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View Poll Results: Should the Challenger photos be posted here?
No, do not post them out of respect 4 9.76%
Yes, post them. The Challenger accident is important to the Shuttle's history. 35 85.37%
Post them in a completely different thread. 2 4.88%
Voters: 41. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 02-04-2006, 02:09 PM
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STS-1 will be launched from Pad A at the Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39 no earlier than the week of April 5, 1981. Launch windows open at local sunrise plus 45 minutes and are more than 6 hours in duration.

Among the key considerations in establishing the launch windows are lighting conditions which will permit engineering photographic documentation at the launch site, provide adequate lighting for a landing at the Northrup Strip at the White Sands Missile Range, N.M., in the event of an Abort once Around, and provide for adequate lighting for a landing at the end of the nominal mission at the Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

Windows for the week of April 5, which are about one minute earlier each day, are as follows:

Window Open (EST)
Duration (Hours)

April 5 0653

April 6 0652

April 7 0651

April 8 0650

April 9 0649

STS-1 will be launched on a relative flight azimuth varying from 58 to 66 degrees east of north between liftoff, solid rocket booster jettison and main engine cutoff. The orbit at Space Shuttle main engine cutoff will have a relative azimuth (heading) of 66 degrees east of north and be inclined 40.3 degrees to the equator.

The accompanying graph illustrates the time, altitude, relative velocity and downrange distance for the major events in the flight ascent profile. The solid rocket boosters, jettisoned 2 minutes, 12 seconds, after liftoff will impact in the Atlantic ocean 5 minutes, 11 seconds, after separation at a downrange distance of approximately 256 km (160 mi.).

The external tank jettisoned 8 minutes, 51 seconds after liftoff will be on a suborbital trajectory that results in an impact location in the Indian Ocean.


During the second orbit Columbia's payload bay doors will be opened, and the space radiators will take over the job of dumping systems and metabolic heat into space. Except for lining up for an orbital Maneuvering System burn or inertial platform alignment, Columbia will spend most of its first flight with her topside and open payload bay doors facing Earth. Much of the engineering data expected from STS-1 are measurements of how well orbiter thermal loads are handled by the space radiators, flash evaporators and ammonia boiler heat rejection systems.

Young and Crippen will remove their escape pressure suits three and a half hours after launch, and except for a suit donning/doffing checkout early in the second day of flight, will wear the two-piece flight coveralls until again donning pressure suits four hours before entry and landing.

A carry-on food warmer will be used for the first several flights until the orbiter galley is installed. The STS-1 crew will sleep in their flight deck seats rather than in sleep restraints on the lower deck planned for later flights. Flight plan updates will be uplinked by Mission Control Center, Houston, to a teleprinter aboard Columbia.

In addition to extensive orbiter systems tests and performance measurements planned for STS-1, Columbia's ability to hold attitude will be tested several times during the flight. Steady attitude control will be essential for operating many planned scientific experiments that require accurate pointing, and for future rendezvous with other space vehicles.

Columbia's payload bay doors will be closed about four hours prior to landing. A 91-meter-per-second (299-feet-per-second) orbital Maneuvering System retrograde deorbit burn at 2 days, 5 hours, 28 minutes over the Indian ocean will bring Columbia to a landing an hour later on the hard-packed sand of Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Columbia will touch down at 185 knots (213 mph) with a vertical sink rate of .23 m/s (2.4 fps). Young and Crippen will fly a manually-controlled landing.

The tables following cover STS-1 flight events and maneuvers and the summary flight plan.
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Old 02-04-2006, 02:12 PM
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Ground operations to prepare the Columbia for a ferry flight to Kennedy Space Center and launch on subsequent missions will begin immediately upon the spacecraft's rollout on the dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The Kennedy Space Center is responsible for ground operations and a recovery convoy will move in to begin preliminary securing and safing operations as soon as Columbia has come to a stop. Early tasks consist of establishment of ground communications, the connection and initiation of ground cooling and purge air flow, a post-landing inspection and safety verification and the connection of the ground tow vehicle to the orbiter. The flight crew will leave the vehicle and be replaced by a ground crew approximately 45 minutes after landing.

The 18-unit ground convoy consists of the elements required to detect and disperse hazardous vapors, service Columbia's systems, transport and support ground personnel wearing protective garments, provide access to the crew compartment and transport the flight crew and ground crew which will replace them, and fire-fighting equipment.

Post-landing operations will be performed in the following sequence:

On the conclusion of orbiter rollout, the flight crew will safe the Columbia's orbital maneuvering and reaction control system prior to ground crew access. After this has been done, ground personnel wearing protective garments will move in next to the orbiter and use sensitive "sniffer" devices to verify the absence of explosive or toxic gases such as ammonia, hydrazine, monomethyl hydrazine or gaseous hydrogen. A mobile wind machine will be used to reduce the possibility that explosive or toxic gases exist in dangerous concentrations. Then access vehicles will be placed adjacent to the liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen T-zero umbilicals on the aft end of the orbiter approximately 7 minutes after landing.

