4 Non-Astronaut Professionals Needed In Space

May 10, 2011 at 9:13 am | Posted in Humor, Regular Feature, Science News | 4 Comments
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We have all heard of one famous astronaut or another in our lives. Whether it was Neil Armstrong’s first words on the moon or when that famous astronaut Tom Hanks uttered the classic line, “Houston, we have a problem”, on the Apollo 13 moon mission.  We have all looked up to and admired these brave men and women at one time or another.

Very famous. Not really an astronaut.

Today however, with the “space race” largely a thing of the past and an emphasis on international cooperation (and shared expense) the volume of people who wind up in space tends to dilute the fame aspect of being a modern day space man. These days astronauts come in over fifty flavors of nationalities, are represented by both genders, and in the case of Cady Coleman (I love her) can play a mean flute duet with rock legend Ian Anderson and still be pretty as a picture with her hair standing straight up in zero gravity. The one thing these people all have in common is that they all still have “the right stuff”. They are all still well heeled, well educated men and women. Some of the finest examples of dedication and integrity their respective nations have to offer.

The thing is, every so often something happens in space that requires people of a little more “blue collar” kind of background. Folks who grew up with zero advantage but know how to make things work anyway. People who won’t tend to over think the problem. The following are 4  non-astronaut professions that should be represented in the crew of the space station.

4.  A Plumber

What’s that now, a plumber in space? Absolutely. It would have come in mighty handy to have one spinning in circles up there with the crew of the International Space Station back on July 19TH 2009, when one of two toilets aboard the facility stopped working while the crew was engaged in what mission control called “delicate robotic work”. It seems a pump separator got flooded. That was the official explanation. It sounds like a fancy way of saying that the toilet stopped up but I try not to criticize.

Just-a jiggle-a the handle. You be-a fine.

Mission Control instructed the astronauts to put an “out of service” sign on the toilet until it was repaired. In the meanwhile, the space station’s compliment of six crewmen got to all share the one remaining commode. The task of repairing the uncooperative hopper fell to Belgian Frank De Winne and American Michael Barratt. who had to work well into the night. Mission Control finally instructed them to call it a day and repairs were finally completed the following morning.

This wasn’t the only time the space station latrine failed. In 2008 it broke down and was the only working unit at the time. Luckily the Space Shuttle Endeavor was docked with the station at the time and everyone was able to use the bathroom on board until repairs were made.

I would like to think that if NASA and the other world space agencies weren’t all hung up on shmancy degrees, mental acuity and physical fitness, that someone like the fellow pictured on the left might not have only been able to solve the problem by “bending the rod” as it were, but could also pull double duty by ensuring the International Space Station remain a “Koopa Free Zone” at all times.

3. Crane Operator

They don’t have cranes on the station but they do have two robotic arms that do a lot of the heavy lifting in …. umm…. zero gravity. (Makes more sense the less you think about it.) The robotic arms are known as the Mobile Servicing System (MSS), or referred to by its primary component Canadarm2. Officially known as the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS), it is self-relocatable and can move end-over-end to reach many parts of the Space Station in an inchworm-like movement. In this movement, it is limited only by the number of Power Data Grapple Fixtures (PDGFs) on the station. PDGFs located around the station provide power, data and video to the arm through its Latching End Effectors (LEEs). The arm can also travel the entire length of the space station truss using the Mobile Base System.

Probably not these guys though.

All that to say it’s a big fancy crane that moves stuff around outside the station. While this is an important and necessary function to the station, it seems like the sort of task they might be willing to let your average construction crane operator take a crack at. For that matter, most gamers these days would probably be as adept at moving large objects with a device they operate with a hand controller and using a graphical user interface than most astronauts, Not only that but the gamers can do it in full gravity and the lightless hope void of their mom’s basement well into their thirties. Take that mission specialists.

2. Pizza Delivery Guy

OK, I know this one is a stretch but you have to ask yourself two things. First of all, whenever you are away from home, what is one of the things you miss the most? Your local pizza shop, right? I just know a good pizza night on the ISS would do wonders for morale. It might not do wonders for those balky toilets though so it’s a good thing we are sending that plumber too.

Yeah how about that, this one is free too you jerks.

The other thing is the guarantee. I mean come on! You must have wondered at some point if the 30 minute guarantee was still good when the address is:

International Space Station
Destiny Module
High Earth Orbit

You would think it wasn’t but as a promotional thing it could be priceless.

Not only could we get the pizza delivery guys to make dinner in space a treat but it is almost certain they know where we could find all the gamers with the mutant seven fingered hands we would use as the robotic arm operators. I mean this idea just keeps getting better. Pass me the Xbox controller and another slice of pepperoni.

Last but not least:

1. Trash Men/Sanitation Workers

This guy may be most important of all. It seems that like everywhere else we silly humans go we have left our mark on Earth by encircling it in trash. Metal, fabric mesh and plastics comprise a layer of detritus around the planet so scary it nearly acts as a global defense system.

Yup, it's this bad.

We here on Earth have set up a tracking system, operated by the United States Air Force, designed to track objects in orbit larger that four centimeters in length. As of this moment nearly twenty thousand objects are continually tracked and data relayed on their whereabouts to the appropriate agencies.

