Watch the movie “Apollo 13” today, and pay attention to the technology. Pay attention to what they say. “It wasn’t a miracle, we just decided to go.” A simple statement that seems to sum up NASA’s drive and a quick back and forth during a press conference that seems to sum up NASA’s character: “What about their carbon dioxide levels?” “Their rising” “So they are in danger of dying?” “That’s not what he said, he said we are working on it.” Amazing words that seem so simple, but when you watch the team of engineers fix the carbon dioxide problem based on two differently shaped air filters by using a sock, a piece of cardstock, duct tape, a bag, and a hose within a matter of hours, it seems to make those simple words bridge the gap between impossible and incredible. That was back in 1970, and between now and then NASA has faced its challenges (no pun intended) especially recently, but as usual, they are still hard at work designing the future as they say goodbye to the past.
Why are they saying goodbye to the past?
After the Apollo missions, the shuttles were designed to glide safely to the ground and land like a plane instead of falling into the ocean. Remember, how after the shuttles landed, they then would be hoisted onto a jumbo jet and flown to NASA, where it would be refurbished for the next mission? Well the hoist was built specifically for that purpose. It was a crane system that could lift roughly 120 tons called a Mate-Demate Device built in 1976. It is in good working condition, but the shuttles have all been decommissioned, taken to their final displaying destinations and will no longer need to be placed lifted for any reason. It has been sitting idle for several years, probably with the hopes that there will be a use for it, but it has finally been decommissioned like the shuttles it used to lift. Some parts of it may go to museums, but most of it, being made of steel, will be recycled for other uses, and another piece of NASA’s past becomes history seen in pieces or pictures in books.
What is new in NASA’s design towards the future?
To most of the general population, the missions to asteroids and Mars are simply conjecture, but as several blogs we have posted, it is being constantly worked on. Although it will probably not be generally believed until it actually happens, there is even more progress being made, only this time it’s not just continuing the building of what has been designed, it is designing something entirely new to make getting off the ground more practical – literally. The size of the entire ship for these missions are incredibly larger than previous rockets, so the thrust to get this rocket off the ground is going to have to be all the more powerful… and with power comes noise. There is only so far away and so much sound proofing ground control can do, so NASA, with several other companies’ engineers, have created a water-based “sound suppression system”. Using four liquid engines and water delivery system to reduce the vibrations during liftoff causes the sound from the main solid engines to be dramatically reduced. Precise to-scale models have been tested since January of this year, the 34th test last week in Alabama, and they hope to have the system perfected with the completed tests by the end of the summer. One more step towards another giant leap.