Large transporters bearing purge and cooling ground support units will then be moved into place behind the orbiter and their lines connected with the appropriate T-zero umbilicals.

The lines from the coolant transporter will be connected with the liquid hydrogen T-zero umbilical on the left side of the orbiter. once the connection has been made, Freon from this ground unit will begin flowing through the orbiter's cooling systems.

The lines from the purge transporter will be connected with the liquid oxygen T-zero umbilical on the right side of the orbiter. This unit will supply air conditioning for temperature and humidity to the orbiter's payload bay and other cavities to remove any residual explosive or toxic fumes and provide a safe, clean and cool environment inside the vehicle.

After a further assessment by a safety assessment team, the protective suit requirement will be removed and tow preparations and crew exchange activities will be initiated. The crew module hatch access vehicle will be then positioned adjacent to the crew hatch on the left side of the vehicle.

Following the opening of the hatch, an activity expected to require 18 minutes, the flight and ground crews will be exchanged and the hatch will then be closed. After removing the hatch access vehicle, the tow of the orbiter to the NASA area at the Dryden Flight Research Center will begin. The elapsed time from the end of the rollout to the beginning of the tow is approximately one hour.

The orbiter will be in the Dryden Center's facilities for a week to 10 days undergoing further system deservicing and ferry flight preparations for the journey back to the Kennedy Space Center.

Nominal flight time for the Columbia aboard the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft is two days. Columbia is due to arrive back at Kennedy from 10 days to two weeks after its touchdown in California from its first orbital mission.
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Old 02-04-2006, 02:15 PM
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STS-1 flight planners have attempted to anticipate any possible contingency that could happen during the flight -- from premature main engine shutdown to a sudden desert cloudburst making a wet lake of Rogers Dry Lake.

"What ifs" have been a central part of each mission design from the outset of Project Mercury 20 years ago and continuing through Gemini, Apollo and Skylab. While there were no launch phase aborts in any of these programs, the cryogenic oxygen tank explosion aboard Apollo 13 and the ensuing use of the lunar module as a lifeboat, proved that contingency planning and training do pay off.

The preferred type of launch abort for Shuttle launches is the abort-to-orbit (ATO) in which enough main engine and orbital maneuvering system engine energy is available to reach a 194-km (105-nm) orbit, but not enough to get the nominal 278-km (150-nm) orbit. An abort-to-orbit would be called for if one main engine should shut down before enough velocity is reached to yield a 278-km (150-nm) orbit.

Slightly less available energy for orbit insertion because of an earlier failure of a single main engine would force an abort-once-around (AOA) situation in which Columbia would land near the end of one orbit at Northrup Strip on the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range, N.M. Abort-once-around would also be used for any time-critical orbiter systems failures requiring immediate deorbit and landing. Northrup Strip is also the backup landing site in case Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards is wet.

Still earlier shutdown of a single main engine brings about the more critical return-to-launch-site (RTLS) abort. The vehicle would be turned around while thrusting and then glide back toward the Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center.

Once the decision to abort had been made, Columbia and the external tank would be flown in a pitch-around maneuver to heads-up and pointed back along the ground track to Cape Canaveral. The remaining two functioning main engines would cancel out the eastward velocity and accelerate the vehicle in a westward direction until enough velocity and distance is reached to glide along a normal entry trajectory to the Kennedy runway. orbiter systems failures during ascent could also force a return-to-launch-site abort.

Loss of control or impending catastrophic failure during ascent, from clearing the launch pad service structure up to an altitude of 30,480 m (100,000 ft.), calls for crew ejection. Loss of two main engines prior to seven minutes of flight would also require crew ejection.

Shuttle abort philosophy emphasizes safe return of the flight crew, the orbiter and its payloads to an intact landing at either the prime landing site at Edwards, the backup site at White Sands, or the contingency landing sites at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii; Rota, Spain; and Kadena Air Base, Ryukyu Islands.

A situation such as a systems failure forcing landing on the first day of flight would mean landing at Edwards at the end of the fifth orbit.
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Old 02-04-2006, 02:18 PM
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When fully fitted out for operational flights (STS-5 and on), Columbia's middeck will house more creature comforts for the crew than the somewhat spartan accommodations of the first orbital test flight. For example, no sleeping bags have been stowed nor bunks installed aboard Columbia. Young and Crippen will sleep strapped into the flight deck ejection seats in their flight overalls. Sleep kits, with ear plugs and eye covers, have been provided for making the two sleep periods more comfortable.

