Tag Archive: Space Shuttle

Google Gagarin

It Was 50 Years Ago, Today

…when mankind left the gravitational confines of our Earth.

Google Gagarin

Google Gagarin

Yuri Gagarin

Yuri Gagarin

A poor boy from the steppes, Yuri Gagarin, simultaneously became the first man in space and the first man to leave Earth and orbit it completely.  (This is something that took NASA several steps before John Glenn finally emulated the feat).

While of humble background (like Jesus), his father was a carpenter (like Jesus) and his mother read voraciously (as Jesus knew the scriptures).  Obviously, Gagarin wasn’t Jesus, but he did die in his mid-thirties which parallels Jesus’s early death.

Gagarin Launch

Gagarin Launch

I was alive when Gagarin stunned the world by being shot into space.  I remember very few photos of the man or the event.  The West was naturally very embarrassed by being overshadowed by a dictator-led communist state.  Most scientists were just astonished.  Most politicians and the mainstream media were extremely alarmist in public (and fully actioned in private) because the inter-continental aspect of chucking a nuclear weapon sized piece of machinery aloft at the height of the cold war was paramount in their minds.

What struck me then and since was the fact that Gagarin always seemed to have a happy cheeriness about him.  When we now see his pre-flight pictures, his confidence is astounding, because remember, before the voyage, mankind had conflicting ideas about the very survivability for a man in the entirely hostile and unforgiving environment of space.  Some said that a man would die within half and hour from radiation….

Of course, the Soviet scientists had tested these theories with mammals (dogs & ape) and knew that even though the animals died on their space-flights (and were destined to die, by design), they knew that a man could survive the flight and if a return to Earth could be made, he’d live to see another day.  They’d also done a small step-by-step approach to their rocketry so even though the rocket was made primarily as an ICBM, its designer was actually more interested in getting men into space and had designed accordingly.  (see this article on Sergei Korolev and his space-flight dreams).

This, Gagarin duly did, by re-entering the atmosphere in his capsule and then, when the speed had sufficiently reduced, by opening his capsule and leaping from it to then descend on a conventional parachute.

Amazingly, this all worked, perfectly.

International Space Station

International Space Station

We now see the benefits of this early Soviet work because for the next few years, transport of people to the International Space Station (ISS) will be done by the Russian Soyuz spacecraft alone now that the NASA Space Shuttle is grounded for good.

The Soyuz is a direct descendant of Gagarin’s early capsule and the subsequent work and deaths of Soviet cosmonauts.  Later joint work with NASA and their own accidents and astronaut deaths have made the Soyuz platform very reliable, in space flight terms.  See this Wikipedia article for a full introduction to space-flight of all kinds.

Google Celebration

Google, characteristically, have celebrated Gagarin’s achievement (and that it was, make no mistake, he was a very, very, brave man), with a decorated main page which I’ve copied for posterity above.

Hooray For Gagarin.

So it was 50 years ago today.  An event that changed the world and our perception of it and ourselves  in the universe.

It’s only people some years older than myself who actually remember the previous world where people remained fixed to the planet and could only dream and wonder about the reality beyond.  For myself and folks younger than me, we can only to imagine what that world was like because we are part of the world that Gagarin’s bravery opened up for us..

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Technical Xenophobic BBC Air Crash Reports


You may not have noticed the co-incidence yesterday, but an Iranian aircraft crashed and the US Space Shuttle took off.  the co-incidence was in  the strange reporting that envelops such events.

Iranian Crash

Fly home, AF447

Fly home, AF447

This, as air crashes go, was pretty ordinary – something went wrong, it crashed, everyone died.  You’d expect some reasoned discussion, bearing in mind that one of the most modern and newest planes in the sky plummeted into the South Atlantic little over a month ago.

This is what the BBC said about it near the end of the piece:

The plane was built in Russia in 1987.

It was the third deadly crash of a Tupolev Tu-154 in Iran since 2002.

The BBC’s Jon Leyne says Iran’s civil and military air fleets are made up of elderly aircraft, in poor condition due to their age and lack of maintenance.

Since the Islamic revolution of 1979, trade embargoes by Western nations have forced Iran to buy mainly Russian-built planes to supplement an existing fleet of Boeings and other American and European models.

