program's results. The designers knew that CRATER predicted more damage from small ice impacts (which it was designed to calculate) than were found after the Shuttle returned to Earth. They extrapolated this to mean that the software would make even grievous errors when it was asked to predict the impact of an object six-hundred times larger and of a lower density.

Independently the designers of the tiles were confident the more dense inner surface of the tiles would be safe against the impact of a low-density piece of foam.

When these two opinions were combined it sounded almost rational that there wasn't a problem that couldn't be fixed between flights.

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Re: Killed by numeric overflow?

I think what he was referring to was the way the same overpressure wave which damaged the TPS also caused a body flap to be deflected beyond the point where damage would have been expected...

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In reality nothing could have been done

To try to send another orbiter in a rush means potentially losing that one and for a rescue that may or may not have been needed in the first place.

Even directing the crew to sideslip the orbiter on reentry, providing it was technically possible at all and the RCS had enough power and fuel to do that, would have been a decision which just couldn't be made by a political organisation like NASA. What if there was no need? - the ship would still have to be written off. What if there were fatalities anyway? - try to explain to a bunch of Congressmen that it was not *because* of the non-standard procedure. It is much easier to deal with a handful of dead heroes and "who would have thought it", rather than take responsibility for any proactive action.

No, from the moment the foam hit, the only course of action available to NASA was to go in denial and secretly hope that everything will be OK.

OMG, that was a sad day....

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Unhappy

Re: In reality nothing could have been done

Is this the feel of losing the IRS dataset on a USB stick in a bus?

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Re: In reality nothing could have been done

The investigation panel showed how if the damage was taken seriously it would have been possible to have put an astronaut in a position to see the damage and to access it. There would have been time to do this. At this point there would have been an unequivocal need for drastic action. They suggested that stuffing the hole with a selection of on-board materials and changing the entry profile may have been enough to save the crew, it not the orbiter.

Whilst there is some truth that NASA is very politically directed, they would know that loss of the orbiter would inevitably lead to a congressional investigation where every email, phone call, and every tiny bit of physical evidence and documentation would have been worked through. Once the foam struck the die was cast. They were going to lose the shuttle programme if they lost the orbiter. Senior mangers would have known this. In part, where NASA failed is that senior management didn't know there was even the slightest hint of a problem. The internal culture simply didn't allow for there to be one.

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Re: In reality nothing could have been done

The internal culture was to ensure that management didn't know there was a problem - the whole purpose of the layers of management in politics/military is to ensure that everyone at the top has deniability.

An inquiry that shows there were technical failings is OK = "it's rocket science, these brave astronauts, risks for their country etc etc". It's preferable (for the managers) than "discovering" that there was a problem at the time and then having astronauts who the public know are definitely going to die live on national television

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Not just the foam strike

There were a great many lessons in the Columbia disaster. Whilst el Reg provides a nice write up the basic reason, taking time to look at why it could happen, as well as the what happened would be worthwhile.

The investigation uncovered a huge number of flaws in management of the shuttle programme. It wasn't just that NASA lost a second shuttle that set in motion the retirement of the fleet, but that NASA manifestly was not able to show that it was up to the task of managing the programme. It was clear that NASA would never be able to get the shuttle programme past losing one in every 50 flights. Some of this stemmed from inherent defects in the shuttle's design, many of which were inflicted on NASA due to the politics and budget cuts in the 70's, but a great deal from issues in NASA's internal culture.

Mission rules required that the ground control team provided constant oversight of the mission. Yet there was so little concern about the state of pay that the mission controller gave the team the weekend off. Both violating mission rules, and evidencing the total lack of interest in the foam strike.

Whilst the foam strike was always the prime suspect in the loss of the orbiter, there were other very serious engineering flaws uncovered. The investigation spent some time specifically looking at NASA's processes, and specifically criticised it's "broken safety culture." The external tank manufacture had been so tightened up financially that the position of manager of a particular part of manufacture, and the position of safety and quality control for the same part was occupied buy the same person. Yet no-one seemed to realise the fundamental conflict and inevitable loss of safety this would bring. Ultimately NASA was shown to have not learnt any lessons from the loss of the Challenger. The same hubris, and culture of "we got away with it last time" that doomed that craft, also doomed Columbia. The issue of foam strike was degraded from a flight critical one - where in the original rules for the orbiter this was a non-negotiable flaw that would have led to instant grounding of the fleet until resolved. It was let slide to the point that it was considered a regular "problem" that they would ultimately sort out, and not considered a serious enough to impact flight. An identical mindset as they had for the SRB O-ring seals that doomed Challenger.

