Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Hey NASA! There's got to be a better way

NASA is going to use Hollywood stunt helicopter pilots to snag a space capsule from mid-air. Now if I had suggested some such escapade I would have been laughed off the lot. How about a splashdown in the ocean? The Russians have been doing hard earth landings -- with astronauts, nyet cosmonauts on board -- since the sixties....

Oh! And if I am looking for some mid-air snagging, I don't know about going with a company called Vertigo!

All jokes aside....good luck NASA. I hope you pull it off.

1 comment:

  1. It's explained pretty clearly in the article. The payload of the capsule was really fragile (ceramic disks that had been busy absorbing solar particles), and any kind of landing would have been a dangerous one.

    Human beings are resilient creatures that can take a remarkable amount of abuse. It's no more surprising that a human being can take a hard landing better than a ceramic disk than it is a human can walk away from a fall that would shatter a plate.

    Unless you break the surface-tension first, water isn't really that much softer to land on than the ground. Water landings are just good because the ocean is smoother and more predictable.

    Presumably, NASA figured snagging the capsule out of mid-air was the best way to avoid damaging the payload with an un-powered landing. The alternative, of course, would have been to put the capsule in orbit and recover it with the Space Shuttle, but that would have been several orders of magnitude more expensive than hiring a few stunt pilots.

    Of course, the parachutes didn't deploy and the thing crash-landed anyway. But in theory, the plan wasn't a bad one.


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