Space shuttle; mission abort?

I heard on the news today that the space shuttle had a little problem. And so I got to wondering.
If the shuttle were to make an emergency landing, and the only possible place for it to land were North Korea (or any other most hated nation), what would the govt. do?
Let it land, then try diplomacy?
Escort it in, guns blazing?
Or blow it out of the sky?
What do the teeming millions think?
I’m not asking about technical possibilities here, just the political consequences of such an occurence.

If the shuttle can’t land at the Kennedy Space Center (favorite place) or Edwards Air Force Base (second fave), then there are a number of contingency places spread around the world, most of which are Air Force bases. On ascent, they have two sites (one off the coast of Portugal, and one in Banjul, The Gambia) that they can go to if they lose one or two main engines. After that, they would "abort to orbit) i.e. head to a low orbit until they could get their act together. There would pretty much never be a case where the orbiter would have to land in North Korea or Libya - there’s always a (reasonably) friendly place where they can touch down in a contingency.

They say I got the power, because I got the monkeys.
They are WRONG! I got the power because I am not afraid to let the monkeys loose.

If for some strange only gonna happen in a B-grade sci-fi flick reason that all other alternate landing sites are not available, then you can pretty much bet that there is a contigency “Emergency Destruct Plan” for the Space Shuttle. However, you can never totally be sure of the crew’s actions in a situation like that. Anyone ever hear of Francis Gary Powers and the U2 Incident?

You think that the US would prefer destroy the space shuttle and kill the crew than let them land in North Korea? Come on, man!

  1. The U2 misson was a spy mission!

  2. Shuttle personnel usually have a military background, but NASA is not a military organization.

  3. If North Korea thought that they could keep the shuttle, they’d be in deep doo doo.

Is someone assuming that North Korea could take the Space Shuttle, keep it, and then reverse engineer one of their own with its limited financial resources? The leadership there might be a bit unpredictable, but I doubt they would blow the whole GNP on one space ship just to tick the US off.

wduty, Please don’t spread the UL about Powers, he really didn’t have much in the way to commit suicide, and in truth it would have done no good even if he had. No poison capsule, no need, the U2 was untouchable unless it had to fly low…guess what, the reason the Russians were able to get the U2 was because it had engine trouble and couldn’t fly at normal altitude. As for Powers courage…please look at how he did die.

>>Being Chaotic Evil means never having to say your sorry…unless the other guy is bigger than you.<<

—The dragon observes

FYI, here’s Powers’ gravesite in Arlington.

I don’t think the US govt would let North Korea have their hands on something as technology advanced as the space shuttle. Not out of fear that North Korea would build a space shuttle but that they would use the technology to enhance their computer technology and more important their missile program! If it were absolutely totally impossible to land the craft safely anywhere else, they would destroy it probably by getting them to land in the ocean instead and hope that they could recover the shuttle later and in hopes that maybe the crew would survive.

According to the CNN report, Gemini 11 had a self destruct which Nasa triggered after it sank. One of the questions they hope the can answer by recovering it is :“Why didn’t it go boom?”
With regards to the technology, correct me if I’m wrong, but the shuttle aint exacty state of the art. Sure its a wonderful peice of spacecraft, but the computers and propulsion systems are pretty mature technology. That stealth that went down over serbia is another story.

If North Korea could use the computers on the shuttle to enhance their computer technology, either the computers on the shuttle have gotten a LOT better in the last few years or North Korea still thinks the 12 MHz PC/AT is pretty hot technology.

From what I understand, NASA built, tested, and certified the onboard computers back in the late 70s and early 80s. Updating them would mean rebuilding, retesting, recertifying… a big hassle, for no real clear benefit, since the existing ones are known to be able to get the job done.

I also recall hearing a few years ago that the HP handheld calculators carried by the astronauts were by far the most powerful computers on the shuttle.

No, but they would likely welcome a solid going-over by Chinese folks, and China might want a space shuttle. Of course, as has been stated, the shuttle isn’t really the most incredible tech prize these days. The computer tech issue is silly. If they want to reverse-engineer computer technology, they could always buy a Sun E10000 or a Cray. And I don’t think that North Korea could get anything out of the shuttle for missle technology that they couldn’t get more easily from China.

torq wrote:

Not since they started carrying laptop PCs on STS missions, they’re not.

