151 votes
Accepted

Do astronauts use plumber's bifocals?

Well, at least during the Space Shuttle era, some did. I remember, as I aged into my 40's, getting disgruntled during training events in the Shuttle Mission Simulator, as I was beginning to have ...
Digger's user avatar
  • 4,175
105 votes
Accepted

Is this "Attach Orbiter Here / Note: Black Side Down" sign on the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft real?

I believe it's real, just a little bit of fun. The Wikipedia article on the SCA states it as fact, as do other historical articles. Search engines will lead you to multiple pictures of the attach ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
101 votes
Accepted

Did Feynman cite a fallacy about only circles having the same width in all directions as a reason for the Challenger disaster?

This was indeed an avenue of investigation for Feynman. From his autobiographical book What Do You Care What Other People Think?: Then I investigated something we were looking into as a possible ...
Nuclear Hoagie's user avatar
92 votes
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How hard would it be to fly a Space Shuttle again?

In practical terms, it would be impossible. The Orbiters were designed in the late 1970s and built with the technology of that time. Late in the program there were many logistics nightmares as parts ...
Organic Marble's user avatar
88 votes
Accepted

What operating system(s) were used in the space shuttle?

I was a NASA contractor working on the same contract, but with 3 different companies, writing GN&C code for the space shuttles from 1989 until 1995. Initially, it was Ford Aerospace, then Loral, ...
JohnP's user avatar
  • 1,527
80 votes
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Why were the Space Shuttle's main engines placed on the orbiter?

The quick answer--so they could get the engines back--has already been provided, but I'd like to offer some more historical context to that design decision. Note that the shuttle as originally ...
Anton Hengst's user avatar
  • 10.7k
79 votes
Accepted

This image of the Space Shuttle is truly beautiful, but is it real?

This image is very similar to the following image https://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/shuttle/sts-130/html/iss022e062672.html with the following description STS-130 Shuttle Mission Imagery ...
OON's user avatar
  • 1,684
70 votes

Is this "Attach Orbiter Here / Note: Black Side Down" sign on the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft real?

It's real! Here are some pictures I took on April 29, 2014 as the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (N905NA) was being moved from Ellington Field to its final resting place at Space Center Houston. You can ...
Organic Marble's user avatar
70 votes
Accepted

Why were the Space Shuttle Orbiter's landing gear not level?

There are really two questions here: why is the main gear long, and why is the nose gear short? The main gear for most aircraft are designed to carry most of the aircraft's weight and therefore they'...
Bret Copeland's user avatar
68 votes
Accepted

Was the payload bay of the Space Shuttle depressurized before launch?

Not before launch, during launch. The structure of the payload bay (and the other Orbiter compartments except for the crew compartment) was not strong enough to withstand either crush loads from a ...
Organic Marble's user avatar
67 votes
Accepted

Was there a backup plan in case the Shuttle toilet malfunctioned?

First let's review the nominal operation of the Shuttle Waste Collection System (WCS). (from Shuttle Crew Operations Manual (SCOM) page 2.25-2) It was divided into two major systems, one for urine ...
Organic Marble's user avatar
67 votes
Accepted

Why is the mid-deck on the Space Shuttle named as it is?

Actually, it is the middle of three decks, the lower one just didn't get much press. It was called the Lower Equipment Bay (LEB) or ECLSS bay. It was a pressurized compartment containing mostly life ...
Organic Marble's user avatar
65 votes
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Why didn't the Space Shuttle bounce back into space as many times as possible so as to lose a lot of kinetic energy up there?

Skipping reentries aren't unheard of. The Apollo command module performed a single skip when returning from lunar missions. However, there are several reasons why a skipping reentry (especially one ...
Bret Copeland's user avatar
64 votes
Accepted

Did the Challenger SRBs fail due to design for reuse?

The O-rings and the temperature were only the last in the long chain of blunders, and that had little to nothing in common with reusability. The construction of the SRBs wouldn't be much different ...
SF.'s user avatar
  • 55k
62 votes

Isn't Starship way too big?

The purpose of Starship is not merely to put satellites into orbit for cheap. If that were its purpose then you'd be correct; it's way overbuilt for that. Starship wasn't created to put satellites ...
Ajedi32's user avatar
  • 914
60 votes
Accepted

Could the shuttle wait out the whole burn of SRBs on launchpad in case of a problem on launch?

