Brian Yee

Neither Here Nor There

Flying Free

Yesterday’s Astronomy Picture of the Day was pretty neat.  It was an astronaut grabbing a rather large satellite in an untethered spacewalk.

The picture doesn’t capture really what’s happening here.  The satellite is rotating while being captured.  The video shows this better. Shannon couldn’t believe what she was seeing.  “Is he crazy!” seems like what Not surprisingly, NASA stopped the practice of untether spacewalks after the Challenger accident.

This reminded me of an interesting anecdote from Mike Mullane’s Riding Rockets on risks in spaceflight.  The shuttle engineers had found a very rare but potential flaw with the shuttle that might prevent the solid rocket boosters from separating (which would be fatal to the crew).  They had asked the astronauts if they would still launch knowing the risk.  That astronaut’s response:

They might as well have asked a three-year-old if he wanted to eat his candy now or wait until tomorrow.  If the engineers said, “We forgot to install the center engine.  Do you still want to launch?” Hank (astronaut Hank Hartsfield) probably would have said, “No problem.  We’ll just burn the two we have.”  Nothing was going to get in our way.

The business of being an astronaut is extremely risky.  I wonder if I could fly in the face of those risks.

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“Sometimes doing nothing is the best option”

Great post by NASA’s Wayne Hale on his blog regarding conjuctions, or close encounters between the Space Shuttle and space junk.  When a conjunction is going to occur during the crew sleep period and there is sufficient reason to believe there will not be a collision, mission controllers will set a timer to expire at the Time of Closest Approach and everyone would hope they did their math correctly.  This happened three times during Wayne’s tenure in Mission Control.  His quote:

So as we waited for the clock to count to zero, there was plenty of time to contemplate metaphysical topics:  life, death, courage, risk, achievement, probability, dishonor.  They are all fellow travelers, intimately bound together.  No great accomplishment comes without difficulty or risk.  Miscalculation or failure results in death and dishonor.  But it is what it is; you do the best you can, make the best rational choice you can given what you know, and then wait for the result.

Going to Las Vegas holds no enticement for me.

I follow Wayne Hale on twitter (@waynehale) and I am always impressed with his insights and thoughts on the space program.

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WLK releasing, STS-126 launchi…

WLK releasing, STS-126 launching — big exciting weekend. Kinda antsy waiting for it all…

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