There may however, be ten times as many objects smaller than four centimeter up there hurling around the planet at speeds between 17,000 and 25,000 miles an hour. Let’s put that in perspective, shall we? A four centimeter wide object is roughly 5 times as wide as a .50 caliber bullet, the largest bullet current used by the U.S. military. At a speed of 25,000 miles an hour an object would be moving roughly ten times faster than the bullet that killed Bin Laden. So basically we’ve encircled the planet in what amounts to gigantic, super high speed projectiles. No wonder no aliens have landed lately. They can’t find a parking spot without being shredded to ribbons!

And a lack of proper signage in space.

How did all that trash and debris get up there in the first place? Well besides our own slovenly nature as a species there is also the fact that we the simple primates of planet Earth didn’t always enjoy a global space faring community like we have in recent times. In fact, during the previously alluded to space race, it is entirely possible that we left junk up there intentionally just to get in the way of anyone else that might try to beat us to the latest space accomplishment that was the hot topic of the day. There was a time when it was just the U.S. and the Soviets running around up there and the emphasis was on the first anything we could launch. First chimp, dog, man, women, couple or Eskimo Astronaut were all major headlines.

"Now I'm just gettin' pissed off!"

In fact, according to a Space.com article, in February of 2009 an Iridium LLC satellite of U.S. origin, was involved in a massive collision with a Russian Cosmos 2251 Satellite approximately 490 miles above Serbia. The 25,000 mile an hour collision completely destroyed both satellites and resulted in over 500 pieces of additional debris that needs to be tracked as it hurtles around the planet.

Even that disaster was nothing compared to what the Chinese did in January of 2007. In order to test a missile they built that was designed to shoot down satellites in orbit, they intentionally targeted and destroyed one of their own. The test was a smashing success in that the missile shattered the target into over 2,500 new chunks of space trash that are now spinning around Earth at hyper-ballistic speeds.

So I guess the question becomes, who do we get to clean up this mess? It seems like every advanced nation on Earth is now up there dumping their trash and in space there are no retired Scottish grandfathers to wander around in cut off suit pants and wearing sandals with black socks, while holding a metal detector, to keep space clean like they do on the New England beaches.

We need some sanitation workers in space. We need NASA to build the first space vessel with a twelve ton hydraulic packing body and a 2,000 lbs per square inch hopper. Get a couple o’ guys in pressure suits to stand on the step at the back of the ship and hop off and load the trash. It seems like a dopey idea but so far it is the only idea on the table where as of this writing there are no projects in the works or proposals being considered to deal with this problem.

There is always this plan. What could go wrong?

So it’s time we get some blue collar guys up there to do the chores, bend the rods and do all the little jobs that would free up our astronauts to do the important work they do so well. Come on NASA!

by Revmacd with special help from CCF – for Roqoo Depot
All the best in Star Wars news.
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WISE Images

March 14, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Posted in Science News | Leave a comment
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WISE — Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer has captured some beautiful images.  The one to the left is of a star zipping through space.  You can see more of these images at the NASA website.

Posted by Synlah

Back To The Moon

March 8, 2011 at 11:43 am | Posted in Science News | Leave a comment
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With the first test Orion crew module shipped to Lockheed Martin’s Denver facilities for testing, the United States is inching closer to a return to the moon.  Looking very much like the old Apollo capsules, the Orion will be launched by the powerful Ares I rocket. 

The second stage of the Ares I harkens back to the historic Apollo missions.  It’s engine, the J-2X,  is a simplified version of the J-2, the powerful engine that propelled the Saturn rockets on the original moon missions.

Crew transportation to the International Space Station is set for 2014, with  moon missions to being in 2020.

You can read all about the future return to the moon here on NASA’s own site, and comment on our discussion forum

X-37B Space Plane Launched

March 6, 2011 at 8:03 pm | Posted in Science News | Leave a comment
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Sunday was the second launch of the Air Force’s space plane, the X-37B.  So far these are unmanned launches and officials are pretty quiet about it’s purpose as well as details on the aircraft, but we can all have fun speculating.

For the entire article read more here

Final Mission: Space Shuttle Discovery to Launch Today

February 24, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Posted in Science News, Television | Leave a comment
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“Discovery, you are free of all time traveling stowaways and clear to launch.”

As a child of the 70s and early 80s I kind of grew up with the space shuttle program. I remember seeing the first test flights from Cape Canaveral in 1977 and 1978 that were little more than hauling this giant brick with tiny wings up into the sky on the back of a larger aircraft and dropping it just to see if it could even be flown like a plane. It had the same appeal as watching auto racing in that you were hoping for a win but a spectacular crash would have been just as much fun to watch. Sadly we found out the hard way that when such a vehicle crashes, it’s less spectacle and more of a national tragedy.

It has been 56 years since the first X-15, the precursor to the Space Shuttle and the technology around which it was built, was first built and flown by American astronaut and space pioneer Neil Armstrong.  Today’s launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery closes the door on this fantastic and sometimes tragic fleet of ships that revolutionized space travel and captured the imagination of several generations.

The shuttle launches today at 4:30 PM EST. The launch will be carried live on C-Span. Check your local cable listings for channel and times.

You can discuss this entry on our boards by clicking here.

For more information on today’s shuttle launch and the history of the program I would direct you to this article from Space.com.

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