Columbia and the other orbiters joining the fleet will be fitted with airliner-type galleys for meal preparation. on this first flight, however, a carry-on electrical food warmer will heat meals stowed in middeck lockers. orbiters will not have freezers or refrigerators.

Until ejection seats are removed from Columbia after STS-4, crews will wear modified USAF high-altitude pressure suits during launch and entry. Two-piece treated-cotton inflight coveralls will be worn during orbital flight. Shuttle spacesuits, or extravehicular mobility units (EMU), are aboard STS-1 for a contingency spacewalk.

Should the need for a contingency spacewalk arise, such as failure of the mechanical actuators to close the payload bay doors, cabin pressure would be reduced from 14.5 pounds per square inch (21/79-percent oxygen/nitrogen mix) to 9 psi (28/72 percent oxygen/nitrogen).

Crippen would go out through the airlock to manually close the payload bay doors after some 14 hours of pre-breathing at the reduced pressure and at the higher oxygen level to purge suspended nitrogen from the blood stream. Lowering orbiter cabin pressure to 9 psi eliminates the need for Crippen to pre-breathe on an umbilical or on a portable oxygen system and thereby shortens an EVA "work day" by two hours. Moreover, the procedure also prebreathes Young, should he have to suit up and give Crippen a hand with the payload bay doors.

As a hedge against the payload doors failure to open after Columbia is in orbit, additional potable water tanks have been loaded for the flash evaporators-. The flash evaporators transfer metabolic and systems heat from Freon loops to water when the payload doors are closed. Space radiators are attached to the inside of the payload bay doors for heat rejection when the doors are open. (See page 4-21 of the Space Shuttle News Reference.)

If the payload bay doors fail to open during the second orbit, Columbia would be brought down to a landing at Edwards at the end of the fifth orbit. Failure of the payload bay doors to close would call for cabin depressurization to 9 psi and Crippen's spacewalk 14 hours later to unjam the doors.

Except for developmental flight instrumentation and the aerodynamic coefficient identification package, Columbia's payload bay will be bare.

Although Mission Control Center-Houston is described in the News Reference as it will be for STS mature operations, for orbital flight tests MCC-H will appear much the same as it did for Apollo and Skylab. The second-floor Mission operations Control Room (MOCR) has been modified for early Space Shuttle flights.

Huntsville Operations Support Center

During the STS-1 countdown, launch and powered flight toward orbit, design experts at the Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., will monitor real-time data from the vehicle to provide a trouble shooting capability on Marshall-developed Shuttle hardware. Their purpose will be to assist in the early detection of potential problems and to help evaluate and solve them. This pool of propulsion system design experts, consisting of Marshall engineers, project management officials and contractor personnel, will be assembled at the Marshall Center's Huntsville operations Support Center. Marshall is responsible for development of the Space Shuttle main engines, external tank and solid rocket boosters.
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Old 02-04-2006, 02:19 PM
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Amazing pictures. Thank you.

And the best way to honor all the brave men and women from all nations who've given up their lives in the conquest of space is to continue their journey.
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Old 02-04-2006, 02:21 PM
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The Spaceflight Tracking and Data Network (STDN) is a highly complex NASA worldwide system that provides reliable, continuous and instantaneous communications with the Space Shuttle orbiter and crew. The network is maintained and operated by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

The network for the Shuttle orbital Flight Test Program consists of 18 ground stations equipped with 4.26-, 9.14-, 12.19 and 25.9-m (14-, 30-, 40- and 85-ft.) S-band antenna systems and C-band radar systems, the NASA Communications System (NASCoM) augmented by 15 Department of Defense geographical locations providing C-band support and one Defense 18.3 m (60-ft.) S-band antenna system. In addition, there are six major computing interfaces located at the Goddard Space Flight Center: Network Operations Control Center (NOCC at Goddard; Western Space and Missile Center, Vandenberg Air Force Base; Air Force Satellite Control Facility, Sunnyvale, Calif.; White Sands Missile Range, N.M.; and Eastern Space and Missile Center, Fla., providing real-time network computational support.

The network has support agreements with the governments of Australia, Spain, Senegal, Botswana, Ecuador, Chile, United Kingdom and Bermuda to provide NASA tracking stations support to the Space Transportation System program.

Should the Johnson Space Center Mission Control Center be seriously impaired for an extended time, the Network operations Control Center at Goddard becomes an emergency mission control center.

