Friday potporri

Short post today.  We are working on the great bureaucratic task of building briefing books for the new administration’s transition team.  It doesn’t matter which party wins, we have to prepare a concise, yet bureaucratic, set of information to hand them after the election so they will be ready to run the government on January 21.  I’m on the team that is updating the NASA book, in particular the Space Operations Mission Directorate book.  Its the nitty-gritty non-glamorous type of task that every job has.

Meanwhile, I thank everybody who has been helpful in propping up my failing memory.  Here are two corrections:  the SSME nozzle is made up of 1080 individual tubes brazed together, not the 1060 as I wrote in my blog previously (loss of 20 tubes is catestrophic!)  My first assignment as Shuttle Entry Flight Director was STS-31, which landed in the morning, not afternoon, in California.  Sorry for all the detective work that folks put in trying to identify that flight which I incorrectly listed as having been an afternoon landing.  My only excuse is that it always seems like 2 AM inside mission control . . . .

I appreciate the questions that folks send in and wish I could answer them all.  Here is a smattering of responses to comments received over the last couple of weeks.

Are my blogs available in various foreign languages.  No, sorry.  Not likely to happen soon.

To the young person who is interested in O3 at the moon: there is no appreciable atmosphere on the moon, for all intents and purposes it is a vacuum.  O3 is also better known as ozone which is a toxic gas, unsuitable for human breathing.  It would be better if we find water ice at some shadowed crater on the moon and dissassociate the hydrogen and oxygen to make breathable O2.

Why anyone would say that the X-38 CRV “violates the fundamental laws of physics” is beyond me.  It was well on the way to becoming a viable spacecraft.  Although I must point out that they had their issues with parachutes!

Off the track comment:  many folks have been looking at the video of the Orion test parachute failure.  This is probably a good study of the sociology of the web or at least of journalism.  The failure was in the test rig setup, not the actual space flight parachutes.  And there were a dozen successful tests that preceded the one failure.  Nobody has filed a FOIA request for videos of the good tests.  Hmm.

Lean Six Sigma is a management technique that, like many management techniques, was developed for a large production process.  While it is not specifically designed for the small production runs and unique processes that NASA is typcially involved in, there is still a place to take some of those principles and apply them to our processes. 

The shuttle does have an autoland capability built in that would probably work very well.  On STS-53 we were well on the way to performing a flight demonstration of that capability, but the Associate Administrator, Gen. (retired) Jed Pearson, pulled the plug on the test shortly before we performed it.  Like every test there was some risk, and despite our desire to demonstrate this system, Gen. Pearson believed we did not have a need to ever use it.  So, after a lot of work, shuttle autoland has never been tested.  The capability exists, however, and could be used in an emergency. 

I had an interesting discussion with some of the orbital mechanics experts about whether a lunar base at the pole is harder to get to than one at the equator (like the Apollo landing sites).  They did a good job of convincing me that going to the lunar poles is not harder, either from the delta-V standpoint (how much gas it takes) or the scheduling standpoint (how often you can go).  Mid-latitude sites, neither at the poles or at the equator are the hardest. Someday this blog will tackle the mathematics . . .

Finally, somebody asked if I ever dreamed about being an astronaut.  Well, who hasn’t?  It would be great fun.  But genetics ruled that out for me at a young age.  I suppose someday I might get to ride as a passenger on the Pan Am shuttle to the moon, but that is a far cry from the current requirements to be an astronaut.

See you Monday from Washington . . .


5 thoughts on “Friday potporri”

  1. Dear Wayne,

    Nice thoughts and clarifications. Here are some of my thoughts, written with a sense of humor.

    ” …we have to prepare a concise, yet bureaucratic,…”
    Talk about competing interests…

    “To the young person who is interested in O3 at the moon…”
    Perhaps he’s actually interested in helium-3? That’s a subject which has caused much speculation.

    ” My only excuse is that it always seems like 2 AM inside mission control . . . . “
    I read that there is only one “clock” in Mission Control; the MET or Mission Elapsed Time clock.

