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'[OT]: Space travel disasters'
2002\08\19@142939 by Brendan Moran

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An astronaut from the early days of space flight was once asked "What
do you think about when you're about to launch?"  His reply disturbs
me "That I'm sitting on a hundred million dollars of equipment, and
every last washer was supplied by the lowest bidder..."

Some times, I wonder if going with the lowest cost is in everyone's
best interest.  I think I remember hearing that a rubber O-ring
caused some space flight disaster (possibly the Challenger).  It was
too cold to launch that day, and the washer became stiff, and didn't
seal properly.

Careful out there, folks
- --Brendan

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2002\08\19@184612 by Jinx

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> Some times, I wonder if going with the lowest cost is in everyone's
> best interest.  I think I remember hearing that a rubber O-ring
> caused some space flight disaster (possibly the Challenger).  It was
> too cold to launch that day, and the washer became stiff, and didn't
> seal properly.

There was a Reel Life doco on TV here about a month ago on the
Challenger incident. There were interviews with all parties and on
the face of it seemed an honest and balanced program. If so, what
I took from the program were that there were two basic causes - one
mechanical and one political/PR.

The Morton Thiokol engineers (the proper ones, the guys like us who
have some conscience about the integrity of products they work on)
were hamstrung by lack of funds and management disinterest to
investigate the operating temperature range and disintegration of
the O-ring assembly. I really felt their frustration. The M-T engineering
management interviewed were vile and only now seem to be realising
the implications of appeasing NASA against the wishes of their
employees. The one who smiled all the way through his interview
could benefit from a good punch in the face, he was just so obnoxious

The other reason was that NASA was in a public interest slump, and the
inclusion of Christa McAuliffe (the teacher) would have regenerated
enthusiasm in what had become a very routine space program. The
bottom line was that a decision to launch was made on PR grounds
despite the very grave concerns M-T engineers had about safety

science.ksc.nasa.gov/shuttle/missions/51-l/docs/rogers-commission/tab
le-of-contents.html

" The Commission has concluded that neither Thiokol nor NASA
responded adequately to internal warnings about the faulty seal
design. Furthermore, Thiokol and NASA did not make a timely
attempt to develop and verify a new seal after the initial design
was shown to be deficient.  Neither organization developed a
solution to the unexpected occurrences of O-ring erosion and
blow-by even though this problem was experienced frequently
during the Shuttle flight history. Instead, Thiokol and NASA
management came to accept erosion and blow-by as unavoidable
and an acceptable flight risk."

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2002\08\19@191351 by cdb

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There was a BBC or Channel4 program on the box here in Oz not so long
ago, and it showed how a small fleck of paint can cause massive
damage when it collides with a space craft. I'm surprised that with
all the dropped spanners etc up there, more calamities haven't
occurred.

I take Jinx you like to shout and smack the TV when some obnoxious
git or idiot is spouting away. My neighbours think I'm nuts when I
get going.

colin
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2002\08\19@202833 by Jinx

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> There was a BBC or Channel4 program on the box here in Oz not
> so long ago, and it showed how a small fleck of paint can cause
> massive damage when it collides with a space craft

Considering the amount of space junk and number of undetectable
small items that are in orbit it's a minor mirable that there hasn't been,
to my knowledge, a reported major impact. As you say, even a
fraction of a gram at 25,000kph has the potential to penetrate
comparatively thin suits and craft skins. Suits are multi-layer, probably
for flexibility, but I don't know if they have a bullet-proof layer like
body
armour. Most likely they don't

> I take Jinx you like to shout and smack the TV when some
> obnoxious git or idiot is spouting away

Did anybody ever have one of those foam rubber bricks ? I missed out.
Real bricks thrown at TVs works out a little expensive. Satisfying but
expensive

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2002\08\19@204948 by Tony Nixon

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Jinx wrote:
> Suits are multi-layer, probably
> for flexibility, but I don't know if they have a bullet-proof layer like
> body armour. Most likely they don't

I thought layering offerred great protection.