No. Compare Space Shuttle Launch Countdown. The SRB fire command and the hold-down fire commands are issued at the exact same time. The delay of about 6 seconds (note: each SSME is started at a ...
ereisch's user avatar
  • 791
60 votes
Accepted

Was there really a shuttle toilet training device with a "boresight camera"?

Yes, this was the Waste Collection System (WCS) Positional Trainer, located in Building 5 at Johnson Space Center, adjacent to but not part of the Shuttle Mission Simulator Fixed and Motion Bases. ...
Organic Marble's user avatar
60 votes
Accepted

Was the Space Shuttle ever actually intended for the military to steal satellites without the owner's consent?

I believe this can be debunked by referring to the actual requirements for Design Reference Mission 3B. (DRM 3B being the famous one-orbit-and-grab-a-satellite mission). Mission Requirement g. for ...
Organic Marble's user avatar
59 votes

Why didn't the Space Shuttle bounce back into space as many times as possible so as to lose a lot of kinetic energy up there?

I think bounce back causes intermittent heating so heat shield tiles get a lot of time of radiate heat out. Your thinking is reasonable as far as it goes... But once you lose too much velocity and ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
59 votes

Was the space shuttle design negatively influenced by science fiction?

Did people's expectation of what a space vehicle should look like based on futuristic movies/tv shows negatively influence the design of the shuttle No. The design of the space shuttle concept went ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
55 votes
Accepted

Why do many comets & asteroids keep moving through the solar system, but space ships need fuel to do so?

Your assumptions are incorrect. A space ship (once it has escaped Earth) will also continue travelling - in fact it will only need fuel to change its trajectory and velocity outwith gravitational ...
Rory Alsop's user avatar
  • 13.6k
53 votes

How hard would it be to fly a Space Shuttle again?

The Space Shuttle (or any complicated system for that matter) is not just composed of the hardware itself. It is a system composed of all the infrastructure needed to get it to work. The hardware ...
Ingolifs's user avatar
  • 6,458
53 votes
Accepted

What are the 'lights' inside Shuttle main engines at landing?

It's simply the spotlights illuminating the ship, and shining up the bore of the engines. Notice the shadows of the vertical stabilizer from the same source. When the shuttle landing direction is ...
Organic Marble's user avatar
52 votes

Could the shuttle wait out the whole burn of SRBs on launchpad in case of a problem on launch?

I don't have an immediate citation handy, but the answer is no. The SRBs were powerful enough to overcome the hold-down studs. That said, the same signal was used to blow the nuts on the hold-down ...
Tristan's user avatar
  • 17.3k
52 votes
Accepted

Why use water tanks from a retired Space Shuttle?

They're already made, have plenty of usable life left, were stored in a way that facilitates reuse, and apparently cost less than building and certifying brand new ones. https://www.nasa.gov/feature/...
ceejayoz's user avatar
  • 1,278
51 votes

During the Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster of 2003, Why Did The Flight Director Say, "Lock the doors."?

This is indeed part of the procedure that is invoked when a contingency has occurred. It is part of Standard Operation Procedure 2.8 - JSC Contingency Plan, which can be found in the Shuttle Flight ...
Ludo's user avatar
  • 14.4k
50 votes
Accepted

Why is this part of the Space Shuttle launch pad suspended so high off the ground?

That is the Rotating Service Structure. It can be rotated to fit over the Shuttle while it is on the pad, giving access to the Shuttle cargo bay. The empty space allows the RSS to fit over the ...
Hobbes's user avatar
  • 128k
50 votes
Accepted

What is SpaceX doing differently with their Falcon 9 so that it doesn't cost as much as the Space Shuttle?

A few factors: First, the shuttle had extreme capability and performance requirements that Falcon 9 didn't have, for example: Recovery of a 100-ton vehicle from orbit, with a reusable thermal ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
49 votes
Accepted

What were the most impactful non-fatal failures on STS missions?

The failures in this answer will be described at a very high level. A long write-up could be done on any of them. References are provided for further reading. Failures Occurring Prelaunch There were ...
Organic Marble's user avatar
48 votes

What are "Ohms burns" in the context of Scott Kelly, KSP, and the Space Shuttle?

That's a mistranscription of OMS Burn, or Orbital Maneuvering System burn. The OMS system is how the shuttle changed its orbital characteristics. You can read about it here. One, two or more might ...
BobT's user avatar
  • 1,221

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