The report on the disaster is worth reading from cover to cover. Whilst there is nice story of forensic engineering, the real story is in the surrounding culture, and the question of just how and why it was allowed to happen.

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Paris Hilton

Re: Not just the foam strike

Are you perchance related to Diane Vaughan, of excellent book fame??

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Re: Not just the foam strike

Not that I know of.

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Megaphone

Re: Not just the foam strike

>criticised it's "broken safety culture."

Like BP and countless other organizations. Whenever you get enough people together supposedly working on one goal you are going to ultimately get a clusterf__k (yes even in WW2, read Catch 22). Even the Manhattan project and Apollo program had a lot of luck involved in their success (have to admit though project management seems to have been a hell of lot better then too). The fact is people act like a herd animal in groups (change behavior and even outlook to not stand out) and not to mention self interest often comes before group success so for example manager x does what benefits his own career and bank account the most.

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Re: Not just the foam strike

Interesting. This is the one I have:

Contest For The Heavens: The Road to the Challenger Disaster [Paperback]

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Re: Not just the foam strike

I would also recommend "Contest For The Heavens" - gripping reading, but the political and institutional dysfunction that it documents is depressing.

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J.T

The worst part about the original Challenger disaster is that under the same conditions during early launch testing of the program they noticed the same exact issues with the cracking of the O rings at low temperatures.

While many bemoan the privatization of the US Space program, NASA has shown repeatedly an inability to properly respond to issues with this program and many of their nonmanned rocket programs. Put simply, they're incompetant.

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Acknowledgement of their failures notwithstanding, I find it hard to look at what NASA has achieved, and continues to achieve, and label the whole institution incompetent.

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hmm

NASA started out great but since they decide to piss away 100 billion dollars on ISS with little chance of manned space flight for perhaps generations I think incompetent is an appropriate word for NASA management these days (not to mention their short bus overlords Congress).

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Headmaster

@TheFunkyGibbon: Like A Candle In The Wind....

Mandatory Pedant:

"Challenger" never exploded, it was torn apart in by aerodynamic stresses when the booster knocked the stack out of alignment according to the Rogers Report.

If anyone has wondered why the orbiter hangs on the side of the tank, instead of like on top in all of those Chelsey Bonestell illustrations, it's because the fragile orbiter (its wings in particular) is partially shielded by the shock cone from the main tank.

None of this diminishes the loss of the brave astronauts.

DX Philly

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Re: @TheFunkyGibbon: Like A Candle In The Wind....

I suspect having the orbiter - with it's engines running - perched on top of the 750tons of H2/O2 could be considered a non-optimal combustion outcome scenario

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Pint

Re: @TheFunkyGibbon: Like A Candle In The Wind....

" 'Challenger' never exploded, it was torn apart in by aerodynamic stresses when the booster knocked the stack out of alignment..."

...at which point the Challenger's external fuel tank was ruptured, its contents caught fire and it created a huge fireball that resembled an explosion. So you are correct. But it sure looked like an explosion.

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Bah!

Rescue mission? The Challenger was carrying a full compliment of crew. Given it takes two people to fly a shuttle, who gets left behind in this pie-in-the-sky 20-20 hindsight "option"?

Also: Provision for EVA on the shuttle was limited, and sci-fi visualizations to the contrary, there were typically only two suits available that were capable of being used for outside-the-cabin work as I recall, each sized specifically for a given crewmember. It is worth remembering that no-one went outside for a look at the damage to Columbia , presumably because going outside a shuttle is a dangerous business requiring special equipment and not a casual grab yer space-helment and grav-boots affair like what it is on Star Trek.

So, in order for this "rescue" to "work" there would have to have been a major refit of the Atlantis to bung in more seats, or as they are properly known to those who know how spacecraft work, "couches" capable of sustaining a person through the umptytump G of reentry without turning them into cottage cheese. Then another refit for some sort of airlock-to-airlock transfer tunnel, which doesn't exist outside of the film "2010" and in any case couldn't be clamped to an unrefittable Columbia already in orbit.