The Merritt Island Florida S-band station provides the appropriate data to the Launch Control Center at Kennedy and the Mission Control Center at Johnson during prelaunch testing and the terminal countdown. During the first minutes of launch and during the ascent phase, the Merritt Island and Ponce de Leon, Fla., S-band and Bermuda S-band stations, as well as the C-band stations located at Bermuda; Wallops Island, Va.; Grand Bahamas; Grand Turk; Antigua; Cape Canaveral; and Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., will provide tracking data, both high speed and low speed, to the Kennedy and Johnson Control Centers.

The Madrid, Spain; Indian Ocean Station Seychelles; Orroral and Yarragadee, Australia; and Guam stations provide critical support to the orbital maneuvering systems burns. During the orbital phase all the S-band and C-band stations that see the Space Shuttle orbiter at 30 degrees above the horizon will support and provide appropriate tracking, telemetry, air-ground and command support to the Johnson Mission Control Center though Goddard.

During the nominal reentry and landing phase planned for Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., the Goldstone and Buckhorn, Calif., S-band stations and C-band stations at the Pacific Missile Test Center, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Edwards Air Force Base and Dryden Flight Research Center will provide tracking, telemetry, command and air-ground support to the orbiter and send appropriate data to the Johnson and Kennedy Control Centers.
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Old 02-04-2006, 02:25 PM
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NASA Communications Network (NASCOM)

The tracking network is linked together by the NASA Communications Network from which all information flows to and from Mission Control Center, Johnson.

The communications network consists of more than 2 million circuit miles of diversely routed communications channels. It uses domestic and international communications satellites, submarine cable and terrestrial landlines and microwave radio systems to interconnect the myriad of tracking stations, launch and orbital control centers and other supporting locations.

The hub of the communications network is the main switching center at Goddard. From Goddard, personnel direct overall network operation including those at supporting NASCOM switching centers in Madrid, Spain; Canberra, Australia; and Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Additionally, support activities are provided by Air Force communications centers at Cape Canaveral, Fla., and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

A key change in the communications network has been implementation of two simultaneous air-ground S-band voice circuits in addition to UHF radio capability. In previous Apollo missions only one S-band circuit was provided. Telemetry data circuitry from tracking stations was increased in size to handle 128,000 bits per second (128 kilobits per second) in real time versus the 14-21 kbps in previous programs. Correspondingly, the command data circuit to a station was increased from 7.2 kbps to a 56 kbps capability.

During previous manned program support, use of communications satellites was limited to those connecting the United States with foreign locations (Intelsat system). Since then, domestic communications satellites have become available and they now play a key role in extending voice, data and television signals from key locations and stations in the United States. Additionally, they provide for extending data between Goddard and foreign locations as well as between Goddard and Johnson.
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Old 02-04-2006, 02:29 PM
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Network Systems Support

At fraction-of-a-second intervals, the network's data processing systems, with Johnson's Mission Control Center as the focal point, "talk" to each other or to the spacecraft.

High-speed computers at the remote site relay commands at a 56-kilobit data rate on such matters as control of cabin pressure, orbital guidance commands or "go/no-go" indications to perform certain functions. In addition, they provide digital voice uplink and downlink from the stations to the orbiter.

The command and air-ground voice is mixed together at the remote station and uplinked to the orbiter at a 72- or 32-kilobit rate.

Such uplink information is communicated at a rate of about 4,800 bps. Communication between remote ground sites, via high-speed communications links, occurs at the same rate on a 56-kilobit line. Houston reads information, two channels at a time, from these ground sites at 1,544,000 bps.

For downlink data, sensors built into the spacecraft continually sample cabin temperature, pressure and physical information on the astronauts such as heartbeat and respiration. These data are transmitted to the ground stations at 96, 128 or 192 kilobits.

At Mission Control Center, the computers:
  • Detect and select changes or deviations, compare with their stored programs and indicate the problem areas or pertinent data to the flight controllers;

  • Provide displays to mission personnel;

  • Assemble output data in proper formats;

  • Log data on magnetic tape for reply for the flight controllers.

Real time orbital television will be received by the Merritt Island, Fla.; Madrid, Spain; Orroral, Australia; and Goldstone, Calif., stations and transmitted to the Mission Control Center, Houston via the Goddard Space Flight Center.
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Old 02-04-2006, 02:32 PM
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Audio Center Control Unit

Aerodynamic Coefficients Identification Package

Ascension Island (STDN site)

Attitude Directional Indicator

Santiago, Chile (STDN site)



Abort Once Around

Acquisition of Signal

Auxiliary Power Unit

Abort to orbit



Bermuda Island (STDN site)

Botswana (STDN site)


Buckhorn, Calif. (STDN site)



Close Circuit Television

Crewman Communications Umbilical





Crewman Optical Alignment Sight


Cathode Ray Tube


Caution and Warning

Digital Auto Pilot


Development Flight Instrumentation


Dakar, Senegal (STDN site)