An example I saw on TV once was to use a pea shooter (biro and rice
pellet) to shoot through a piece of tissue paper. Easy done. Now add
three or four loose layers of tissue paper and no go.

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2002\08\19@205626 by Shawn Mulligan

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> > Some times, I wonder if going with the lowest cost is in everyone's
> > best interest.  I think I remember hearing that a rubber O-ring
> > caused some space flight disaster (possibly the Challenger).  It was
> > too cold to launch that day, and the washer became stiff, and didn't
> > seal properly.

Just a note: It was the Challenger. Furthermore, it was board member and
Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard P. Feynman who publically demonstrated
the O-ring problem. He compressed a piece of O-ring material with a C-clamp,
held it in ice water for several minutes, then removed and unclamped it. He
was able to show that the O-ring did not return to its original shape.
Therefore, the ring's ability to seal was lost.

-Shawn

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2002\08\19@211556 by Russell McMahon

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>>There was a BBC or Channel4 program on the box here in Oz not so long
ago, and it showed how a small fleck of paint can cause massive
damage when it collides with a space craft. I'm surprised that with
all the dropped spanners etc up there, more calamities haven't
occurred.>>

Damage to a Shuttle window occurred at some stage - a crater in the orer of
1mm deep AFAIR. Subsequent examination of the debris revealed Titanium
Dixide and other material consistent with it having been caused by a fleck
of paint.

It's the relative velocoities that are scary. Anything in the same stable
orbit as you has, by definition, the same velocity. But you can cross other
stable elliptical orbits and also have unstable objects present. I don't
know that there are TOO many dropped spanners :-). Managing to hit anything
on purpose with an unguided "missile" is almost impossible. Managing it with
large quantities of dispersed "dust" is a lot easier.

The real trick would be something like a dispersed bucketful of nails in
retrograde Geostationary orbit. Goodbye ALL communications satellites in 12
hours.Now that's something for terrorists to aspire to :-(.


       RM

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2002\08\19@220449 by Russell McMahon
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> > > Some times, I wonder if going with the lowest cost is in everyone's
> > > best interest.  I think I remember hearing that a rubber O-ring
> > > caused some space flight disaster (possibly the Challenger).  It was
> > > too cold to launch that day, and the washer became stiff, and didn't
> > > seal properly.
>
> Just a note: It was the Challenger. Furthermore, it was board member and
> Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard P. Feynman who publically
demonstrated
> the O-ring problem. He compressed a piece of O-ring material with a
C-clamp,
> held it in ice water for several minutes, then removed and unclamped it.
He
> was able to show that the O-ring did not return to its original shape.
> Therefore, the ring's ability to seal was lost.

Yes - but the problem was known about long before that.
Feynman produced a minority report which outlined the sad and sorry trail of
events leading to the disaster. He had to push quite hard to get it
published as a minority report.

I have read his report and it is both illuminating and sad. Feynman
concluded, and few would question his conclusions once they had listened to
his reasoning and seen the material he based them on, that the failure was
essentially bound to happen sooner or later. NASA had been "re-doing" the
science concerned to keep the ring material "in spec" - setting rather
optimistic confidence limits and then using the outer limits as a new
starting point for new work. Partial burn throughs had been occurring on
most flights. NASA sealed the deal by "having" to launch in out of spec
conditions to save face for political purposes. Not doing so would quite
possibly have cost them jobs and funding, but doing so cost them a Shuttle
and 7 lives.

It's easy to be wise after the event about what other people should have
done. The harder thing is to learn the lessons that they should have learned
and apply them to our situations where they can do some good. One good
example of where we are NOT yet accepting the lessons of human nature and
human failings is Genetic Engineering. Notwithstanding its very real
potential advances, we are also *potentially* heading for a disaster through
GE, the like of which the world has not seen for about 700 years. But the
standard vested interests of money, pride & power (sex seems to largely be
missing from this one) are driving us on. With any luck we will blunder into
something which will "only" kill a few thousand people world wide or
compromise the immune system of a similar number of people or destroy an
"unimportant" species or two, and thereby alert Joe-Public to where we might
be going. Failing this we MIGHT learn enough to completely avoid the very
real major dangers but it is entirely possible that instead we will wipe out
25% of the population of Europe just as a flea borne disease managed to do
about 700 years ago. (But this time, a few other continents would be
involved as well and the percentage deaths could be higher). Anyone who
thinks this ISN'T a real prospect may wish to tell us why.



