Wednesday, August 20, 2008

NASA's Orion Get's 94% on First Test

There have been a lot of opinions about NASA's development of the space shuttle's replacement - the Constellation program. I personally think that NASA will ultimately get it off the ground - in say 2020 rather than their target of 2014 - but there are a lot of people out there that think NASA is painting itself into a corner with billion dollar per gallon paint. Whatever you think the outcome will be, this can't be an encouraging photo:

This was the first test of the Orion re-entry vehicle. If this had been a manned flight (which won't come for at least 5 more years), the crew-members' heads would have ended up approximately 1 foot into the ground.

Despite the apparent photographic evidence to the contrary, the test was a rousing success. Of the 18 parachutes that the Orion prototype deployed, 17 did exactly what they were designed to do. However, the 18th parachute that failed was the one responsible for keeping the craft right-side-up. Whoops.

You can read more about the test and see more pictures from NASA here.


  1. Well at least they might be able to fix the problem now rather than later when they actually try it on the real thing. That's the whole purpose of testing. Maybe I can use this as an example for my students to teach them that it doesn't matter how good this looks on paper you still need to test it.

  2. I am always amazed at how successful the Apollo missions were given the technology.

    I watched the history of the Apollo missions on the discovery channel a few weeks ago and several scientists admitted that the technology was so bad back then that by toady's standards NASA would never have let the Apollo missions go.

    In fact, after going back over everything, the Apollo missions beat the odds. For example, Apollo 11 had a ton going against it. There wasn't enough fuel in the moon land module. The pilot got lucky and found a spot to put it down "extra" fast and they had only like 5 seconds of fuel left. The system that shot them off the moon back into space had only a 50/50 success rate while testing, etc...

    Could you imagine being an astronaut then? You only had enough fuel to land if you we lucky. Your equipment only had a 50% chance of working properly on leaving the moon, plus several other risky factors I haven't mentioned!

    The President actually wrote a speech for the Apollo 11 mission for when it failed!(Good thing he didn't have to give it.)

    So again, I stand in aw over how lucky we were with the technology that we used to have.

  3. To go along with what Joe said about the Apollo mission being quite lucky, one of the reasons NASA puts a lot of money into the kind of solar research that I do (trying to figure out the underlying causes of solar activity cycles) is that if the Apollo astronauts had been on the moon during a particularly strong solar storm, they probably would have received a lethal dose of radiation and died within months of coming home.

    With NASA returning to the moon, they are making plans for how to deal with solar storms. Back then, they just rolled the dice with every moon mission.


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