Detailed Test Objective

Environmental Control Life Support

Edwards AFB, Calif. (Deorb OPT site)

Emergency Ejection Suits

Entry Elapsed Time


External Tank

Flight Control System

Flight Data File

Frequency Modulation

Flight Requirements Document

Functional Supplementary Objective

Functional Test Objective

Goldstone, Calif. (STDN site, 1st antenna)

Goldstone, Calif. (STDN site, 2nd antenna)


Greenwich Mean Time

Guidance Navigation and Control

General Purpose Computer

Guam Island, U.S. (STDN site)

Hawaii (Kauai, STDN site)

Hickam AFB, Hawaii (Deorb OPT site)


Induced Environmental Contamination Monitor

Inertial Measurement Unit


Indian Ocean Station (STDN site)

Interim Teleprinter System

Kadena AB, Ryukyu Islands (Deorb OPT site)

Kennedy Space Center, Fla. (Deorb OPT site)


Liquid Hydrogen


Loss of Signal

Liquid Oxygen


Local Vertical Local Horizontal

Madrid, Spain (STDN site, 1st antenna)


Madrid, Spain (STDN site, 2nd antenna)

Main Engine Cutoff

Mission Elapsed Time

Merritt Island, Fla. (STDN site, 1st antenna)

Merritt Island, Fla. (STDN site, 2nd antenna)


Northrup FLT Strip, N.M. (Deorb OPT site)



Operational Flight Instrumentation

Operational Instrumentation

Orbital Maneuvering System


Operations, Operational Sequence


Orroral Valley, Australia (STDN site)


Power Amplifier

Pulse-Code Modulation


Payload Bay Doors


Phase Modulation

Private Medical Communication




Passive Thermal Control



Quito, Ecuador (STDN site)



Reaction Control System


Reference Stable Member Matrix

Relative Matrix

Rate Gyro Assembly

Regulated Oxygen System

Rota, Spain (Deorb OPT site); Rotation

Rotation Discrete Rate

South Atlantic Anomaly



Space Ground Link System



State Vector



Tracking and Data Relay Satellite




Tula Peak, N.M. (STDN site)


Ultra High Frequency



Video Tape Recorder

Waste Collection System

Irwin, Australia (STDN site)

Waste Management Compartment


X Body Axis Perpendicular to orbit Plane

Y Body Axis Perpendicular to orbit Plane

-Z Local Vertical (-Z Body Axis Towards Earth)
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Old 02-04-2006, 02:42 PM
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Creating NASA's Gentle Giants


Philip Koehring spent his life working for companies that built giants. They weren't the kind that gave small children nightmares, but giants that could move mountains and inspire awe by their sheer size and power. These behemoths mined coal and possessed the kind of Herculean power NASA would need to move the massive rockets that would first carry men to the moon. So in the early 1960s, much of the burden of adapting the engineering know-how fell on Koehring's shoulders.

The plan was to take the engineering technology that moved the mighty power shovels and apply it to the new needs of the Space Age. Marion Power Shovel Company of Marion, Ohio, won the contract to create the "crawler" that would transport the moon-bound Apollo Saturn V rockets from the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center in Florida to their seaside launch pad just a few miles away. Moving the rockets would take both strength and finesse.

Although Koehring passed away in 1994, his three sons -- Phil, John and Doug -- now share renewed nostalgia for their father's lasting contribution to America's space program as the crawler turns 40 years old.

"I first remember seeing a model that they had built of one corner of the crawler that was machined out of aluminum and crawling along the floor with a little wired remote control to it," says Phil. "Our father started on the crawler back in the bid stage, when he was working for Bucyrus-Erie at their research and development department in Milwaukee."

When Marion won the contract, Koehring was recruited from rival Bucyrus-Erie, so he and his family packed up and moved to Ohio. These two companies were at the top of the industry, and as the Marion project manager for the crawler project, Koehring would oversee the building of a machine never before seen or imagined.

Koehring's son John recalls an early test that took place at the Ohio plant. "I remember going to Marion Power Shovel and seeing the track plugged into basically a big extension cord and moving back and forth."

This sturdy technology was deeply rooted in the coal mining areas of our country, but adapting it to Space-Age needs brought many challenges. As with any major undertaking that is the first of its kind, the project hit a few snags along the way.

"He was always very proud of his involvement in the crawler, but he did have his frustrating moments," says Phil. A labor dispute that delayed the program "affected him quite a bit."

The hydraulic system for steering and leveling the crawler called for precision. Along the way, analysis required design changes that incorporated improvements like a separate power system for load-leveling, jacking, steering and ventilating.

And then came the bearing problem.