So I guess Atlantis would have had to have been stood down for a bit while the work progressed. Meanwhile the racks of off-the-shelf boosters NASA has waiting in a shed somewhere would be used for resupply. Kinda makes you wonder why there was such a backlog of lift when Challenger was lost if there are so many Deltas or what-have-you just waiting to be pointed upwards and set off, but I suppose there's a good reason somewhere other than the actual non-existence of such stockpiles of rockets on-site.

As for bailing out: This is not an option other than in the movie Space Cowboys. It was looked at and talked about but the truth is that the orbiter, like every space craft NASA has flown with the sole exception of Gemini, has no provision for the astronauts to leave it while it is in motion. Gemini was the way those concerned about such things wanted to go as a testbed for the future of re-usable, lands-with-a-pilot and has ejector seats craft, but it was abandoned as a concept when Apollo sucked all the money away.

And for all the crying and wailing, it is the taxpayers who fund these things and who demand LOW BID win the day. Add in the need for the work to be spread around for political gain and you have the makings of a design-by-committee disaster waiting to happen.

The crew of Columbia were lost to a lack of imagination, just like every other accident of this type. It happens and is part of the risk, which is why we honor the people who ride these machines - at least I do. After all, even if you have a really safe orbiter with ejector seats and spare seats and super airlock tunnels and space suits for all, you're still strapping it to a f*cking great bomb in order to make it do its job.

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Big Brother

Re: Bah!

This is exactly the attitude we are talking about.

But .. and in reality ... it wouldn't work anyway ... etc. etc.

Maybe, maybe not. Didn't try. Who knows. Asses covered? Yep.

> And for all the crying and wailing, it is the taxpayers who fund these things and who demand LOW BID win the day.

Bullshit! The taxpayers demands one thing: low, or better no, taxes.

Whether congress wants to do "more with less, faster" (as long as the "less" does not impact the congressman's state), whether the president and the military need mo' money to fight a genocidal romp against gooks in Vietnam, whether state bureaucracies demand "low bids" out of sheer stupidity and inertia (and industrial policy arrangements and quid-pro-quos) is something else entirely.

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Re: Bah!

Steve is clearly an expert - someone who can always tell you why something can't be done.

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FAIL

Re: Bah!

Humbug!

Spacecraft-to-spacecraft transfer does not require a 'tunnel', just a static line and enough spacesuits for the people you're transferring. Everybody has a spacesuit because they wear them during launch - and for a short time a simple bubble would suffice!

String a wire between the two airlocks using the existing safety line clips, and 'zip' along. Perhaps five minutes each, plus airlock cycle and suiting-up time. Last guy out is a bit more fiddly as you can't put NASA spacesuits on without help, but not insurmountable.

This does need an MMU to get the static line set up (and maybe dismantled), so send that in the rescue craft.

As they hadn't planned a spacewalk in the mission, presumably there weren't any MMUs on Columbia and thus the only way to look is sat on the end of the arm. Don't think that reaches underneath so would have to send a person rather than simple camera.

While that isn't the kind of thing you just "pop out" to do, they could have done it had NASA accepted the need to take a look.

I suspect the real reason they didn't look was indeed "What if we find something?"

A very human fright response, and the same reason lots of people don't go get tested for cancers when they first suspect, instead waiting until it's too late to do anything.

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Unhappy

Why not?

The G forces are not that great on reentry. Some improvisation would be needed, bot not that serious.

About the space suits, it would be easier than it looks. They would have, only, to endure the passage from one ship to another. A blob, or something like it, would be enough - after all there would be two astronauts with proper suits to manage them.

It would be dangerous. It would not be easy. But COULD be done. Even if the improvised blob failed, and one or more died, it would be a success all the same.

About the reentry G forces:

Improvise an air mattress, or something like this. It would not be ideal, i would not be as safe as the chair - but would be far better than being left up there.

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Re: Why not?

So, more unobtanium solutions then.

Re this "blob" you so offhandedly produce from thin air: perhaps a reading of the account of first Russian spacewalk would be instructive as to the pitfalls of EVA using "everyone knows" technology. And that was in a spacesuit people thought would do the job properly. An improvised envelope could only make matters far worse.

