How to fix the shuttle..

whilst I was failing to get to sleep last night due to the effects of an
oncoming cold and a cat which was very annoied by a fence it had got itself
trapped under, I had a brainwave on how NASA can decrease the possibility
of another accident such as the one which happened on Saturday (assuming
that the tiles were damaged by the lump of stuff falling off).

My answer is:-

Use a sandwich of tissue papaer and cheesey Watsits!

More precisely, cover the underbelly of the shuttle prelaunch with a layer
of doped tissue paper, then apply a 2cm think layer of corn starch foam followed
by a final layer of tissue paper, doped.

This should be a pretty light layer and as long as the starch foam is open
enough that there are interconnections between all the bubbles it shouldn’t
explode as the shuttle gets higher. On all places other than on the leading
edges the aerodynamic pressure shouldn’t be such that  it would get
ripped off during the assent phase but it would act as a protective shield
against ice blocks etc. Even if the blocks penetrated the layer it would
still cushion the impact and decrease the level of damage significantly.

On the re-entry phase, the tissue papaer and strach would almost instantaniously
carbonise and ablate off the surface leaving the tiles beneath pristine.

So there you are, a low-tech solution to a high tech problem! 😉

Thoughs on NASA’s future..

the happenings of the last weekend and having read about all the things NASA
have been wibbling on about in the last few months and also knowing how awful
NASA has become in managing spacecraft design I’ve had a few thoughts on
what I think should happen…

Firstly, as a stop-gap the shuttle has to keep flying, it’s the only thing
we have which can do the tasks necessary in human spaceflight currently.

Secondly, the US government should request bids from all over the world for
two separate launch vehicles., a space taxi and a space truck. The former
would be manned, the later would be human habitable in space but would not
be manned during the acsent or decent stages. All vehicles should be able
to be flown unpiloted and the space taxis should be able to dock with each
other and be able to stay on standby for long periods of time (rescue missions).
Any design should be concidered, however radical and all parts of the spacecraft
should be designed to be reusable and have longevity built in.

Now, here are the contraversial bits:-

(1) All consortia must supply at their own cost one fully operational prototype
to NASA for a comparative “Rain Hill Trials” of all vehicles. (The Rain Hill
Trials were a comparative test of different designs of steam locomotive in
1829, Stephenson’s engine “Rocket” won.)

During the design and build stages of the vehicles full access to all NASA
staff and fecilities would be free of charge so as to offset development

(2) All designs will be fully disclosed to the public and competitors. Many eyes will help see flaws in the design.

(3) NASA may decide to buy a production run of any one or more of the designs after the trials.

(4) Once designed, the consortia may sell the vehicles to anyone in the world
who wants to buy them only restricted by export regulations inposed by the
United Nations.

(5) Crew safety is paramount. Options for safe crew recovery from all possible
situations should be catered for. (eg. Hardened crew quarters during decent
which have their own secondary heat shielding and are capable of sustaining
life in such an incident as that which played out on Saturday.)


I’ve not been up to a great deal, as has been mentioned before.

Yesterday (Saturday) I woke up very tired as I have been having problems staying asleep rather than getting to sleep. I’d just managed to have breakfast and was about to leave home at about 11am when Rob Newson phoned me up. For the next hour and a half I helped him with Linux problems.

Following this I went to Sainsbury’s and got home at about a quarter to two. I put the shopping away, made some sandwiches and turned on BBC News 24 for the news.

It was just before 2pm and after the weather the newscaster trailed that they’d be covering the landing of the shuttle live at about quarter past then started on the news headlines. Following a few stories, at about 5 past two they mentioned that NASA was having problems with communications with the shuttle.. I thought “Oh bugger. It’s broken up during re-entry.”

It was about 10 minutes to a quarter of an hour before reports of “multiple trails” being seen over Texas, but the news people still kept on saying that even though the shuttle was late that NASA was still only having comms problems when it was obvious to anyone with any slight knowledge of space flight that the shuttle was never going to land in one piece.

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