During a July 1965 test at Kennedy, pieces of bronze and steel were found on the crawlerway surfaces as they were being evaluated. It was determined the crawler's support bearings -- about the size of frozen orange juice cans -- could not handle the loads exerted during turns.

Phil recalls his father's return from that trip to Florida. "I remember him coming back late one night from a trip carrying a small, canvas bag of bearing bits. I remember actually holding some of those in my hand. Not his happiest time."

Building a new machine to carry a huge new vehicle tested everyone involved. And while the bearing problem was being solved, the Apollo preparations at Kennedy, just like the crawler, ground to a halt. While Koehring directed the redesign at Marion, Donald Buchanan shouldered the responsibility at Kennedy. Their parallel efforts resulted in modifications to the crawler's steering hydraulic system. With newly designed sleeve bearings replacing the failed roller bearings, the program got back on track.

Problems were replaced with pride as the two crawlers built by Marion went into service and carried each Apollo rocket to the pad.

Koehring's son Doug recalls that he and his brothers had an even keener interest than most children in their country's race to the moon. "Numerous times, we'd be late to school to watch the launches."

Throughout his life, Koehring continued to be an avid space enthusiast and was extremely proud of the contribution he made. "If you go into our father's den in Pennsylvania -- which is still pretty much as he left it -- the walls are covered with space memorabilia," says Phil.

Today, it's hard to imagine those involved in building the crawler could have envisioned their monstrous machines carrying massive space vehicles to the launch pads well into the 21st century. Yet 40 years later, every space shuttle makes the last Earth-bound leg of its journey to space aboard one of the twin crawlers.

"That's what I find amazing about it. This was a machine that was built to last," reflects Phil. "There were a lot of naysayers about this program in the early days, and all I can say is, 'We’ve shown them!' "
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Old 02-04-2006, 02:46 PM
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Red Water Sausages


Lying brilliantly at the base of the Space Shuttle on the launch pad is a curious pair of rectangles that look like two swimming pools filled with large red sausages. Along with the bright orange External Tank towering into the sky, these rose-colored curiosities are a stark contrast to the launch pad’s muted tones of white, black and shades of steel gray.

What are these interesting eye-catchers at the base of the Solid Rocket Boosters? While they may look like dozens of sausages, it’s doubtful that NASA is using Space Shuttle launches as an excuse for a giant wiener roast.

Actually, these red “sausages” are large nylon bags – each about one foot wide and one foot deep – filled with water and stretched across the Solid Rocket Booster flame holes. These bags are part of the Sound Suppression Water System designed to protect the Space Shuttle from damaging acoustical energy during launch.

Specifically, the red water bags are used to dampen the wave of sound energy that is reflected back up toward the Space Shuttle when the Solid Rocket Boosters ignite during launch. If this powerful pulse of pressure were not suppressed, it would create a dangerous stress on the wings of the orbiter.

Along with these bags, a water spraying system directs a cushion of water into the flame holes of the Solid Rocket Boosters. This cushion serves as a barrier to the reverberated pressure pulse. At its peak output during launch, this system pumps water at a rate of 15,000 gallons per second.

Together, the nylon bags and water spraying system greatly reduce the intensity of the reflected sound energy and the threat of damage to the orbiter.

While many things involved in launching a Space Shuttle can be reused, the red water “sausages” are not among them. Part of standard post-launch cleanup procedure involves picking bits of red nylon from the perimeter fence and the area around the launch pad.

So, if you hear someone talking about red sausages in connection with the Space Shuttle, now you’ll know what all the noise is about.
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Old 02-04-2006, 02:49 PM
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Shooting for the Heart: Astronaut Finds Passion for Photography in Space


Moroccan desert sand seas ripple in the sun. Rugged, snowcapped Himalaya Mountains pierce the heavens. Egyptian lakes spill liquid metal onto the Earth's surface while stretches of shoreline summon the eye.

The eye widens, zeroes in and blinks. Whir, click-click. Captured!

For more than a century, travels to exotic lands have inspired explorers to record their journeys in snapshots. However, no place on Earth lends a better view to these beautiful places than in space.

Unlike most travelers, Astronaut Leroy Chiao has come full circle. Orbiting the Earth every 92 minutes onboard the International Space Station, Chiao made his trek from afar capturing more than 24,000 images along the way.

Photography – Greek for the words light and writing – from space is useful for scientific research on Earth. Among Chiao's tasks in space as Expedition 10 Station Commander was to snap up various meteorological and atmospheric phenomena as well as geographical, manmade and natural landmarks.

With no darkroom onboard, the perfect temperature and mix of developer, fixer and stop-bath solutions are replaced with pixels, a sensor and various lenses instead. Digital cameras aid astronauts in getting the right shot with instant image processing.

"I was able to see my results quickly and adjust technique and composition for next time," Chiao said.