       Russell McMahon

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2002\08\19@223848 by Jim

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  "... example of where we are NOT yet accepting
   the lessons of human nature and human failings
   is Genetic Engineering. Notwithstanding its
   very real potential advances, we are also
   *potentially* heading for a disaster through
   GE, the like of which the world has not seen
   for about 700 years."


We have already crossed that line without hope for
returning. By our attempts immunize and systematic
use of antibiotics and various strains of contagin
become resistant to them we have already moved onto
a different path than what we would travel allowing
nature to simply proceed at her own pace via evolution
and the natural life and death cycles that involves.

Furthermore - we have already changed our food chain
through the process of selective breeding - a crude
form of genetic engineering to be sure, but nonetheless
a form ... and this has been ongoing for how long now?
Granted - it may have been rather simple in it's form
300 hundred years ago, but we have always picked the
better crops/fruits/animals for reproduction and
procreation over those less stalwart or less healthy.

So, what does the medical community have as evidence
in the way of abnormal rates of disease and mortality
that indicate mankind has erred?

(I'm visualizing a scenario similar to the global warming
proponents now - "our models show ..." without complete
regard to the true operation of physics (in the case
of the environment) and biology in the case of GeneEng
gone awry ...)


RF Jim




{Original Message removed}

2002\08\19@233116 by hard Prosser

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OK Russell - what happened 700 years ago - the plague I guess.

Richard P






........ the like of which the world has not seen for about 700 years.
......



       Russell McMahon

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2002\08\20@012542 by Mike Singer

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Jinx wrote:
.
.
> " The Commission has concluded that neither Thiokol nor NASA
> responded adequately to internal warnings about the faulty seal
> design. Furthermore, Thiokol and NASA did not make a timely
> attempt to develop and verify a new seal after the initial design
> was shown to be deficient.  Neither organization developed a
> solution to the unexpected occurrences of O-ring erosion and
> blow-by even though this problem was experienced frequently
> during the Shuttle flight history. Instead, Thiokol and NASA
> management came to accept erosion and blow-by as unavoidable
> and an acceptable flight risk."
.
.
I wonder, if there were any awkward engineer who asked
stupid questions sorta: why we should take all this
"unavoidable and an acceptable flight risk" let's improve
it. Or they had a crew similar to "Kursk" submarine:
all dutiful well-trained nice guys without any personal
thought in their bright KGB-approved heads?

Mike.

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2002\08\20@014515 by Jinx

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> Furthermore - we have already changed our food chain
> through the process of selective breeding

The difference between relatively harmless selective breeding
and genetic modification is enormous. Some people seem
not to have grasped the significance of moving genetic code
between species, something that could never happen in nature.
Selectively breeding tomatoes by grafting and cross-pollination
is one thing, but inserting bacterial genetic code into a tomato is
quite another - some would say monstrous. One of the claims I
find totally unpalatable (as unpalatable as supermarket tomatoes)
is that "we can feed the world with better crops". This ignores the
fact that there is enough food to go around but tinpot regimes and
civil wars put a stop to the even distribution of it. Bottom line is what
it's always been - money. Even at the amateur gardener level there
are already suspicions that seed is modified so that (a) the plants
grown from it are sterile, so you have buy a whole new lot next season
and (b) that the seeds and "recommended" fertiliser (made of course
by the same company) must be used together, as there's something
in the fertiliser that is missing from the seed

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2002\08\20@020840 by Jinx

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>  I wonder, if there were any awkward engineer who asked
> stupid questions sorta

My understanding (borne out in the official report) is that Morton
Thiokol engineers made their feelings well known to management.
Management eventually chose to side with NASA. One particulalry
gob-smacking part of the doco went something like -