West v East technology

This is all well and good, but the deadly tone with an emphasis on old and/or Russian aircraft makes a bad taste in the mouth, does it not?…  Why?

A.  Because there’s very little technical difference between the Russian and Western aircraft.



Indeed, on the very day that the Shuttle takes off, I’m reminded of the technical superiority of Russian astronautics and space exploration.  While not putting a man on the moon,  they pragmatically put a robot there instead, paving the way for the robots we now have placed on Mars & Venus, etc.

They have a long and distinguished history of space “firsts”…  But the ultimate irony is that the much vaunted Space Shuttle has had very public catastrophic failures in the past and is soon to be retired.  And until the US gets a new launch vehicle, for the next 4-6 years they will be relying on the Russians to put men in space!

Actual Crashes

So much for balance!  The BBC article then continues in a box-out,


Feb 2006: Tupolev crashes in Tehran, kills 29 people – E
Dec 2005: C-130 military transport plane crashes near Tehran, kills 110 – W
Feb 2003: Iranian military transport plane crashes in south of country, kills all 276 on board – E
Dec 2002: Antonov 140 commuter plane crashes in central Iran, kills all 46 people on board – E
Feb 2002: Tupolev crashes in west Iran, kills all 199 on board – E

Looks bad doesn’t it?

A Russian airliner that crashed near a city in the Urals, killing all 88 people on board, caught fire in mid-air, reports say.  The Boeing-737-500, belonging to a branch of the national airline Aeroflot, was on a flight from Moscow to Perm, near the Ural mountains.   One witness said the blaze lit up the whole sky

A Russian airliner that crashed near a city in the Urals, killing all 88 people on board, caught fire in mid-air, reports say. The Boeing-737-500, belonging to a branch of the national airline Aeroflot, was on a flight from Moscow to Perm, near the Ural mountains. One witness said the blaze lit up the whole sky

Compare and contrast this to this little list of large plane crashes (from the BBC article, but as a link), and count the relative abundance of Eastern versus Western manufactured planes…..


15 July: A Caspian Airlines Tupolev plane crashes in the north of Iran en route to Armenia. All 168 passengers and crew are reported dead. – E

30 June: A Yemeni passenger plane, an Airbus 310, crashes in the Indian Ocean near the Comoros archipelago. Only one of the 153 people on board survives. – W

1 June: An Air France Airbus 330 travelling from Rio de Janeiro to Paris crashes into the Atlantic with 228 people on board. Search teams later recover some 50 bodies in the ocean. – W

20 May: An Indonesian army C-130 Hercules transport plane crashes into a village on eastern Java, killing at least 97 people. – W

6 April: An Indonesian army Fokker-27 crashes on landing near Bandung, West Java, killing 24 people. – W

25 February: A flight from Istanbul to Amsterdam crashes short of the runway at Schiphol international airport. Of the 135 people on board, nine are killed and at least 50 injured. – W

Forty-nine people were killed when a flight from Newark to Buffalo crashed in Clarence Center, a suburb of Buffalo, in New York state. One person was also killed on the ground.

Forty-nine people were killed when a flight from Newark to Buffalo crashed in Clarence Center, a suburb of Buffalo, in New York state. One person was also killed on the ground.

12 February: A passenger plane crashes into a house in Buffalo, New York, killing all 49 people on board and one person on the ground. – W

8 February: A passenger plane crashes into a river in the Brazilian state of Amazonas, killing 24 people, most of whom were from the same family. – W


14 September: A Boeing-737 crashes on landing near the central Russian city of Perm, killing all 88 passengers and crew members on board. – W

24 August: A passenger plane crashes shortly after take-off from Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek, killing 68 people.- W

20 August: A Spanair plane veers off the runway on take-off at Madrid’s Barajas airport, killing 154 people and injuring 18.- W

Wreckage of the Spanair MD82, 21 August 2008 [Pic: EFE]

Three days of mourning was declared after the Madrid air disaster

2 May: South Sudan’s defence minister is among 22 people killed after engine trouble causes a plane carrying a military delegation to crash about 400km (250 miles) west of Juba. -N/A

15 April: Some 40 people die when a DC-9 skids off the runway while attempting to take off in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo city of Goma during heavy rain, smashing through a wall and into a busy residential area.- W

24 January: Nineteen people die when a Polish Casa C-295M military transport plane crashes in the country’s north-west, carrying officials who had attended an air safety conference.- W


For 2008 to 2009, I make the totals, as reported by the BBC, 1 unknown, 12 (W)estern manufacture, 1 (E)astern manufacture.

