Video of a Tour around STS-120/ISS
November 2, 2007 8:15 PM   Subscribe

A tour around Discovery STS-120 and the International Space Station with Paolo Nespoli and Dr. Scott Parazynski. Tomorrow, Parazynski will be perched at the end of a robot arm and sensor boom assembly, stitching up a damaged solar array in what might be one of the riskiest EVAs since Skylab 2.
posted by brownpau (29 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Why is it the 'riskiest' EVA, and not the 'boldest'? Is this somehow not newsworthy unless it incites some kind of fear?
posted by Osmanthus at 8:27 PM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

That's kind of a jerky thing to say.
posted by brownpau at 8:34 PM on November 2, 2007

Nice post. I wasn't quite sure what a "beta angle" was, so I asked NASA.
posted by Mblue at 8:43 PM on November 2, 2007

brownpau: did you take that personally? I see that the term is from a USA today article you linked to, and I was asking a question about their choice of perspective.
The answer, I think, is that when journalists and editor choose to tell a story, they pick a spin for that story in order to make it grab the reader's attention and be more interesting. The zeitgeist of America today is fear. The media is permeated with fearmongering: terrorists,Iranian nukes, global warming, etc etc.
We've been so inundated with fear-based propaganda even a story about new frontiers in space is presented as something to wring our hands about.
I think its a sad commentary on the state of our society.
posted by Osmanthus at 9:04 PM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

So, exciting space stuff, right? Is what this thread is about. I think.
posted by cortex at 9:11 PM on November 2, 2007

I look upon Osmanthus's works and despair.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:14 PM on November 2, 2007 [2 favorites]

Naw. I thought it was about a cool video of the shuttle and ISS but I guess what this thread is really about is how the damn conservative media are using words like "risk" not to describe actual spacewalk risks, but to instill fear in the general populace. FEAR! OF! SPACE!
posted by brownpau at 9:15 PM on November 2, 2007

Well, it is full of terrible secrets.
posted by cortex at 9:24 PM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Do not listen to cortex. He is malfunctioning. Pushing will protect you.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:28 PM on November 2, 2007

So, exciting space stuff, right? Is what this thread is about. I think.

About stuff, so? Right, this exciting thread is what space is I think.

English teacher same.
posted by Mblue at 9:28 PM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Someday, we will arrive at the International Space Station using a space elevator, suspended by a cable or tape made of carbon nanotubes.

Some will attempt to expedite this process by jumping.
posted by Tube at 9:43 PM on November 2, 2007 [2 favorites]

Wow, that first video is awesome. Thanks.
posted by BeerFilter at 9:53 PM on November 2, 2007

The ISS is bigger than I thought. That was a very cool video.
posted by pombe at 10:47 PM on November 2, 2007

What struck me most about that video was first, how it seemed to be almost crowded up there with the shuttle crew added to the ISS crew- unless he passed the same people multiple times- and how cool it is that there can me that many people up there at once.

Second impression - there's an awful maze of twisty passages, all alike- somewhat claustrophobic and cluttered with *stuff* encroaching from the sides. And what's the deal with the ductwork- it looks like the movie Brazil, for cripes sake.
posted by pjern at 11:57 PM on November 2, 2007

I still want to be an astronaut when I grow up. Awesome post!
posted by chillmost at 3:18 AM on November 3, 2007

Why is it the 'riskiest' EVA, and not the 'boldest'? Is this somehow not newsworthy unless it incites some kind of fear?

That is exactly what I thought when I heard the news report on the radio yesterday. Makes me wish we still had a real space exploration program bold enough to truly incite inspire fear.
posted by fairmettle at 3:19 AM on November 3, 2007

Speaking as someone in the 'biz (the only reason I'm up at this ungodly hour on a Saturday is because I'm at work for the solar array EVA), they (the media) only like us when they think something might blow up. NASA's version of "risk" and the public's version of "risk" are two very, very different things. Typically when NASA says it's "risky," it's of the "possible, not probable" variety. This doesn't translate to mass media very well, unfortunately, and we end up with the inevitable "NASA TO KILL ASTRONAUTS AND PROBABLY PUPPIES" stories. Oh well.

And yes, the ISS is quite big- and it's not done yet. Folks I've talked to who have been there say that when there's only 3 people onboard (i.e. when a shuttle isn't there) you can go an entire day without seeing anyone. Lots 'o room. Neat.
posted by zap rowsdower at 4:22 AM on November 3, 2007 [3 favorites]

the ISS is quite big

I don't believe and will need to see it myself.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:08 AM on November 3, 2007

osmanthus, it's risky because Dr. P has to mess with a malfunctioning solar panel which carries enough current that an inadvertent move with a wrench could create a spark-gap that could damage his space suit. A dinged glove finger failing in vacuum could be a Very Bad Thing if you don't get back in a pressure environment tout-le-suite.
posted by pax digita at 6:19 AM on November 3, 2007

Brandon Blatcher: Hey, me too. I keep telling them I'd make a great astronaut, and they keep saying I need more "education" and "experience" and "brains" other BS. Stupid civil service.

