“Not Recommended”

Former Space Shuttle program manager Wayne Hale discusses the problems involved in aborting short of orbit the flight of any crewed spacecraft. Suffice to say, the problem is a lot more complicated than a lot of armchair astronauts think. Most scenarios involve meat waffles or crispy critters. 

Hale frequently shares spaceflight war stories at his blog, along with the occasional nightmare scenario. Fascinating stuff.

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Shuttle, Extended

Congressional sentiment in the wake of the Georgia/Russia incident is forcing NASA to reconsider the idea of shutting down the Space Shuttle program after 2010. But former Shuttle program boss Wayne Hale says logistics already make that a practical impossibility. NASA managers began shutting down the supply chain for parts four years ago and there’s no way to restart it:

You might think that simple things like bolts and screws, wire, filters, and gaskets could be bought off the shelf some where, but that thinking would merely prove how little you know about the shuttle.  The huge majority of supplies, consumable items, maintenance items, they are all specially made with unique and stringent processes and standards. 

Our shuttle history tells us that when we try to cut corners, trouble results.  Small, even apparently insignificant changes have caused big problems. 

It goes to show how short-sighted the Bush administration’s decision-making was, born out of pure cowardice following the Columbia accident.

In Space, No One Can Hear You Sweat

Mr. X at Chair Force Engineer thinks the fallout of Russia’s Georgian adventure will create more business opportunities for SpaceX. Maybe so, but I’d rather keep the Shuttle going too. On-orbit repair and capture-and-return are capabilities we’re going to miss when they’re gone.