93

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 contributing cause of the accident: when the booster rockets hit the ocean, they became out of round a little bit from the impact. At Kennedy they're taken apart ...


65

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 involving multiple skips) would be disadvantageous for the shuttle: As uhoh points out, a skipping reentry results in losing lateral speed at a very high ...


59

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 vacuum in the bay / atmosphere outside situation, or burst loads from a atmosphere inside / vacuum outside situation. Accordingly, the bay and other volumes were ...


58

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 become deeply sub-orbital, you will sink like a rock into thicker atmosphere. Within five minutes you'll either be toast from heating or jelly from pulling 15-...


54

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. The trainer was located in a small room with a code-locked door. The room contained a conventional toilet, a functional replica of the shuttle toilet, and the WCS ...


50

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 launch platform. It's not floating, the leg on the left side of the photo is part of the RSS. This is a detail of the leg: You can see the cab and wheels used to ...


50

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/proposed-station-water-system-looks-to-retired-shuttles In order to reduce the cost and complexity of the proposed system, NASA engineers looked at reusing ...


45

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 Control Operations Handbook (link to 538-page pdf - referenced here) on page 2.8-1. It provides the steps to be taken to secure all data for future investigations ...


43

The loading / unloading fixture was called the Mate / Demate Device. There were permanent ones at Kennedy Space Center and at Edwards Airforce Base (the nominal Orbiter landing sites). There was a third device, somewhat different in appearance, the Orbiter Lifting Fixture (OLF). This was used at at Palmdale (where the Orbiters were built) when they went ...


37

Although the Space Shuttle flight software was of outstanding quality, it's completely incorrect to think that there was only one bug. There were many known bugs in the flight software (FSW). Here are three I can think of off the top of my head that impacted missions. The flight campaign of the Shuttle program started out with an embarrassing software bug! ...


34

According to https://www.popularmechanics.com/space/rockets/a15777930/launching-to-space-at-a-crawl/ it is to reduce dust created as the crawler crushes some of the "Alabama River Rock". Photo showing the crushed rock behind the crawler. (Source - Organic Marble) Addendum: According to the documentary 'When We Were Apollo', the gravel was not part of the ...


34

It turns out, my first hunch was half-right: the purpose of this large fan is not so much to carry away, but to disperse both toxic and explosive chemicals. It is called the Vapor Dispersal Unit, and I vastly under-estimated its power: The Vapor Dispersal Unit is a mobile wind-making machine able to produce a directed wind stream of up to 45 mph. It is ...


32

Much of the time, you would die. Refer to the 3 OUT BLACK ZONE chart from here The heavy black lines show where the situation is not survivable (black zone). Acronymology for the black zone charts: alpha = Angle of attack ALT = Altitude c.g. = Center of gravity EAS = Equivalent Air Speed MECO = Main Engine Cutoff MM602 - Major Mode 602, the onboard ...


31

This appears to be a garbled recounting of a problem that occurred during STS-1 entry due to a mis-match between predicted and actual hypersonic pitch trim. Image Source All that happened was that the body flap (see aft of Orbiter on diagram) extended 5 degrees more than predicted (which did cause the body flap to see higher heating than predicted as well)...


26

There were a few common cause, credible failures. Loss of inlet pressure to the engines due to a leak in the External Tank or failure of the tank pressurization system. (This loss of pressure is what caused all three engines to shut down during the Challenger accident, when the External Tank ruptured) Engine operation was normal until the fuel ...


25

That's the intertank - the cylinder that connected the bottom of the LO2 tank to the top of the LH2 tank. It didn't contain propellant, but did contain the forward interface with the Solid Rocket Boosters, and was built for lightness and strength, with skin-stringer construction. The ribs you see were the stringers. The intertank is a steel / aluminum ...