(Geek aside: you actually can see the ISS from the ground. NASA's website- horrorshow that it is- will tell you when and where to look. If you've never seen it I highly recommend it- it's a very cool experience. Think Venus, but moving like a silent fighter jet)
posted by zap rowsdower at 7:16 AM on November 3, 2007

I went to High School with Scott.
posted by Brian B. at 8:27 AM on November 3, 2007

Damn, I wish videos like this were shown more often on general TV. There really is a wonderment factor as you see all these people, often of different races/nationalities/sex working together in a Scifi like environment.

That said, the astronauts could probably use a bit of TV coaching. The narrator kept referring to certain equipment and I kept thinking "wait, what is that?! and that!? what the hell are you talking about?!"

It would be totally cool if NASA had a weekly primetime half hour show on NBC or some such. "Maybe Madonna can fix that."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:40 AM on November 3, 2007

I'm a Floridian, and we have a channel that shows nothing but NASA stuff 24 hours a day.
posted by misha at 9:03 AM on November 3, 2007

Update: Successful repair and redeployment! Dr. P needs a ticker-tape parade. Zap, you're in HQ, right? Get on it.
posted by brownpau at 9:32 AM on November 3, 2007

I am indeed at HQ, and Dr. P does deserve a parade, but if you let me plan it, it'll cost $30 billion dollars and be thrown in 2017. At the taxpayer's expense, of course.

I kid cause I love, NASA, really.
posted by zap rowsdower at 10:41 AM on November 3, 2007

Why do we need parades when we can send robots?
posted by mokolabs at 3:02 PM on November 3, 2007

Why is it the 'riskiest' EVA, and not the 'boldest'? Is this somehow not newsworthy unless it incites some kind of fear?

Well, I suppose it's a legitimate question, but it really was a "risky" spacewalk even in spacewalk terms. This was an unplanned walk, for starters, which is always problematic. (Consider that the array was damaged during a long-planned and much-practiced maneuver.) They implemented a repair procedure worthy of Apollo 13 that the ground-based engineers spent a couple of sleepless nights kludging together. Then they were using the shuttle's inspection boom, a post-Columbia piece of equipment, which is normally attached to the orbiter's robotic arm -- only they attached it to the station's robotic arm instead, which had never been designed for let alone tested. The arm and boom do not have a compatible connector, so the arm had to grab the boom in the middle. The software for the arm had no routines for carrying the boom, so the operator will have to eyeball it, with an astronaut riding. The boom had a "tether" -- a footrest grip -- attached to it, to hold Parazynski, but he had to bolt it on there himself at the beginning of the spacewalk. Finally, they extended him up to the array -- a 45-minute trip at the cautious speeds they use -- where he interacted with a piece of mostly unshielded electrical equipment that generates household levels of electricity, and it's practically all made of metal. And a spacesuit comes with no small amount of metal itself.

It was risky for the equipment, because if the solar array is damaged, the mission schedule would be catty-wampus and it could have been a fix that would cost a few hundred million to put a new power source up there. It was risky for the robotic arms. It was risky for the spacesuits. Damage either and the remainder of the mission may be scuttled. And of course it was risky for Parazynski, the actual human being doing this rather dangerous work. If anything goes wrong and his suit experiences a power failure or an air leak, and he's got 30 minutes of riding on the boom before he even gets back near the shuttle, and another 30 to execute an airlock entry. I think there was some period of traversing the outside of the ISS in there as well.

I don't know about you, but I think that merits "riskiest". But go on thinking of everything as hype if it makes you feel better. Me, I'm impressed as hell. This is definitely one for the books.
posted by dhartung at 6:47 PM on November 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Why do we need parades when we can send robots?

I've given this some of thought over the years, as it seems to be the "I don't own a television" statement of the space geek crowd.

My usual thought is: Robots have their place: They can do the distances humans can't and the missions that are just too dangerous. No one on this planet or any other is more excited than I about the Mars Rover missions and their greater-than-expected missions. I'd love to see more of them, especially if they are more affordable than human missions.

But, we need to go.

If all we'd ever done is place robots on the moon, we'd not have the same concept about the moon today. Humans need to expand their reach.

I want to go to Mars. Or I at least want to read about someone of my species being there and what they feel.

Bringing it back down to Earth... If I can't go to Florence and drink Brunello di Montalcino, I'd at least like to be able to read about someone who did and what they experienced, rather than a robot telling me the temperature there in Celsius and pH of said Brunello.
posted by OneOliveShort at 2:55 AM on November 4, 2007

This has got to be fake. Since when are astronauts so doughy?
posted by DenOfSizer at 4:30 PM on November 4, 2007

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