You are aware of what they use for an air lock in a shuttle, right? How many it holds, how big it is and so forth. Also, the size of the crew compartment even when it isn't full of airbeds?

I submit to you that at the time it could NOT be done, and that even now it cannot. Space Rescue using improvised gadgets is the stuff of Hollywood. Real world space is far more dangerous and hard to do than it is on the telly.

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Re: Why not?

Back in the golden age of space heroes (AKA the 1960's) there was serious thought given about escaping from a crippled ship and how to return to earth from orbit. Project MOOSE (Man Out Of Space Easiest) was one proposal. It basically consisted of an astronaut strapping on a backpack full of expanding polyurethane that would fill an inflatable heat shield that he would 'sit' in, he would propel himself out of orbit with a strap on booster attached to his chest along with a high altitude parachute. The polyurethane would partially ablate during re-entry and absorb some shock of landing.

As far as i recall this got to the stages of testing it in a firing chamber at re-entry temperatures and it appeared that it would work. It was, however, ultimately cancelled along with the X-20 Dyna-soar ( a much cooler looking spaceplane).

There's tons of info about this online but there are some nice conceptual drawings here:

http://www.astronautix.com/craft/moose.htm

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Re: Why not? @Stevie

No need to improvise.... NASA actually built prototypes of the Personal Rescue Enclosure. This was an inflatable spherical "spacecraft" that had just enough room for one person and enough oxygen for 1 hour. It was intended that space suited crew from a rescue shuttle would use these to ferry unsuited crew from the damaged orbiter to the rescue craft.

Developed in 1984 and never used and there is very little information on these past the challenger disaster possibly suggesting that they may not have been feasible but it certainly suggests that rescue from a damaged shuttle would have been possible.

http://www.capcomespace.net/dossiers/espace_US/shuttle/1996-2005/rescue%20ball/rescue_ball.htm

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Boffin

Re: Why not?

A "rescue bubble" is quite easy:

Make a foil balloon (like the helium ones for kids) about the size and shape of a sleeping bag, wrapped in a few layers of suitable fabric to protect it from scrapes and micrometeorites and padded on the inside to protect it from the occupant.

Then inflate it with cabin air, and put a crewmember inside with a nose-clip style oxygen mask as used by the crew of commercial airliners (or some firefighters).

That will last them an hour or so*, during which they can be manhandled from A to B. Probably one-use-only, (crawl-in-and-glue-shut, then cut open,) so you'd need one for each crewmember plus spares.

Making a spacesuit that allows a man to do useful work is very difficult.

Merely surviving is simple - NASA did do some work on these, don't know what happened though.

* The biggest risk here is actually claustrophobia, as spending too long inside that kind of thing may cause panic.

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Re: Why not?

A blob, a casket-like thing. Whatever was enough to keep them from dying of exposure of vacuum/radiation. Much easier than a full suit, as would have no helmet, no arms, no gloves, and so on.

Why a cabin full of airbeds? Assuming there was only 7 chairs, You would need just 2 airbeds. The rescue shuttle would go up with only two people.

The air lock doesn't have to hold more than one. Keep one suited outdoor. Send another one inside. Go sending the stranded, one by one. Rinse, repeat.

Doesn't even matter the atmosphere inside. Put everyone inside his/her particular blob, decompress and do everyone in a single go.

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Unhappy

It's been ten years already?

Well, I feel old now....

My thoughts are with the families of those who died onboard the Columbia, truly a sad day and the beginning of the final chapter in the space shuttle program.

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Worth reading

The report is very excellent reading. The precision with which it identifies the mechanics of the failure is astonishing.

I think the indictment of the "top brass" for not trying to fix Columbia after it was damaged is overblown. It is not a simple call to take heroic (risky) measures fixing a hypothetical problem.

The real indictment of the "top brass" was for cultivating a culture that ignored many, many clear warnings on reliability and safety on this and other issues, and was unwilling to deliver bad news. On the one hand, this is an organization with Challenger in its past, and had plenty of evidence that things were not generally up to stuff. Nevertheless, an organization like NASA will rally against anyone (high or low rank) who tries to put on the brakes; soon enough, the people to whom these things matter to all leave. That is a problem that will take another 1,000 years to solve.

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Facepalm

flaws in management

Any organisation that allows managers and bean counters to overrule the engineers, is doomed.

