Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Space Shuttle

The space shuttle has been a fantastic vehicle. It is unlike any other thing that we've ever built. Its capabilities have carried several hundred people into space.
Robert Crippen

The Space Shuttle Program by NASA, held from 1981 to 2011, was a defining programme that shaped human space endeavours for the last 30 years. Everyone, every kid is fascinated by the sight of the space shuttle that has dutifully brought humans up to the Mir Space Station, and subsequently the International Space Station to conduct scientific research, experiment long term living in space and providing the groundwork for future, deeper explorations.

On Thursday, our beloved club treasurer Yeang Ching, under her own initiative, offered to share with the club about the story of the space shuttle.


Pic shown is the orbiter #0 Enterprise, named after the legendary Star Wars spaceship. It is #0 because it is a prototype and it was never used for real space exploration. The first one to do so is Columbia instead.

Yeang Ching’s main topic is the materials used to build the space shuttle, which is very interesting on its own. Do you know which part of the Space Shuttle gets the hottest during atmospheric re-entry? And what are the few substances that are able to stand such crazy temperatures and are used to line the Space Shuttle’s Exterior? Do you know what are the names of the booster rockets attached to the Space Shuttle? Do you even know how many orbiters were there? She knew it all! :P

Ok well, first off here’s a chronology of what happens during each flight : File:Space shuttle mission profile.jpg

When people have asked if I'd like to go in the Shuttle, I said you don't get to fly it, except for landing, which I'd love to do. I wouldn't go unless I could command it.
Wally Schirra

The most dangerous part of the flight, other than liftoff, is the re-entry part where the orbiter can face temperatures of up to 3000 degrees! This is due to friction with the Earth’s atmosphere. Sorta like having your own mother killing you.

As you can see the whitest and hottest part is the edge of the wings. Special protections are applied to these areas so that the orbiter would not melt. There you go!


click for larger image

One of the more famous tiles are the High Temperature-Reusable Surface Insulation (HRSI) tiles which are black in colour and lines the bottom of the orbiter. In this pic a spot check is done on Discovery’s heat tiles while it was docked to the ISS. The tiles are not all black, the one with faded colours are the old tiles. 

Enclosed is a diagram of the materials for the HRSI tiles. Someone commented that it was oddly similar to mahjong tiles lol.

File:Space Shuttle (HRSI tile).png

I think the Space Shuttle is worth one billion dollars a launch. I think that it is worth two billion dollars for what it does. I think the Shuttle is worth it for the work it does.
Pete Conrad

Other than that, Yeang Ching has also presented on the launch system of the Space Shuttle!


In the pic, the orange big rockets is known as the External Fuel Tank, and the twin small rockets beside are the Solid Booster Rockets! The club members remembers this well as it cost them a free ice-cream, except for Daisuke! :D

Lastly, a talk on the thermal protection system of the Space Shuttle is not complete with the tragedy of the Columbia Orbiter in 2003. This was due to a heat tile that happened to dislodge during reentry and hit the shuttle’s left wing, causing a puncture and allowed hot gases from the reentry to enter the wing and disintegrate the wing from within, leading to eventual loss of control and breakup of the shuttle. Due to this incident, space shuttle was put on hold for two years, similar to the Challenger incident and improvements were made on the three remaining orbiters, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour.

That is all for Yeang Ching’s sharing session! Clap clap clap! And congrats to the winners of the quiz session, Priscilla, Daisuke, Yee Lin, Yi Kun and Chee Meng who won a free ice cream to be redeemed on the Oct 29th Sidewalk Astronomy Night!


Well then, see ya next meeting!

The Twilight Zone' wasn't around with the kids. They think going up in space is neat. Within their lifetime, there will be paying passengers on the shuttle.
Christa McAuliffe (teacher astronaut who perished on the Challenger incident)

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