Still, pointing a digital camera at Earth from space while flying 230 miles above the planet calls for a different approach to "light writing" altogether.

"Being in space means having to find ways to support yourself and the camera," Chiao said. "Since the Earth is moving past at 17,500 mph, one must pan the camera as the shutter is released, otherwise the image will smear and appear out of focus."

A special team of scientists identify photo opportunities that align with the orbiting vehicle's path and notify the working astronauts in advance. Other shots come by chance as astronauts peer out their window to the world.

Flying at five miles a second, however, these opportunities come only as mere flashes. Trigger-happy fingers must set the perfect aperture and shutter speed – major aspects of good photography – before the opportunity vanishes.

Weather and lighting also play a major factor in photography from space.

With six months of consistent practice, Chiao improved his camera skills while in space, and developed a real passion for it.

"Technically, one can practice and master the right methods of shooting good space photos," he said. "For engineers like me, I recommend that they think about composition. That is, don't just capture the data, but try to compose photos that are beautiful too."

In photography, the eyes have it. When shooting from space, this is especially true. The camera's eye – the lens – determines what will be in the picture and how. It also gives the photographer more reach or wider angles.

"I shot mostly 180mm, 400mm and 800mm, but also worked with 50 and 58mm," said Chiao, who chose his lenses to grab the best focus and exposure of his targets.

Depending on the lens and the aperture (the size of the camera’s “eye” opening) some shots show great depth of field with artistic details of hard rock, ridges, valleys and rivers.

Among Chiao's photo album is the first confirmed picture from space of the Great Wall of China. Although the Great Wall was difficult to see with the unaided eye, Earth’s geological diversity in Chiao’s collage of images remained very visible. Chiao also collected snapshots of the Chinese launch site.

"The launch site was of great interest to me, because of its historical significance," Chiao said. "It is only the third place in history from where astronauts were launched into space."

Other memorable shots for Chiao were Lake Nasser in Egypt, the pyramids at Giza and the Moon next to the Earth's limb, a shot that can only be taken from space’s vantage point.

"I try to be artistic, but I am in many ways, a typical engineer," Chiao said. "Photography in space helped bring out the artistic side in me. The beauty of the Earth was very inspiring, and I tried to find new ways to capture and express that beauty."

Chiao's vivid experience in space opened new horizons for him. Though being an astronaut will always come first, he plans to continue to develop his photography skills now that he’s back on Earth.
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Old 02-04-2006, 02:51 PM
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Wake-up Calls


Wake-up calls are a long-standing NASA tradition. Each day during a Space Shuttle mission, Mission Control plays a short recording to start the day's activities.

The recordings are selected by flight controllers or by crewmembers' friends and family members. Most wake-up calls are musical. A typical list of calls for a mission includes rock, country, classical, bluegrass and jazz, as well as childrens' choruses and memorable bits of movie dialog. Crewmembers from partner nations may hear a song from their own country.

The recording is usually followed by a call from the CAPCOM in Mission Control, wishing the crew a good morning.
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Old 02-04-2006, 02:56 PM
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Steve Robinson: First Podcaster From Space


One day before landing, STS-114 Mission Specialist Steve Robinson transmitted the first podcast from space.

Podcast Transcript:

Hello, this is Mission Specialist Number 2 Steve Robinson from the Space Shuttle Discovery. We're high in orbit on our last day of orbit. Tomorrow we come home. I'm currently talking to you just off the southeast tip of Indonesia in the daylight and moving on towards night. It's been a fantastic mission up here, absolutely amazing. Some of the hardest work that any of us have ever done. We haven't had a whole lot of sleep, and we've been extremely busy and really happy.

The mission has been a test flight. We've tried lots of new things on this mission, from inspecting the Space Shuttle in space using all kinds of robot arms and sensors, to doing experimental spacewalks, which have also gone very, very well, and it's been very gratifying to learn so much about our orbiter.

We've had some surprises. We sure didn't expect that big piece of foam to come off of the tank. Fortunately it missed us. We didn't expect to go outside and get to remove gap fillers from the belly of the orbiter. That was, I would have to say, the most fantastic experience of my life. Just incredible to be way out there on the end of that arm all by myself and see no evidence of humans anywhere. Just me and the Space Station and the Space Shuttle from a view that neither I nor anybody else has ever seen, and watch the sun come up over the bottom of the Space Shuttle, and get to sort of drink in that big view. I'll never forget it, and I'll never be able to describe it adequately, I'm sure. But I feel very fortunate to have been able to get a chance to do that. And also very glad that it worked!

We were able to do, we were ready to do more than just pull on the gap fillers. We were ready to actually cut it out if we had to. We were going to get those gap fillers out no matter what! Turns out to be, have been a very easy job.