25

Those are the Ascent Checklist and the Ascent/Entry Systems Procedures (AESP) book. These are used by the back-seater Mission Specialists (MSs) and contain copies of the cue cards and flip-books used by the front-seater commander and pilot. The MSs follow along in the checklists and back up the front seaters. The Ascent Checklist contains the nominal and ...


25

The Orbiters changed over time so that, for example, Columbia when it was destroyed was quite a bit different from when it was delivered. When writing this up I've tried ignore the temporal differences and to list the major differences that had an effect on operations. All the Orbiters had different things failed in them at various times that were not ...


24

It depends on whether you're talking about the original Hubble configuration or its current configuration. First, Hubble does not have any thrusters, so it does not have propellant to unload (thrusters could throw particles around the telescope, affecting its view. Read more here) Originally, the Hubble was designed to be returned via space shuttle, ...


24

It was on the airplane, not the shuttle, see this NASA article: A crew escape tunnel was installed aboard NASA 747 aircraft number 905 (NASA 905) during the aircraft's modification process for the Shuttle program. The tunnel extended down three decks, from the flight deck to the bottom left side of the fuselage. In a catastrophic emergency, the ...


24

Addressing the "Are there pictures?" part of the question. From the Space Shuttle Orbiter Approach and Landing Test Final Evaluation Report


24

In addition to Nuclear Wang's answer, Feynman also mentions this during a PBS Newshour interview with Jim Lehrer. (the relevant part starting at 7:30) While he doesn't directly mention the mathematical fallacy, he describes how the width-preserving properties that's usually observed in the automobile industry usage of o-...


23

Does he mean lock the doors in the NASA building, in order to begin some internal investigation, and nobody is allowed to leave, as a matter of policy? Yes, this. It's part of a standard procedure to ensure evidence is preserved for the investigation. It's to prevent people entering as well as leaving.


22

This was revealed in 2015, in the book Into the Black, about STS-1. The hardcover edition of Into the Black had the overall basics of the imaging effort, although not specific details. ... His new version of the story in the paperback edition indicates that the imaging attempt had been planned starting over a year before the flight. That revised ...


22

The shuttle external tank held the propellants for the shuttle main engines. It was filled from spherical tanks positioned at the perimeter of the launch pad. Insulated lines ran from the spheres, through the Mobile Launcher, and into the Orbiter through two tombstone-shaped Tail Service Masts. Then through the Orbiter Main Propulsion System plumbing into ...


21

The performance of Shuttle-Centaur greatly exceeded that of either the Atlas-Centaur or Titan-Centaur combination. Neither the Atlas nor Titan were able to put a fully fueled Centaur into Earth orbit using only their lower stages. The Centaur would have burned part of its propellant completing the orbital insertion. In contrast, the shuttle stack would ...


21

Yes, several of the previous shuttle launches exhibited erosion and/or "blow-by" of the SRB O-rings, starting with the second flight, STS-2. Much has been written about the failure of NASA and Thiokol management to recognize the severity of the problem and respond appropriately. The Rogers Commission report covers a lot more than the O-ring problem, but is ...


21

For the Orbiter aerosurfaces to move, hydraulic pressure must be supplied from the Orbiter's Auxiliary Power Units (APUs) (a poor name for these critical devices - the name came from the analogous devices in aircraft!). The APUs were not running for ferry flight, and control locks were installed to hold the elevons in a neutral position. For the ferry ...


21

Supplemental answer - Here is a diagram of the Circumferential Alignment Tool that was used during stacking when the SRB segments were "severely" out-of-round. This diagram is from Volume 2 Appendix L of the Rogers Commission Report, the report of the STS 51-L Data & Design Analysis Task Force Accident Analysis Team. There is a lengthy writeup in ...


20

The radar altimeter was intended only for landing, to provide a direct, precise measurement of the altitude of the vehicle above the runway. It locked on around 5000 feet altitude but was primarily useful only in the final stages of landing, from an altitude of 100 feet down. It was also intended for use in the autolanding system, which was never used ...


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