Morton Thiokol engineers expressed concerns to management
and management ignored them, even though the testing program
the engineers wanted to get running was fairly routine. In a phone
conference between MT and NASA, the MT engineers present
repeated those concerns to NASA, but no one either believed them
or had the guts to stand by them. After the conference, management
had a "quiet word" with engineers and at the next meeting, Morton
Thiokol management told NASA that the system was OK after all.
NASA did not ask why the MT engineers had done a complete about
face, but appeared complicit in the knowledge that a low temperature
launch (it was below freezing that day - the previous days' good weather
had been predicted as storms and so no launch had been planned)
was a definite risk. AFAIR the tested limit for the O-rings was 40F, and
no MT engineer would or could make any objective comment about
sub-40F temperatures being safe. The engineers provided more than
enough data and answered enough stupid questions for a "sensible"
decision to be made. There seemed to be no room for any kind of
misinterpretation as to what would be the consequences of such an
out-of-spec launch

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2002\08\20@025405 by Russell McMahon

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> OK Russell - what happened 700 years ago - the plague I guess.

Yes - "The Black Death" aka Bubonic Plague. Carried by fleas which were
carried by rats which throve due to poor sanitation. Major cities were a
fine target. Plague occurred before and after that but there had been a
substantial respite in Europe before this - many centuries since a major
outbreak. Here's a reasonable resource site
http://www.iath.virginia.edu/osheim/

They say about 1/3 to 1/2 of Europeans died, which is a greater portion than
I recall having heard elsewhere. They also say 2/3 of the population of
major cities died which is more believable as the concentration of people,
poor sanitation and high infectiousness made transmission probable.

Incidentally, at about the same time a "mini-iceage" was getting underway
and over several centuries a large % of the populations in Northern
countries dies from starvation and extended cold conditions.

GM is unlikely to have the same sort of "vector" as the plague if it gets
away on us as, hopefully, it won't. Fleas are too easy to deal with
nowadays.

Examples in () in following are typical ones only - in most cases there are
many more and most will be aware of lots of others.

The ability to make man-tailored GE organisms that would fill the bill has
been demonstrated (Polio made by New York State Uni. HIV  as easy they say.
Nobody mentioned variant HIV with eg aerosol transmission but the ability to
"mix and match" is a given.

The ability to transform minor viruses to major ones by adding a single gene
has been demonstrated. (Australian mouse pox research). [This is the "best"
example so far known to the public. If this example had been discovered in a
germ warfare lab (whether US, Russian, Hamas, Iraq ...) do you think we
would now know about it?.]

The inability to contain with certainty a virus that everybody KNEW was very
dangerous and really believed in being careful about has been demonstrated.
(Smallpox escape in UK that caused last known smallpox fatality).(And any
number of other events but smallpox is a good exemplar),

Or even a fish - (NZ GE king salmon (Chinook) possible escape 1999)(Fish
escape from captivity as a matter of course seems to be acknowledged by most
experts)

Or even a plant. (Despite their very short legs and well known
non-propensity for running GE maize grain that were never meant to be there
are presently leaving NZ fields in flocks - eaten by pigeons. We recently
had a GE "shock" when seed imported for hybrid seed production was found to
be GE contaminated AFTER harvesting. The harvested seed is being burned but
the fields with grain left over are left unattended and birds are literally
helping themselves.) In the US this would be a non-event - GE plants are
everywhere and grown without controls of any sort. All are almost certainly
quite safe. Almost certainly :-(.

The ability of intelligent people who really really really should know
better but who rush or trudge steadily on into disaster in the face of near
certain outcomes is demonstrated time after time after time. (Challenger
(which this thread is/was about), Enron, Chernobyl, 3 mile island, Moscow
(Napoleon & Hitler amongst others), and many many others). "Industry
leader". "World renowned" and "Nobel prize winner" are strong incentives
indeed.