The rest of the crewmembers, the rest of the crewmembers -- Eileen and Jim and Soichi and Andy and Wendy and Charlie -- we've had a really good time together. You know, we've trained together for a long time, several years. And we really enjoy each other's company. And it's a really rare thing to be with this, a group of people who are as diverse as we are. Everybody with different and complementary talents and all with a really great sense of humor. So we've laughed a lot, we've worked really hard, and we've learned a lot from each other. It's been really a fantastic experience.

Now it's time to go home. I think some people are ready to go home -- I know I'm not. I would rather stay on the Space Station with Sergei and John and experience this strange, incredible life floating in Earth, above the Earth.

At any rate, I will close ... At any rate I will close this very brief first podcast from space with a greeting to all Earthings and a thank you for your interest and support. Whether you support the space program or not, you're learning from it. You're learning from it the very moment you hear this and think about what we're doing. And I think that learning is what looking over the horizon is all about, and don't forget that learning can be exciting and fun, too, because that's certainly what this mission has been all about.

So signing off from the Space Shuttle Discovery, this is Steve Robinson, and hope to talk to you soon.
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Old 02-04-2006, 02:59 PM
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No Need for Speed


Driving along at one mile an hour doesn't always feel as excruciatingly slow as you might think.

Just ask Bob Myers of United Space Alliance at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. He's spent more than 20 years helping to drive and care for NASA's two Crawler-Transporters, which have the heavy task of moving the fully-assembled Space Shuttle and its Mobile Launcher Platform (MLP) to the launch pad for flight.

"When you're walking on the ground, of course, at one mile an hour you can outwalk the Crawler in a heartbeat," explains the Crawler systems engineer. "But when you have 18 million pounds and you're up in the cab and it's moving a mile an hour, it seems fairly fast."

Myers had the honor of driving Space Shuttle Discovery out of the Vehicle Assembly building when the Return to Flight vehicle made its move out to Launch Pad 39B in March.

Only a handful of engineers are certified to drive the gargantuan transporters, and with good reason. The Crawlers can extend from 20 to 26 feet tall and are 131 feet long, 113 feet wide. They weigh six million pounds without the MLP and Space Shuttle stack.

As far as Myers is concerned, driving a vehicle so huge, heavy and downright unusual is nothing like driving a car.

He laughs when he's asked how the Crawlers "handle" on a drive. "How about 'really slow?' " he replies. But he explains that there's really no better way to train for driving a Crawler than through hands-on experience. "It takes some time to learn how to get out on the Crawlerway and learn how to anticipate a turn, to keep the Crawler straight, and learn how it's going to accelerate, decelerate and stop."

Myers' job stretches beyond driving. Crawler engineers and technicians spend much of their time refurbishing and upgrading the tracked vehicles, which were built in the mid-1960s for the Apollo-era Saturn V moon rockets. The Crawlers are still hard at work today, thanks to tender loving care and ongoing maintenance.

In the last two years, the Crawlers have undergone major structural, mechanical and electrical upgrades. New motor control centers run the vehicles' electricity, and improvements to the ventilation system provide a safer environment for the people monitoring the engines and pump rooms. Both crawlers received new treadbelt shoes -- 456 on each vehicle -- and new mufflers to reduce the noise level generated by the engines.

Each Crawler's dual driver cabs were removed and replaced with new ones, complete with hurricane-safe marine windows. The original cab windows weren't up to hurricane code, so whenever a storm threatened Kennedy Space Center, the Crawler's windows were treated just like those on a building: boarded up for safety!

Inside the cab, the driver's console is remarkably simple. A small, red steering wheel occupies the center. Just behind it is the speedometer, ranging only from 0-2 miles per hour. Gauges on the right indicate height, steering angle and the status of the Crawler's Laser Docking System, used in launch pad docking operations. The vehicle's speed is controlled by a knob on the left.

On the floor, a single pedal activates the air brake. Because standing offers the driver a wider field of view when the Crawler is in motion, the driver's chair has three settings for sitting, leaning and standing.

Myers' fondness for these extraordinary vehicles is obvious. But he says despite their size or the unusual task they're called on to perform, the Crawlers' best-kept secret is their speed -- or lack of it. A Crawler can move even the smallest distance (say, one-eighth of an inch) if it's told to. This precision is critical when it comes to delicate operations such as docking a Space Shuttle and Mobile Launcher Platform at the launch pad.

With Return to Flight on the horizon, Myers has already decided on a special launch viewing area. He'll be on the catwalk of the Crawler.

"That's where we typically watch launches from, the catwalk. And we'll all watch, I'm sure, with great anticipation and our fingers crossed. We want to see a perfect launch, a successful launch. That's what we're here for."
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