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View Diary: Remembering Fallen Heroes: A Tough Week for NASA (42 comments)

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  •  No, space is dangerous. (1+ / 0-)
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    If you read Jeffrey Kluger and Jim Lovell's book Lost Moon (retitled Apollo 13 when the movie came out), there's some well-written prose in there about just how dangerous outer space really is. No air, no pressure, no protection from EM radiation, extreme temperatures, micrometeoroids at extreme velocities, and so on. In short it's the most inhospitable environment imaginable.

    That's part of the reason why the instrumentalities of space travel are so dangerous, not so much because of the craft themselves but because space itself is so unforgiving; even the smallest failure can be fatal. So much more is demanded of spacecraft than of any earthbound machines that they become unfathomably complex, and the more complex they are, the more things can go wrong.

    Let's hope Dragon/Falcon turns out to be more reliable and predictable than Apollo and the Space Shuttle were, with 50 years of knowledge to work with.

    •  And yet it remains the case that (0+ / 0-)

      not one person has ever died in space - every single spaceflight death has occurred on the pad, on takeoff, or on reentry.  So it would seem, at least statistically, that the technology is (for now) more dangerous than the destination.

      Pour yourself into the future.

      by Troubadour on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 07:36:36 AM PST

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      •  It's true that launch and re-entry are the most (1+ / 0-)
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        Nowhere Man

        dangerous phases of space flight. Breaking out of earth's gravity, and re-entering the atmosphere from orbital velocity, are two of the hardest things mankind has ever attempted to do.  By comparison, maintaining a livable environment inside a spacecraft once it reaches orbit is much easier.

        I don't mean to chicken-and-egg this issue; as I said, the instrumentalities of spaceflight are dangerous in large part because space itself is extremely dangerous, and because getting to and from space is extremely dangerous. The Apollo 13 astronauts very nearly died in space; that they didn't shows not that space is less dangerous than spacecraft but that, as noted above, it's easier to maintain a livable environment inside a spacecraft even in the face of a catastrophic failure, than to prevent or survive a launch or re-entry failure of similar, or even lesser, severity.

        •  I don't think one can say that (0+ / 0-)

          the space environment is why launch and reentry are dangerous - it's the gravity of Earth that necessities such enormous energies and high velocities, nothing about the environment around it.  Even in terms of radiation issues, the biggest dangers come from crossing the Van Allen belts, not from direct exposure to solar flares or CMEs, so the most violent hazards lie in crossing the threshold from the environment that protects us into the more rarefied realm of space.  The rest are slow-death scenarios that give astronauts plenty of time to either figure something out or come to terms with their fate.  

          Pour yourself into the future.

          by Troubadour on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 08:22:45 AM PST

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          •  I just don't think we should underestimate (1+ / 0-)
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            just how dangerous being in space actually is, just because getting to and from space is so much more dangerous. It's what drives a lot of these fanciful Columbia rescue scenarios and, by extension, the unwarranted anger that they weren't tried.

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