The lack of real belief in the dangers of GE or the ability to follow ones
own rules has been demonstrated time after time. Even when regulations are
set in place they are ignored not only by the operators but by the
regulators. Nobody REALLY believes there is any hazard. (Scottish "farm
scale trials" of oilseed rape by Aventis have just been found to be
producing seed with about 2.8% of the seeds having GE contamination with
genes that confer resistance to two antibiotics neomycin & kanamycon.).

The main problem in the above case is not what the "foreign genes" do (which
IMHO is less benign than Aventis claim) but the fact that the company AND
the authorities have been monitoring and certifying this trial over a 3 year
period and it can STILL slip through. Contamination of 2.8% is barn-door
wide when it comes to GE detection. (With that much S-35 Cauliflower Mosaic
Virus based promoter in it you could just about taste the cauliflowers)(not
really). It seems highly likely that the watchdogs have not been watching
or, until now, barking and it's hard to imagine what the company has been
doing or how it allowed this potentially expensive mistake. Regardless of
how this happened and regardless of how 'bad" this particular event is it
shows that it CAN happen at farm scale level and the implications for wider
scale production will probably be clear to all but the most rabid apologist.

If we do not believe in the safeguards we are taking they are worse than
worthless. If you don't REALLY believe that the mains will probably kill you
then you have a high chance of being electrocuted if you play with things
electrical.

If we KNOW that adding a single gene to something relatively harmless can
and MIGHT create a killer human disease of unheralded capability then our
clever postgrads may well kill us totally unawares. If we do not utterly
believe in containment precautions that we are required to take after
learned gentle-people have pontificated then we will behave like people
often do now and not take all the precautions because it is uncomfortable
and inconvenient to do so. (Trust me on this (and I'm not going to tell you
how I know) - that's what happens on occasion now.)

If we have GE regs and a GE accident but pigeons are flying away with the
grain unhindered (photos thereof in our local papers) then we have little
hope of avoiding the serious disaster when it does arrive.

Any one GE event is almost certainly unimportant. Spotting the unimportant
one after crying wolf for ages beforehand is almost impossible.

Compared to what we risk, the loss of 7 astronauts and a Space Shuttle are
truly minor.


           Russell "I hope I'm wrong, I think, alas, that I'm right"
McMahon

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2002\08\20@092637 by Bob Ammerman

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There are two books by Richard Feynman, nobel laureate physicist, Manhatten
Project scientist and curious character.

"Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman"

and

"What Do You Care What Other People Think"

The second half of one of these (I believe it is "What Do You Care...")
contains a detailed explanation of the operation of the Rogers Commission
(which invested Challenger) from Feynman's point of view. He talks quite a
bit to the men in the trenches and develops a thesis regarding the
we-gotta-launch philosophy at NASA.

I can highly recommend both books.

Bob Ammerman
RAm Systems



{Original Message removed}

2002\08\20@102533 by shawnmulligan

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Bob Ammerman wrote:

> "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman"
>
> "What Do You Care What Other People Think"
> I can highly recommend both books.

I would add to the list his circa 1960 lectures on CD:

"Six Easy Pieces" and "Six Not So Easy Pieces"

It's great to hear Feynman talk about physics. These lectures are also
available in written form:

"The Feynman Lectures on Physics"

-Shawn

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2002\08\20@130733 by Dipperstein, Michael

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{Quote hidden}

You guessed correctly, the book is "What Do You Care What Other People Think".
I met him between the publishing of "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman" and the
shuttle disaster.  So I know he couldn't have written about it in his first
book.  He was an insightful man, but not a psychic.

-Mike

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2002\08\20@143913 by Bob Ammerman

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Also a great book called "QED" bringing Quantum Electrodynamics down to the
masses.

