Sign in to follow this  
Guest

No shuttle preflight allowed?

Recommended Posts

Spending yesterday following the Columbia tragedy there was a significant point (among others) brought up at the NASA briefing:They don't do spacewalks to inspect the entire ship before coming back to Earth. They also don't have the capability to do any repairs. Spacewalks are limited to the cargo bay area unless the boom is along, and then the astronauts still don't venture to the underside of the shuttle.I'm only a desktop pilot. My complete preflghts are few and far between. Who among you real pilots would fly a plane even a thousand miles and then not perform a complete visual check of the exterior before returning those thousand miles?Sixteen days of flight, AND some question of whether falling foam pieces might have caused some damage, and nobody goes out to look?!?The spokesman said they had no procedures to repair damage to the tiles. If there was a severe enough problem, wouldn't it have been possible to just park the shuttle at the space station and ENGINEER a way to fix it later? Yes, this could be called Monday-morning-quaterbacking. However, it's also what NASA is going to be doing for months if not years. The shuttle is an airplane capable of space travel but an airplane just the same. I, for one, am very surprised that the exterior isn't given a complete visual before re-entry, which is even easier now as it could have been done by the remaining astronauts in the space station.There will be changes that come from this tragedy. I hope a capability to inspect the exterior before plunging back to Earth at 16,000 mph at over 2000 degrees might be one of them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Help AVSIM continue to serve you!
Please donate today!

Usually if a shuttle undocks from the ISS it is checked by the ISS crew for any damages. But Columbia was not in the right orbit to go to ISS and even then Columbia was not modified for ISS missions unlike Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavor are. Columbia was used for repair or scientific missions such as STS-107 and none of the Astronauts were trained for spacewalks for that fateful mission :(

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Phil,You are raising an interesting point - there's no doubt that new procedures will have to be implemented.As a pilot, I would never take-off in an airplane that wasn't thoroughly checked by the only person I trust :MYSELF !!!I once found the pitot, static and stall horn openings sealed shut by transparent tape !!! It turned out that the aircraft had just been washed and that the mechanics applied the tape to prevent water from damaging the systems...and forgot to remove it once they completed the maintenance tasks...!It's easy to imagine what could have happened if I hadn't checked the aircraft properly...Twister

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi,"Spacewalks are limited to the cargo bay area unless the boom is along, and then the astronauts still don't venture to the underside of the shuttle."I'm really wondering about this. 30 years ago they were able to walk on the surface of the moon freely for many hours before returnig to the lunar landing craft. But nowadays there isn't even a space suit on board of the shuttle capable of going to the underside of the ship? Very strange.Regards,Claudius

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The problem isn't the inspection, it's the lack of ability to do anything about any anomolies they might find. Once they launch, that's it... no amount of inspecting things in space (as far as tiles are concerned) is going to do any good, since there's nothing they can do to repair damage once they're there.Also, Columbia had nowhere near enough fuel and too much weight to change their orbital inclination to reach ISS, so that wouldn't have worked. They also couldn't have docked, and no rescue shuttle could have possibly been launched in time in order to reach them if they had found evidence of tile damage. In short, no amount of inspections after launch would have saved them. When NASA decides to go with a launch, they not only consider the shuttle and its systems, but also the entire environment surrounding it... the weather, possible hazards in space (ie, debris), and other factors. They do as much as they can to insure that the shuttle doesn't run into problems, and unfortunately, if they do run into problems once the countdown reaches 0, there's very little they can do.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks! I've seen the press briefing a few hours ago and must agree, everything you're doing in space is much more complicated than here on earth. We sometimes forget about this...Claudius

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"It's easy to imagine what could have happened if I hadn't checked the aircraft properly..."Hopefully you would have flown a traffic pattern using the same pitch picture and power settings that you have in the past so that the lack of airspeed indication would have been a non event. ;)Tim13

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Tim,Hopefully that's what I would have done...but you don't want to get into corners of this kind.Being a perfectionist, I don't want to take-off with failed/malfunctioning systems - if something happens in flight - I'll do my best to handle it.The point here is taking care of problems BEFORE getting into the air.Twister

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm absolutley sure that the shuttle is very rigourously checked before becoming airborne... doing a spacewalk to check the craft in orbit is more analogous to doing a preflight inspection... IN flight!I too am a Student pilot and would never take off in an aircraft I hadn't personally inspected, but it would be rather unreasonable to expect to do another one after takeoff. Remember Columbia had already spent 16 days in space... which for all intents and purposes is a 16 day long flight. Put this into the light aviation perspective, say you do a complete and thorough pre-flight and on takeoff you hit something... surely you wouldn't want to get out of the aircraft and take a look before you land?!I wasn't aware that the Columbia wasn't able to dock with the ISS, if this is the case, then it's quite obvious that repairs or even crew transferr would have been impossible. Weather or not this tradgedy could have been averted by different procedures I am not the one to decide or presume to know. If it is found that the remaining 3 shuttles can be utilised more safely by introducing more rigorous safety measures, then I am sure that is what will happen.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

>lack of ability to do anything about any anomolies they might findThis is the most critical statement of them all. I think it's inexcusable that in this day and age they don't make provisions for a scenario in which they have a problem on the way up. They don't even have a camera that they can inspect the underside of the shuttle from what I understand. I mean come on! There have to be major changes in the space program. It's like playing Russian Roulette with these peoples lives. I understand the crew knows the risks etc..., but it seems a little bit incompetent to me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

>"It's easy to imagine what could have happened if I hadn't >checked the aircraft properly..." >>Hopefully you would have flown a traffic pattern using the >same pitch picture and power settings that you have in the >past so that the lack of airspeed indication would have been >a non event. >> ;) >>Tim13 There's actually been two terrible 757-200 crashes because of static ports being plugged. There was no procedure in the manual to deal with total loss of systems that relied on the air data (airspeed, altimeter, etc) and the warnings the pilots were receieving made no referrence to the actual cause of the problem. (EICAS "Rudder Ratio" etc) Both accidents happened at night overwater with no visual cues. The Aero Peru accident in Lima in particular was extremely screwed up - they ended up flying it right into the ocean trying to make it back to the airport because they were relying on ATC altitude data, which of course is tied to the plane's transponder and was also erroneous. The correct readings would have come from the radio altimeter (which they missed because there were so many other warnings going on - stickshaker, master warning horn etc) and anything connected to the inertial reference system, which included the attitude indicator and the ground speed readout. They would have made it back if they'd used the RA to level at 2000ft and used the FMS to get back to the over water ILS beam. Of course, things aren't that clear to you at night with a million bells and sirens going off and the plane telling you you're overspeeding and stalling at the same time.Read the voice recorder transcript of that flight sometime - it really makes you think about how messed up somethign can get because of a small mistake like not noticing tape over the static ports.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I hope you reported the ground crew for using an opening cover that wasn't attached to a "REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT" flag.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this