Now do you see the technological xenophobia that I’m talking about?

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Space Shuttle to Stay Gassed Up?

I said in a post 5 days ago, that because the Space Shuttle is old and due to be retired, the USA was intending the Russians to take up the slack for 5 years of maintaining flights to the ISS (International Space Station) until the new rocket is ready.

I also said that in light of the currently worsening situation with Russia, Bush would have to do something or pass the buck.

Well it looks like I’m right.  The latest news on this front is Nasa ‘reviews shuttle shelf-life’ where a NASA chief is reconsidering his previous wish to cancel the Shuttle as planned.

None of this is at Bush’s instigation though.  (I bet he thought he could get away with it, if he thought that at all…)

Both US Presidential candidates were thinking of it and it was McCain (and other senators) who wrote a letter to Bush warning about the dangers of being trapped in the lurch by current events.

Personally I don’t give a toss about the ISS.  It’s a political gesture of unity (which is good) dressed up as scientific endeavour.  The science, ultimately, is about living in space for protracted periods with the ultimate goal of whizzing around and colonising the universe like Star Trek.

This is a complete abortion of an idea!  The plan is that if we fuck up the Earth too much – then we can always go somewhere else – and fuck that up too!  This is the logic of the mad house.  If we can’t look after one tiny world, then how are we going to manage on Mars or even more distant places?

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Bush Huffs and Puffs with Feigned Anger

US anger at Russian Georgia vote

The only thing going on here is that the Bush administration are still being outplayed, double footed and body swerved out of the game.  See my earlier post on the USS McFaul.

The lack of coherence in policy and the willingness for confrontation as an alternative to dialog as a means of shoring up their power base is the core of their problem.  This is all fuelled by their loathsome self-interest which transcends party, national and international boundaries.

They’re all going to end up like Thatcher.

As an aside, the International Space Station and all the American astronauts aboard will all have to be sent aloft and brought down by the Russians or Chinese because of the imminent retirement of the Space Shuttle and the hiatus with it’s replacement.

Q. I wonder how this fits in with Bush’s pose?

A. It doesn’t.  He’ll be well gone and it’ll be someone else who has to carry the can.

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Do the U.S. Military think we’re all stupid?


News today that the U.S. has blown up one of it’s dodgy spy satellites under the guise of “public safety”.  This BBC article, complete with stock photos and diagrams describes, with the words of “experts” how this “threat” to humanity has been safely disposed of…

Er.. right! Let’s look at this closely shall we…

Satellite and Hydrazine

Apparently, we are told it’s a blob weighing about 2.3 tonnes and about half of it would survive re-entry.  This is despite the fact that it’s chocka-bloc full of hydrazine, the rocket fuel (plus it’s un-named oxidiser).  Let’s check the chemical properties of hydrazine, say on Wikipedia.  Here’s a summary:

Appearance                  Colourless liquid
Density                 1.01 g/mL (liquid)
Melting point                  1 °C (274 K)
Boiling point                114 °C (387 K)
Flash point                37.78°C (closed cup)

As you can see the flash point is about human body temperature, and it’s lower than paraffin, diesel and jet fuel but higher than common petrol.  Apparently, they reckon that because the automatic systems are broken, the hydrazine is frozen solid and won’t ignite as it plummets in the inferno as the satellites drops down through the atmosphere.

This, of course, is in complete contradiction of the evidence before everyone’s eyes of the space shuttle which overheated a bit and then set light to the on-board positional fuel systems (hydrazine based!).  Representative articles on the OMS and RCS are here, here and here.  From these sites you’ll understand that the hydrazine will ignite upon contact with it’s oxidiser – no spark needed!

Space Shuttle Comparative Evidence

Let’s have a reminder of this as well as the way frozen rocket fuel reacts to overheating:

Challenger Blows Up!

Challenger Blows Up!

Second Shuttle Breaks Up

Second Shuttle Breaks Up

These are the two space shuttles blowing up.

One going up (which happened because the frozen fuel got hot from a rocket exhaust) and one coming down (which happened when a hot area formed on the machine’s external skin, burrowed through and then ripped the internal tanks apart, setting off the fuel – boom).