Falcon, according to a site I found called “Current Locations of Manned Spacecraft”--, the Gemini 11 spacecraft is on display at the CA. Museum of Science & Industry in LA–Where did you hear otherwise? Just curious.
There used to be a person in the early days called the range safety officer, whose job was to monitor the launch phase & hit a destruct button if it looked like the rocket had decided to head, say, for Miami. Whether they still do for manned launches, I don’t know, but if they do, whatever they pay 'em,
its not enough!
–Alan Q

I could be wrong, but I think Falcon has confused Gemini 11 with the Mercury Program’s Liberty Bell 7. There was no self destruct device that I’ve heard of. The reason that it sunk was that the explosive bolts on the hatch went off prematurely. This capsule was just recently found, and NASA is curious about whether there was a mechanical malfunction or if astronaut Gus Grissom “screwed the pooch” and activated the device while in a state of panic.

They can’t really buy a Cray or Sun. There are laws about exporting that level of technology. Many sections of paperwork need to be filled out for non-US purchase of US computers above a certain level. In fact a recent problem has been that computers have gotten so powerful that even soem common desktop computers in the USA are to high-tech to export without permission. Also the Space Shuttle Endeavour was, I believe, built with some of the most powerful computers available at the time ( mid to late 80’s). At least they were significantly better than the ones aboard the other shuttles.

Are ya sure about that?

Kinda strange that they would have a Chinese domain that actually includes stats on the E10000 in Chinese then isn’t it?

On another note–
Notice that a Cray in South Korea is listed as the 78th most powerful computer in the world. (SGI T3Es are Crays)

What about the old USSR space shuttle? I saw it on an Omega poster of “Rockets of the World.” It said it dated to 1989 and was like the shuttle in every way except that it had two cowlings over the external boosters and was 1 meter shorter.

Cool, Space Shuttle questions! Here’s the scoop (simplified of course) on emergency abort modes.

The Shuttle can’t land in North Korea in the event of a problem, but here’s what it can do (at least in theory). These are roughly in order from early abort modes (used for problems early in the ascent) to late abort modes, and also in order from most to least dangerous:

[list=a][li]Return to Launch Site - Just what it says. This is used if a problem crops up early in the ascent. This gets the orbiter on the ground as soon as possible. If it works, anyway; it’s dangerous at best.[/li][li]Trans-Atlantic Abort - The shuttle has gotten high enough to abort to a landing site in Spain, Morocco, or… hmmm, forgot the other one, sorry. There are roughly 3 or 4 sites anyway. None are in North Korea. :-)[/li][li]Abort Once Around - The shuttle isn’t able to achieve orbit but does have enough oomph to orbit the earth once and land back in the USA. This is the earliest abort mode in which there is some degree of confidence.[/li][li]Abort to Orbit - The shuttle wasn’t able to make it to the planned orbit, but can get to some orbit while the situation is studied. This is the safest abort mode.[/list=a][/li]There are some others but most of the others involve the loss of of the orbiter, and crew survival is iffy at best.

One thing to note about this is that the earlier abort modes (RTLS and TLA especially) are very dangerous and complicated. During each phase of ascent, there is a complicated checklist that tells NASA exactly which degree of failure in which systems or combination of systems require which abort modes (like, loss of this much thrust in one main engine between X and Y seconds requires this-and-such abort mode). And if one of the early abort modes is invoked, there is a complicated series of steps taken to (hopefully) get the orbiter back in one piece by keeping it within its thermal and aerodynamic limits at all times, which is tricky in such unusual situations. So the Shuttle can’t really just abort to any old place off the cuff; it’s all very carefully scripted in advanced.

It’s pretty much anybody’s guess whether the earlier abort modes would actually work. Obviously they’ve never been tried, and they involve some highly unusual manoevers that involve a lot of risk to the orbiter. I think NASA just hopes that any loss of a major thrust system occurs late enough to achieve at least one orbit; that’s the safest thing to do.

Hope this was of interest to somebody…


HeadlessCow, I’m pretty certain that Endeavour’s computers are the same as the other shuttles. The reason is, they know that the original shuttles computers work, and do the job they are supposed to. It would have cost several hundred million dollars more to verify and certify any new computers for the shuttles control systems. Not to mention years of testing. They don’t just swap out systems, no matter what the spec might say, anything that goes into the air takes a huge amount of testing and work to be certified as flightsafe.

Now, some of the non-flight systems might be upgraded, ie. computers that aren’t actually used by the shuttle (such as the laptops.), but those are usually modules, and not integral to the shuttle really, it doesn’t need them. And even those have a certification proccess.

>>Being Chaotic Evil means never having to say your sorry…unless the other guy is bigger than you.<<

—The dragon observes