Bob Ammerman
RAm Systems


{Original Message removed}

2002\08\20@152844 by shawnmulligan

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Forgot that. Very "illuminating." Loved it. -Shawn

----- Original Message -----
From: "Bob Ammerman" <EraseMErammermanspamADELPHIA.NET>
To: <RemoveMEPICLISTEraseMEspamEraseMEMITVMA.MIT.EDU>
Sent: Tuesday, August 20, 2002 12:33 PM
Subject: Re: [OT]: Space travel disasters


> Also a great book called "QED" bringing Quantum Electrodynamics down to
the
{Quote hidden}

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2002\08\20@193649 by Mike Singer

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As far as I can recall, "The Feynman Lectures
on Physics" were the best books on Physics in
my school years. I can't find words even in
Russian to describe feelings when worked with
them.
At the Institute "Quantum Electrodynamics" by
Landaw & Livshits were better then "QED" in my
Opinion.

Mike.

Shawnmulligan wrote:
{Quote hidden}

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2002\08\21@161830 by Peter L. Peres

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On Tue, 20 Aug 2002, cdb wrote:

>There was a BBC or Channel4 program on the box here in Oz not so long
>ago, and it showed how a small fleck of paint can cause massive
>damage when it collides with a space craft. I'm surprised that with
>all the dropped spanners etc up there, more calamities haven't
>occurred.

Afaik there is an organization in the USA whose sole mission is to keep
track of space debris. Kind of like weather bulletins for launches ;-).
They also have an impressive list (thousands of items) and do not keep
track of smaller items (each of which would be plenty enough to make a
hole in most manned orbiting spaceraft afaik).

Peter

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2002\08\21@171931 by Andrew Warren

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Peter L. Peres <EraseMEPICLISTspamspamspamBeGonemitvma.mit.edu> wrote:

> Afaik there is an organization in the USA whose sole mission is to
> keep track of space debris. Kind of like weather bulletins for
> launches ;-). They also have an impressive list (thousands of
> items) and do not keep track of smaller items (each of which would
> be plenty enough to make a hole in most manned orbiting spaceraft
> afaik).

   Yeah, you don't need a lot of mass to disable a spacecraft if
   you can get the impact velocity up to 20,000-30,000 miles per
   hour.

   For some info on the problem and a new solution, see:

       http://www.nasatech.com/TSP2/rf.php?getfile=MSC22989

   You'll have to register (no charge), and I think you might need
   to be a US citizen to get the report for free.

   -Andy

=== Andrew Warren -- RemoveMEaiwKILLspamspamcypress.com
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=== Cypress Semiconductor Corporation
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=== Opinions expressed above do not
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=== Cypress Semiconductor Corporation

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2002\08\21@172544 by Dal Wheeler

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Why don't they launch a big ball of silly putty up there and clean the orbit
up?
;')
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Subject: Re: [OT]: Space travel disasters


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2002\08\21@182819 by Brendan Moran

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source= http://www.piclist.com/postbot.asp?id=piclist\2002\08\21\172544a

I was going more for using static electric repulsion, or attraction of small particles.  A dedicated "target" which had been hardened to take hefty impacts could generate a huge electric field, and attract nearby particles to itself.


But, then, no one likes my ideas on technology.


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2002\08\21@213153 by Andrew Warren

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Brendan Moran <KILLspamPICLISTspamBeGonespammitvma.mit.edu> wrote:

> I was going more for using static electric repulsion, or
> attraction of small particles [in order to clear the field of
> debris from low-earth orbit].  A dedicated "target" which had been
> hardened to take hefty impacts could generate a huge electric
> field, and attract nearby particles to itself.
>
> But, then, no one likes my ideas on technology.

Brendan:

As I said earlier, it's nice to see creative thinking that bypasses
the usual assumptions and results in fresh ideas.  "Creative
thinking," though, doesn't mean trying to solve a problem without
understanding it, nor does it mean proposing the first solution that
comes into your head, before you've had a chance to give it even a
moment's thought.

I think the "static-electric attraction" idea's a non-starter from
almost any perspective... And I think that if you'd spent more time
analyzing it before posting, you'd have come to the same conclusion.

According to NASA, there are between 6 and 10 million pounds of
debris in low earth orbit.  NASA claims that the average impact
velocity between a spacecraft and a piece of debris is 10 kilometers
per second, with 15 kilometers/second possible... That's around 40-60
million meters per hour, or approximately 25,000-35,000 miles/hour.