So someone is lying.  Rocket fuel either blows up quite readily as it’s an unstable substance – or it’s really stable and can withstand all sorts of rough handling including superheating and being mixed with hot sparky things as well as it’s design reactant.

Let’s also bear in mind that the space shuttle has an EMPTY weight of 68.5 tonnes and not much hit the ground intact.  That is, it’s at least 35 times as big as the satellite and yet the argument from the “expert” is that it needed shredding to ensure it entered the atmosphere in safe little pieces!

Let’s see the words of “space expert man”…

Professor Richard Crowther, a space debris expert with the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), said that if struck with the missile, about 25% of USA 193 is likely to survive the fall to Earth.

“The smaller the debris is the more likely you are to get burn-through. So if you fragment something before re-entry, less mass will survive to hit the Earth,” he told BBC News.

So he’s saying that the smaller the bits then the more likely they are to burn up.  Now the shuttles blew up into quite small pieces, the largest was about the size of the spy satellite and even they got frazzled.  The satellite is already that big, and once the heat gets through to the fuel and oxidiser then it’ll go boom – just the same as the shuttles did.  Also, remember that the shuttles are designed as load bearing aerodynamic structures, just like aeroplanes they can withstand tremendous forces.  The spy satellite on the other hand, is going to be just like all satellites; a twiggy looking box designed to keep the internal components in one place.  It’s not designed to withstand tonnes per square metre of pressure or bending forces.  It’s a egg box design in comparison to the space shuttle’s crash helmet design.  It’s going to break up and explode regardless.

Conclusion and Truth Revealed

NO!  If it looks like a lemon – it’s a lemon.  Call a spade a spade.

The reasons to blow up the satellite are twofold:

  • To make sure that the instrumental payload is destroyed so that it can’t be examined if it falls into the “wrong hands”
  • As a public display that the USA can shoot stuff down in space, just like China and Russia.  A warning shot across the bows, if you like, to prove, at least to the local citizenry, that the country still has an effect globally despite the public humiliation of failure in all recent conflicts and interventions that the US has instigated.

Public safety was never an issue.  They really don’t care about you!  Their past and current actions prove this is so!  If you’re an American, it’s a well-known fact that if you need help abroad, don’t go to the American embassy!  This is the complete opposite to what happens if you are a British subject/citizen…  And if they care that little about their fellow citizens, then what do you think their opinion is of the global public?  Get real folks.


It would probably be more correct to replace the words U.S. with either “Bush” or “CIA” as I’m sure most sensible Americans are completely aware of what’s going on.

Additional Addendum

Late today the US military did a big show for the world saying that they are pretty sure they “got the tank” using such cute science words as “spectrographic analysis shows that…” and such like.  The “show” was in a room with six people and a TV cameraman.  No doubt they were all carefully screened so as not to ask embarrassing questions.  Maybe they were just office staff from down the corridor. Whatever, it’s been a carefully planned and managed news “event” lasting nearly a month now, starting with a instigation of worry in people’s minds, then moving to the level of worry about a possible success in “the mission“, then a bit of pre-announcement tension, and then, just like in a blockbuster movie, the successful climax with an explosion. Gosh!

It’s still a smokescreen and it’s still just to make Americans feel “safe” and to ensure that the spy payload is well and truly melted.  Look at it this way:

Both the space shuttle and satellites use orbital and attitude adjustment rockets.  Usually, one of the reactants is hydrazine, stored in a tank.  The size of the tank is dependant on the power of the engine and how long it’s expected working life.  The question is;

Would they really make a fuel tank stronger in a simple satellite than they would in a re-usable, human carrying, highly public and publicity sensitive spacecraft?

If the answer is no, then it’s obvious that the story is hokum.  There would be no need for this farce and the tanks would disintegrate on re-entry.

If the answer is yes, then that tallies with other sentiments about the lack of care that the US government applies to the safety of it’s own citizens.

The only consistency in this whole ferago of twisted facts is the hydrazine.  It’s poisonous although it’s never killed anyone.  It’s also highly reactive and all it really wants to do is blow up!  It’s actually quite hard to stop it doing so!

As in hypnosis, instead of a watch, everyone is watching the tank.  The real story is elsewhere and as in hypnosis, the hypnotist has got everyone doing silly things.

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