Engineers work very hard.

Managers and bean counters also work very hard.

On their career.

So they tend to be promoted into a position where they can overrule the engineers. And it takes a permanent and conscious effort for not allowing that to happen.

Stuff like this happens in government, in state sponsored organisations but also in private companies.

And that's where most projects fail.

This reminds me of the culture in the banking sector that caused the financial melt down: "if I'm right, I win, if I'm wrong, you lose". Or in this case: you die.

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Stop

Re: flaws in management

I regularly blast leaders for their failures but I do think we have to appreciate that every serious human activity requires some sort of funding. That implies that other mighty, rich and/or powerful people must be convinced to give their money/reosurces to a project. No money, no R&D.

So for example, we can blast Rolls-Royce all day because of their sloppy testing on the Trent 970 engine, which exploded. But apparently that company has the political skills to make funding available, while others have folded in the meantime. So, don't bitch too much about politicians-managers, they are the ones who somehow made massive funds available. If you want to be pure/honest/clean, then better join a monastery and even those need to be flexible towards their ideals sometimes.

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WTF?

Degrees F…

Are you quite serious?

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Joke

Re: Degrees F…

Yeah! This is science-y stuff. It should be Rankine.

On a practical note, by the time you get to a thousand degrees on almost any scale, it doesn't really matter: I certainly just read it a "bloody hot".

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Stop

Some More Disasters, Old And FRESH

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nedelin_catastrophe#Accident

http://www.faz.net/aktuell/wirtschaft/daimler-ein-wundermotor-der-zur-katastrophe-wurde-11875022.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qantas_Flight_32

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contergan-Skandal

http://www.monstersandcritics.de/downloads/downloads/articles19/195375/article_images/Contergan-Die-Eltern-Di-29-11-3sat-22-25-Uhr_3.jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ariane_5_Flight_501#Launch_failure

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Therac-25

http://www.autoguide.com/auto-news/2012/05/byd-burning-car-concerns-addressed-by-automaker.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eschede_train_disaster

My father was a Luftwaffe soldier/mechanic and he told me of a (I think) Ju88 with a dive-bombing support system which would, by means of hydraulics, pull the aircraft out of the dive. He worked on an aircraft and didn't know how to connect some of the hydraulic pipes/hoses. His report was dismissed by superior officer and the aircraft test-flown. That resulted in the pilots unable to pull out of the dive (because of speed and resulting aerodynamic and g-forces). All that remained was a hole and a few metal parts. Some metal parts were put into the coffin as Ersatz for flesh and delivered to the relatives.

In the aftermath they tried to blame him, but the whole affair fizzled out, as that would have involved somebody higher-up.

He also told me about something called "Plombe" (wikipedia doesn't have the German meaning of that thing)

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plombe_%28Siegel%29

German WW2 aircraft had Plomben on many critical parts (such as oil discharge screws) and these were stamped with a date code to (supposedly) ensure that specific parts of the aircraft were maintained in regular intervals. "Old" datacodes would imply overdue oil changes and other mechanic's checks.

Unfortunately, many of his fellow mechanics would simply rip off the Plombe, do nothing useful and put a new Plombe with a new datecode onto the part in question. The objective was to have as little work as possible. Or maybe something sinister, but who really knows. Maybe my father was the only guy who had not yet understood the "orders between the lines" or something.

I am currently sitting on Gigabytes of customer data which is open to access from essentially hundreds of thousands of co-workers. Nobody really cares, despite the fact the data could potentially be used for malicious purpose involving dead people. If the Chinese want it, they get it. We won't know. Maybe they have it already.

So, what should engineers and technicians make out of this ? We have all seen our share of complete ignorance from leadership personell. I think it is best to account all of that under "shit happens. There was not enough money to do it properly". Even Boeing and Rollys-Royce are operating at the limits of what they can do when they develop a new product. That's why they are forced to compromise. They would probably not exist any more if they never had the political power to rake in the pork from governments. Without pork, no big-time R&D. Daimler could not afford to properly develop the Diesel motor above, because of the meltdown and the Chrysler idiocy. So they compromised for "ship now and fix at 100Mmetres". Engineer pawns were made scapegoats and had to quit, unfortunately.