    “Finally, somebody asked if I ever dreamed about being an astronaut. Well, who hasn’t? “

    For those of us in our age bracket, you’re right. Ever watch “Toy Story”? Kids today have different heroes, most of them are sports figures.
    My “genetics” carried me past the Apollo-era height limit by age 10 in 1965, my interests went in another direction when I chose broadcasting as a career at age 15.
    Life takes its own turns sometimes, and I discovered industrial instrumentation and process controls 30 years ago, and that’s where I made my “home”.

    “It would be great fun.”
    An understatement if ever there was one…

    Have a great weekend.

  2. Wayne Hale is rapidly becoming the most popular blog on the internet, soon to have an IPO, a Manhattan office, & 6 5/8 segment boosters.

  3. “Finally, somebody asked if I ever dreamed about being an astronaut. Well, who hasn’t? It would be great fun.”

    Hehe!!! I guess its fair to say that we are not alone in this one sir!!!

    When my classmates learned that I want to become one, they though I was crazy… well, no surprise there, since they have lots and lots of idols, like celebrities, video game characters, porn stars (???), stuff like that… plus, being a Filipino makes it more hilarious to them… bummer

    I’m just thankful that I have a different role model than what they have, and after graduating from college just last March, I’m still gazing at the night sky (with ocassional sightings of the ISS), with the same dream of becoming an astronaut…

    I just hope that I can put at least a good enough effort to get there… and hopefully, if given that chance, I’ll get to do what my fellows thing as “funny”…

    And if that time comes, I sure hope I’ll get to see you sir and tell everything about it…

  4. Wayne;

    Your comment about dreaming about being an astronaut made me think about what that might be like, and so, this is for your eyes only.

    Ever seen “World’s Fastest Indian”? If not, you should see it sometime. It’s a testimonial to the power of dreams.

    When Burt Munro steps out onto the Bonneville Salt Flats for the first time, his emotions were similar to what I felt as my family and I stepped out of that bus and onto Launch Complex 39A. “Holy ground, mate” Burt would say.

    When he is getting ready for his test run, as he’s getting ready there was a moment that every first-time astronaut must feel…”all of these people doing all of this stuff for ME, I don’t even know them, and they’re helping me live my dreams.”

    Now, I don’t mean to boast, but I’m a 10 “flight” veteran of Disney’s “Mission: Space”. The first time I rode it, a song verse ran through my head on “liftoff”: “Now I know how Richard Petty feels.” That’s from Kenny Chesney. But, how does it REALLY feel? Well, here’s what I think.

    Until they close the hatch on the orbiter, it’s pretty much a blur; and all you can do to keep from being overwhelmed by all of the emotions. The count winds down, and you’ve done all of this in simulations, but there’s this inner childlike excitement, like when you were five and it was Christmas morning. This is for real this time!

    When the handover at T minus 30 seconds occurs, it begins to sink in…”this is really happening, this is REALLY HAPPENING”, you think, and suddenly you hear “Go for main engine start.”

    In that 6.7 seconds, you think about everyone you’ve ever loved, your grandparents, parents, family, friends. You see their smiling faces; you know that those who have passed on are so proud of you today.

    You think about your school days, the little things that seemed so unimportant at the time, but were bricks on your own Yellow Brick Road.

    Reality intrudes when the two SRBs ignite and shove you in the back unlike anything you’ve ever ridden before! It’s nothing like the sims, it shakes, rattles and rolls as you and your extended family thunder towards a point in the heavens. You smile as you recall a line from “Armageddon” about everything being built by the lowest bidder, and smile because its true!

    Seated on the mid-deck, you reach out your hand to whomever’s seated next to you, and they reach out to you. You’re connected now, physically and emotionally. You begin to relax, and count the seconds until SRB separation, because you know that the ride smooths out at that point. Six minutes later, you hear the command to remove your gloves and helmet…and watch with awe as they float off on their own. You’re in space…you’ve touched the sky.

    After Burt Munro made his run, he allowed himself a moment to bask in the moment, saying “I did it!” as he lay on his back, totally exhausted. That’s what you feel at that moment, Wayne.

    You did it!

  5. Ha ha ha! I was one of those folks doing “detective work” trying to find which mission you were referring to in that post! Well, it was not so difficult to find, after all, and finally I arrived to the conclusion that it had to be STS-31, although I admit that the mistake on landing time was a little confusing at first. Anyway, thank you for the clarification!

    Javier Casado
    Madrid, Spain

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