Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Shuttle Capsule

Can live within
  [vote for,

Press red button
Capsule releases from shuttle
Press another button
Parachute deploys

This is not an opportunistic idea - rather - wishful thinking.
thumbwax, Feb 02 2003

a space program memorabilia dealer http://www.countdow...om/shuttle_tile.htm
sells 'flown' shuttle tile [RayfordSteele, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]


       So when the shuttles blows up, the astronauts are safe in the capsule? What about when the capsule blows up?   

       I laud the intent, but the device seems like it only adds a level of abstraction to the problem. It would be interesting to hear an engineer's take on the feasibility of this.   

       This should maybe get moved to Health: Accident Protection or somewhere.
snarfyguy, Feb 02 2003

       If I remember correctly, wasn't there quite a bit of evidence that the Challenger crew compartment remained largely intact, and impacted the ocean at about 300 mph? Seems one could make use of that failure mode, even if you only pop a drogue to make sure it isn't tumbling while the crew bails.
lurch, Feb 02 2003

       Wouldn't have helped in the latest disaster (parachutes aren't going to do much of anything at all at Mach 18), but probably would have saved the Challenger crew. But I believe this was heavily discussed at the time.
DrCurry, Feb 02 2003

       (Categorized to Spacecraft from General upon realization of non-cat).
'chute wouldn't be deployed immediately, as 'craft would be slowed down by NASA's own blend of engineering - I'm not going to (_!_) about how, as I'm not the proverbial rocket scientist.
thumbwax, Feb 02 2003

       Huh? Lurch was talking about the Challenger crew.
waugsqueke, Feb 02 2003

       As referenced by lurch - the Challenger 01-25-86, not Columbia 02-01-03.
thumbwax, Feb 02 2003

       Instead of a parachute something else is needed to slow the capsule down. Perhaps a free spining wing ala pine seeds, or perhaps a whole lot of fuzz that pops out as the capsule is deployed. Or any combination there off (including the parachute)....
madness, Feb 02 2003

       I don't think it's feasible. You'd have to thermally protect the capsule for it to help in a situation like the one that happened yesterday. It would majorly interfere with all of the electricals and the extra weight would drastically reduce payload capacity.   

       I too wish that it were possible [thumbwax], I've seen the astronault emergency escape procedures video and they are ludicrous. However, space exploration is ultimately a dangerous undertaking at the moment.   

       You may not know that the Columbia actually had ejection seats for the first few launches (pilot and captain only). But they were taken out for a variety of reasons including concerns about weight and usefulness .
madradish, Feb 02 2003

       Thermal protection isn't completely impossible. You can put your hand on one side of those tiles while the other is red hot. They're quite amazing.   

       The two big problems I see facing any sort of escape are a: the warning time--when you're travelling that fast, you just don't have any time if something bad happens, and ii: packaging a protection system reasonably inside without the size becoming burdensome.
RayfordSteele, Feb 02 2003

       The tiles are amazing alright, but they do add considerably to the bulk and weight of the orbiter. Having *two* sets would be the problem. I suppose you could make the entire crew cabin detachable, but I don't know how well that would work.   

       You're right about the time thing. Those guys had virtually no warning.
madradish, Feb 02 2003

       I don't think it's going to be possible to make a mid-reentry abort mode. They may be able to better evaluate the shuttle to make a go/no-go decision, or maybe repair sheilding to allow a safe reentry. But once you've burned for deorbit, you're committed - time, place, and method.
lurch, Feb 03 2003

       I actually have a shuttle tile in my possession. I'd be surprised if they add a lot to the shuttle's weight. Maybe they do after you add them all together, but a single tile weighs next to nothing.
beauxeault, Feb 03 2003

       Well, sheesh, *that's* why the darn thing burnt up! Wouldn't want to be in your shoes when NASA comes round with the bill for a new shuttle.
DrCurry, Feb 03 2003

       Beaxeult, you too? I ordered one yesterday. See link. I can see that market heating up in a couple of months. If I recall, a whole tile is quite thick; 6 - 8 inches or more. The place I bought mine from I think chops 'em up into bitesize pieces.   

       Another potential hitch: the accelerations it would take for a pod to clear the craft, which when losing it's cabin would immediately burst into flame. Maybe a show-stopper maybe not, but definitely something to run the numbers on.
RayfordSteele, Feb 03 2003

       Actually, Rayf, I've had mine since about 1984 or '85, it's a whole tile, about 8 in. by 8 in. by 6 in. (it's at home and I'm in the office, or I'd give the exact dimensions), and I got it for free. At the time I was doing commercial product research on a flame barrier material, and wanted to investigate incorporating the new magic material from NASA. So I called them up and explained my purpose, and they sent me the tile to work with. We eventually found a cheaper and more straightforward way to reach our goal, but I still have the tile. Unlike your souvenir, though, I think my tile was never actually flown, so you've got me beat there.
beauxeault, Feb 03 2003

       Possible to reduce shuttle velocity more before entering atmosphere? Since atmospheric friction -- difference between velocity of shuttle and air-- creates the heat and turbulence problems, is there a way to align the shuttle to 'atmospheric' velocity to reduce or eliminate entry friction? Gravity starts to pull shuttle down with only slight decrease in velocity--Can velocity be reduced fast enough without excessive negative G forces? Excessive fuel for retro-rockets? Other problems with this half-baked idea?
roby, Feb 05 2003

       [roby] - this may help: The shuttle needs to be moving at about 26000 feet per second for orbit. The combination of the main engines and SRB's gives about 24000 fps of that. There's also the bonus 1500 fps you get from the earth's rotation.   

       The remaining 500 fps or so is made up by the <edit>Orbital Maneuvering System</edit - thanks,[RT]>, which has a total capability of about 1000 fps. The deorbit burn only needs to take off about 300 fps. In order to decrease speed by a substantial fraction of orbital velocity, a huge amount of OMS propellant would need to be carried - approximately the full payload weight would do it.
lurch, Feb 05 2003


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