At times I am mad at managers, but if nobody can get it right (including Germans, Russians, Anglos), then so what ? I think we need to accept that there are only finite amounts of money and lots of politics around. Progress in technology and medicine is a road littered with the corpses of users.

Next time you get mad at "outrageous cost overruns", maybe you will remember the cost overruns of your last project and how it was The Right Thing To Do.

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Big Brother

Re: Some More Disasters, Old And FRESH

Good story.

> Unfortunately, many of his fellow mechanics would simply rip off the Plombe, do nothing useful and put a new Plombe with a new datecode onto the part in question.

Why would they do differently? It was a wartime socialist economy, barely working. Why show pride in workmanship? As long as you don't get caught and shot, you just want to go home. Before it's bombed down or repossessed, that is.

From The Vampire Economy - Doing Business Under Fascism:

"The Labor Front secretary tries to increase his popularity, and I have to pay for it. Last year he compelled me to spend over a hundred thousand marks for a new lunchroom in our factory. This year he wants me to build a new gymnasium and athletic field which will cost about 120,000 marks. Now, I have nothing against sports. But, as a matter of fact, the workers nowadays don't care much for sports or things of that kind. They work ten, eleven or twelve hours daily — at least sixty hours a week — and they complain that they never get enough rest. More often than not they take a nap during their lunch hour. Really, no worker is interested in the gymnasium and athletic field. Yet I shall have to build it in order to satisfy the Labor Front secretary. "I am opposed to mass meetings artificially staged to show how harmonious things are in the 'work community.' Neither do I care for all the demonstrations my workers and I must attend, where we must march for hours, shouting 'Heil Hitler.' I was an officer in the German Army during the World War, and I am in favor of discipline, efficiency and social distinctions. After all, I am supposed to be the 'factory leader.' But at such a demonstration I am likely to be ordered to shout and sing by some Party member who doesn't know the meaning of decent work. I must behave as though I were his orderly. Next morning, however, I am again supposed to be an 'authoritarian leader.' "

> Without pork, no big-time R&D

Only in the socialistic world of the fake-money giganto-state, in which income and sales taxes, excises and dues don't even suffice any longer but where state even needs to print up its own money to pay for the pork, thus essentially transferring wealth from the populace to the well-connected players. Not to mention that the debts from the wars over 50 years ago haven't even been paid off yet.

Most of the pork is waste and duplicated programs which burn and crash and have to be written off, or stuff no-one needs (this is called "industrial policy").

If people want Dreamliners or Reusable Orbital Vehicles, let the economic calculations and the work of investors and, yes, wealth patrons show that this is indeed what is wanted.

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Re: Some More Disasters, Old And FRESH

This isn't the place for a political screed. Downvoted, Mr Monsters.

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Re: wikipedia doesn't have the German meaning

"He also told me about something called "Plombe"" - lead (Pb) seals:

http://www.geohewitt.com/lead_seals.html

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Re: Some More Disasters, Old And FRESH

> This isn't the place for a political screed. Downvoted, Mr Monsters.

WHAT! You bastards... bastards!!

And I haven't even started yet on the wrong use of the word "anarchy" in Robert Glass' article "Greece vs. Rome: Two Very Different Software Cultures" in which he compares "tool using" greeks and "people using" romans!

Well, you will never hear it now!

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@ Destroy All Monsters

This is not the place for your ill-considered war against socialism. Incidentally, you have (once again) disingenuously conflated socialism with fascism which is in fact its complete opposite.

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Anonymous Coward

Launch was nothing short of ordinary?

"As far as was apparent to the NASA controllers, the launch was nothing short of ordinary".

"The Jan. 16 launch had seemed "picture-perfect," in the words of senior shuttle manager Linda Ham, but the next day a routine review of the launch tapes had revealed a 20-inch piece of hardened insulation foam breaking off the huge main fuel tank and hitting the shuttle's left wing". link

"because of the cold temperatures, if the tank were not insulated, water vapor in the air would readily condense as ice on the sides. At liftoff, the ice would break loose and damage the Shuttle" link

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"Plombe siegel"

Lead seal, I guess; like on your utility meter.

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Mushroom

I remember watching it live.

I had BBC News 24 on in the background and they crossed live to watch the shuttle come in for landing. No-one said why, I couldn't remember a routine landing having been news for a long time.

Someone, somewhere tipped off news crews that this could be interesting...

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