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Response to TheMadMonk (Reply #31)

Fri Feb 1, 2013, 02:45 PM

46. No shuttle to send

This is not like a jet fighter that you can launch in 30 minutes. It takes months to get a shuttle ready to go unless there's one on the launchpad ready to go, which there wasn't.

When the shuttle re-enters it's going some insane speed like Mach 10. The wings are pollished to micron tolerances because the slightest scratch will cause friction, which will cause exactly what we saw. The scratch likely wouldn't even be visible to the naked eye.

Personally, I agree they should have been told if nothing else so those who were into that kind of thing could make peace with their Maker for longer than the few seconds available once they knew they were in trouble. They might also have been allowed to make their own decision about what to do, basically die in space (likely by their own hand) or die on re-entry. I suppose what they could have done is boosted the shuttle to the highest possible orbit in the hopes that another shuttle mission could come along and attempt to repair the wing, then fly one or both shuttles back with the bodies. Given the technology involved, I doubt even this was possible. That's not what I'm arguing about.

The problem is - I remember John Glenn's first flight. There was potential that his heat shield was loose. They chose to leave his retro rocket pack attached so its clamps would hold the heat shield in place until air pressure took over. The pack was burned away during re-entry. This was ridiculously risky because if it had burned away in an uneven manner, it could have tumbled the capsule and it would have burned up. They DID consult with Glenn, but in the process the whole world heard about it and the world stopped to watch TV or glued to the radio. They're probably still hearing from people second-guessing them.

In that case, as in Apollo 13, (thanks for the correction up above, I've got the flu and can barely see the screen) there actually was a coherent alternative.

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