Are you familiar with the the formula for kinetic energy?  It's

   E = 0.5Mv**2,

   M is mass, v is velocity, and "v**2" means "v squared"

Calculate the kinetic energy in a 3000-pound car traveling at 60
miles per hour.  Now do the same calculation for a one-ounce object
at 25,000 miles per hour.  Notice that the one-ounce object has three
times MORE energy than the car?

The pieces of orbital debris we're discussing -- even the tiniest
ones -- have IMMENSE energies.  How do you propose to generate enough
static electricity to affect their motion in the SLIGHTEST, let alone
pull them out of orbit and into your charged targets?  Do you know
for sure that the debris CAN be attracted by static electricity?  How
are you going to "harden" your targets against impacts at the speeds
we're discussing?  How will your targets stay in orbit as they absorb
these ridiculous energies?  How will you collect six to ten MILLION
POUNDS of debris?  Where will it go once you've collected it?  Etc.,
etc., etc...

-Andy

=== Andrew Warren -- EraseMEaiwspamEraseMEcypress.com
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2002\08\21@225124 by Russell McMahon

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I haven't followed the last part of this thread.
Just a few quick thoughts on a charge based orbital sweeper.

I find it very hard to imagine that the average IMPACT velocity as high as
10 km/s (but NASA SHOULD know what they are saying). Objects in similar
orbits have similar velocities. Two highly elliptical orbits that cross may
have objects going "up" and "down" with a largish delta V. Low earth orbit
(LEO) velocity for a circular orbit is about 5 miles per second ~= 10
km/sec. Two objects in similar orbits will generally have much lower
relative velocities although as noted worst case ones will be as high as
NASA says.

If you can charge objects and keep them charged then you would be able to
perturb their orbits albeit ever so slowly over time using an oppositely
charged object. Results diminish with distance. It may well be possible to
make a diaphonous but physically large "net" many km on a side that attracts
rather small particles that have been charged by whatever other means best
suggests itself. I don't know whether an "ion sprayer" can be made to charge
up incoming taregets. If they are slowed as they pass through the nets mesh
on successive passes, in time the energy difference would allow capture.
While they are too fast to "stick" some of the differential velocity will be
scrubbed off on each pass. Like Arnold "they'll be back" if nothing else
perturbs their orbit.

As particles in elliptical orbits assumedly intersect the sweeper's at
random angle they will impart a random velocity vector as they pass through
its field. On average these will tend to cancel in the up and down
direction - as particles "tug" the mesh up and down they effectively
interact with each other with a time delay. This has the effect of
circularising their orbits into that of the mesh. [Note that up and won
components do not necessarily result in the mesch effectively rising and
falling slightly in orbit in a simple manner. Orbital mechanics can have
some very unintuitive outcomes. (eg To go around the planet more quickly you
must accelerate "backwards". Accelerating "forwards" along the orbit will
make your orbit rise and your orbital period increase ! :-) ) ][Be careful
of the terminology - there's a trap in there].

A major problem would be in maintaining the mesh in orbit in LEO as it's
"ballistic coeffciient" (energy per drag) would be poor. Sweeping up
smallish particles in the sub gram range would be valuable if you could get
enough of them as the larger a praticle is the more easily it can be
detected but, as noted previously, a chip of paint in the wrong place in its
orbit relative to yours can chip windows.

Small "non dsitributed" tethers have a life time measured in days to weeks
in LEO due to being cut by particles or micrometeorites!

Giving an object in LEO large area per mass ensures its early re-entry due
to drag. If your sweeper automatically deorbited itself and its catch in due
course that would be an admirable achievement :-).
Alternatively, a large enough amount of "free" mass of almost any sort in
one place in LEO would be a potentially significant resource.




       RM

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2002\08\21@230406 by Brendan Moran

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>"Creative
>thinking," though, doesn't mean trying to solve a problem without
>understanding it, nor does it mean proposing the first solution that
>comes into your head, before you've had a chance to give it even a
>moment's thought.

