Lost In Space

4 comments July 27th, 2007at 09:29pm Posted by Eli

I wonder if these two stories are related…

From a Gavel post on NASA’s poor control over its physical assets:

This [$4200 laptop], although assigned to me, was being used on board the International Space Station. I was informed that it was tossed overboard to be burned up in the atmosphere when it failed.

From today’s NYT:

NASA administrators promised fast action today in response to an internal investigation that said astronauts had flown after drinking heavily on at least two occasions.

The investigation, which relied on anonymous interviews, found “heavy use of alcohol” by the two astronauts within 12 hours of flying. The astronauts involved in the incidents were cleared for flying even after flight surgeons and fellow astronauts raised concerns with NASA officials that safety might be jeopardized, according to findings of the investigation, which were released today.

The investigation also found that flight surgeons felt their warnings about medical or behavioral problems among astronauts were routinely ignored.

I’m sure flying a space shuttle is much easier than driving a car. They’ve got all those computers, and there’s not as much traffic, and Mission Control is like the world’s biggest, smartest OnStar system.

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4 Comments

  • 1. ::matthew  |  July 27th, 2007 at 9:40 pm

    …Mission Control is like the world’s biggest, smartest OnStar system.
    yeah, they’re great in a pinch. Had them unlock my doors once.

  • 2. Rob  |  July 28th, 2007 at 12:11 am

    1. The $4,200 laptop isn’t worth bringing back. Cosmic rays tend to hit the hard drive and chips, so they tend to die a lot faster in space. The onboard computers are radiation-hardened, but the laptops are just normal laptops.

    BTW: On a trip to Mars, without significant radiation shielding, the cosmic rays and other radiation would make the astronauts very stupid. That’s ok, because, believe it or not, we don’t have any way to get a manned lander to the surface safely. Airbags won’t work with humans onboard, the atmosphere’s too thin to slow the spacecraft significantly, and it’s too thick to let them land like they did on the moon.

    2. The shuttle is far more difficult to drive than a car. The astronauts are required to take actions during ascent. If something goes wrong and the astronauts have to take manual control, it’s pretty difficult to fly, even with the computers. Remember, the thing glides like a streamlined brick.

    After all, the thing’s covered with bricks….

  • 3. Eli  |  July 28th, 2007 at 12:21 am

    1. Maybe so, but even assuming that that’s the truth (“I loaned my laptop to one of the astronauts, and they threw it overboard when it died”), that’s pretty lax inventory control.

    2. Sarcasm, dude, sarcasm…

  • 4. Rob  |  July 28th, 2007 at 7:25 pm

    Did you know they have to reboot the laptops several times a day because of radiation hits?

    It even happens infrequently with our computers. A ray strike changesthe wrong 0 to a 1 and oopsie! The computer comes crashing to a halt.

    As far as the sarcasm — it’s hard to tell. The ship can land itself, except for one thing, and it might even be able to handle everything during a normal launch. Not sure on that one.

    The landing gears have to be lowered by a human. They won’t let the computer do it, because they’re afraid of what would happen if the computer fired them early — say, during re-entry. Well, that, and if the computer could do everything, why would you need pilots?


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