Baikonur, we have a problem.
Not a very funny one, though.
It's going to be a tense 24 hours for the crew of the International Space Station after Commander Chris Hadfield reported that the ammonia coolant used in the station's power systems appears to be leaking into space. "There's a very steady stream of flakes or bits coming out as the truss is rotating," he said in a discussion …
Love the way NASA plays down the problem up there, while reports are coming through that they are also denying that that there is any truth that a senior mission control operator was seen running down the corridors screaming 'oh my God, oh no..... No no no no......'
"Hello. Mario Brothers Plumbing here ... NASA who? ... Oh that NASA. What seems to be the problem? ... Coolant leak you say. [Sharp intake of breath] Well I don't know, they can be a real problem those. Unit's obsolete of course, all metric these days ... Urgent you say? ... OK, it's outside our usual manor, but I'll get one of the lads to stick his head in and have a look ... When? Can't promise it'll be today but I'll see what we can do ... How much will it cost? Hard to say without seeing the job. The call-out fee's a hundred quid, and there's the travel at two quid a mile ..."
If you just went up, you'd find yourself back down agin rather quickly. You actually have to go into orbit, in a lower orbit with a shorter orbital period than the ISS if you want to catch up to it, then transfer to the same orbit, or a higher orbit with a longer period if you want it to catch up with you (I think it's that way round, I stand to be corrected). I believe most launches destined to the ISS take a number of complete orbits before they rendezvous. Either way, you'd still be orders of magnitude short on cost at £2 a mile...
We have this space station that cost billions of dollars to build. Its orbit used to be raised every once in a while by the Space Shuttle that we didn't keep flying. The US Government is too cheap to keep the Shuttles flying or fund a successor rocket system for manned space flight. The Space Station springs a leak. What if we can't get the parts up there to fix it or replacement ammonia. We are relying on the Russians, private industry, or other "international partners'. We don't have the capacity to do it through NASA anymore. Not too smart in the long run.
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