Perhaps you didn't fully think through the implications of posting
information that was accessible only to residents of the US to a worldwide
list.  If you wish to propose a technology, and discuss its merits over
other technology, perhaps you should consider providing information that is
accessible to those you wish to discuss it with.

"NASA Technical Support Packages (TSPs) provide detailed information about
the technologies reported each month in NASA Tech Briefs magazine. These
documents are available free of charge, to U.S. citizens and residents."

I'm sorry, but I live in Canada.  I don't have access to that material.

Now, as to my implied lack of knowledge about physics, consider first that
I was replying to a post about *silly putty in space* and then that there
is no real reason we need to capture space junk, only to destabilize it
from orbit, so that it either breaks earth orbit or falls into the atmosphere.

I suspect that a large electrostatic field could alter the orbit of a
*fleck of paint*, which was considered to be a moderate hazard in orbit,
enough to destabilize it into the atmosphere over time.  It obviously
wouldn't send it careening into the earth.  All it would require to knock
something down would be a short impulse of almost any kind.  Perhaps
electrostatic impulse is not the answer.  I, frankly, can't see any other
way of manipulating what are essentially space pebbles.  Perhaps an ion gun
in combination with a high electrostatic field would be a more effective
system.

For larger targets, of course, this would be far less effective, and a
somewhat more conventional means (track and recover?) would likely be more
effective.

Consider a 2 gram machine screw floating around in space.  I'll use
geosynchronous orbit for this example.
R = 4.23*10^7m
M = 5.98*10^24kg
G = 6.67259*10^-11
m = 0.002kg

F=mGM/R^2
F = 4.46*10-4 Newtons

I think that a force double or even triple could be applied easily
enough.  The question is duration, but I think I have proven my point.  If
the question is safety, rather than resource collection, then the
destabilization should be easy enough to achieve.  If the questionn is
resource collection, Russell seems to think that a variation on the same
idea could be used, using large nets as a target.

Now, would you care to provide those of us not in the US with the
alternative you found?

- --Brendan

P.S.  A bad solution is better than no solution.
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2002\08\22@011254 by Russell McMahon

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> Russell seems to think that a variation on the same
> idea could be used, using large nets as a target.

... MIGHT be able to be ... :-)

> A bad solution is better than no solution.

.... MIGHT be better ...  :-)

(Frying pans and fires come to mind :-(  )


           RM

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At last - a useful application for silly putty.

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2002\08\22@052625 by Mark [DAN/PICK]

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I agree that a high speed impact would produce a large amount of force, but
couldn't this "garbage collector" be launched so that it would be travelling
nearer the debris speed ?

Wouldn't that reduce the impact force ?

As for where to sent the stuff as it's being collected ... couldn't you
shoot if off into the Sun ?  I know that's a whole new ball game, but it's
just a thought.

Mark

{Original Message removed}

2002\08\24@065959 by Peter L. Peres

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On Wed, 21 Aug 2002, Andrew Warren wrote:

>Peter L. Peres <@spam@PICLIST@spam@spamspam_OUTmitvma.mit.edu> wrote:
>
>> Afaik there is an organization in the USA whose sole mission is to
>> keep track of space debris. Kind of like weather bulletins for
>> launches ;-). They also have an impressive list (thousands of
>> items) and do not keep track of smaller items (each of which would
>> be plenty enough to make a hole in most manned orbiting spaceraft
>> afaik).
>
>    Yeah, you don't need a lot of mass to disable a spacecraft if
>    you can get the impact velocity up to 20,000-30,000 miles per
>    hour.
>
>    For some info on the problem and a new solution, see:
>
>        http://www.nasatech.com/TSP2/rf.php?getfile=MSC22989
>
>    You'll have to register (no charge), and I think you might need
>    to be a US citizen to get the report for free.

Thanks, but I am not a US citizen. I'll pass that one.

Peter

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2002\08\24@070013 by Peter L. Peres

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This site came up through google:

http://www.orbitaldebris.jsc.nasa.gov/

It's not open now but some of the older reports are indexed by google.

Peter

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