From the space shuttle to the Dragon Ship: What do astronauts worry about before launch?

According tomedia reports, space launches have not always been easy, just as SpaceX’s manned Dragon spacecraft was delayed during its first launch. If things didn’t go according to plan, what would it feel like to be an astronaut sitting in a rocket capsule?

From the space shuttle to the Dragon Ship: What do astronauts worry about before launch?

The space shuttle being launched

Mission expert Richard Mullin lies in the cockpit seat of the space shuttle Discovery on June 26, 1984. This will be the 12th flight of the space shuttle program and the first of its flights to Discovery and Mullen. The upgraded shuttle is like a brand new showroom, with the surface of everything glittering, with no scratches or signs of wear and tear, a brilliant display and a console that never seems to have been touched.

Richard Mullin, a veteran of 134 U.S. Air Force combat missions in Vietnam, was selected as one of the first “recruits” to the shuttle program. He has been trained for six years to complete the task. But before launch, he hardly slept and didn’t eat breakfast. He also took precautions and purchased three life insurance policies.

Due to a computer failure, the previous day’s launch was cancelled in the last 20 minutes of the countdown, and as time passed, all the staff were nervous. Only commander Hank Hartsfield has been on a space mission. Others, including Judith Resnik, the soon-to-be second American woman to go into space, have yet to receive a gold brooch that symbolizes the completion of her first space flight.

“There are two emotions in the cockpit that control me, ” Says Mullain, “one is fear, you do fear your life, but the other is infinite happiness, because flying into space is the pursuit of astronauts for a lifetime.” “

In his autobiography, Mullain reveals some funny and true information. He wrote honestly that if the shuttle exploded, he hoped the explosion would take place at an altitude of more than 50 miles so that he could die as an official astronaut (the United States will travel more than 50 miles above sea level as “astronaut”; the International Aviation Federation defines space travel more than 100 kilometers).

From the space shuttle to the Dragon Ship: What do astronauts worry about before launch?

Discovery was the first space shuttle to retire, pictured from WiKiMedia.

As the countdown enters the final 10 seconds, a thousand pounds of boosters are pouring into the rocket’s combustion chamber again, and Mullain’s heartbeat accelerates. At 6 o’clock, the engine began to roar violently; the bolts connecting the space shuttle Discovery to the launch pad were tightening.

Only two solid rocket boosters strapped to both sides of the rocket have not yet started, and once ignited, the launch mission has no turning back. The astronauts knew that if anything went wrong, the shuttle had no ejection seats or other escape methods that could throw them out of the fire.

“You’re going to have a fear factor because there’s no escape system available on the rocket, but you’re confident because a lot of people have done everything they can to make sure the machines are safe,” Mullain said.

Then the main alarm went off. Five kilometers away, the astronaut’s family was watching anxiously from the roof of the launch control center. There was a bright flash on the launch pad that appeared to be engulfed by flames.

In the cockpit, the vibration stops as the engine stops working. But what about solid rockets? If the solid rocket were ignited now, the space shuttle would be blown up.

“I don’t know how many seconds, but you can hear the bottom of the shuttle on fire (through the communication circuit),” Mullain said. “

The crew was told to stay still waiting for instructions as the launch control room worried that an invisible hydrogen flame might be burning from the side of the shuttle. The space shuttle was flooded with water. Eventually, the astronauts left the shuttle and returned to the ground. They were soaked and disgruntled, but they were careful not to appear in front of the camera. Obviously, they still have to be ready to fly again.

Mullain has been waiting for the flight for six years, and now he has to wait a little longer. It wasn’t until three months later, on August 30, that the space shuttle Discovery made its fourth attempt to launch, that Mullain et al. managed to leave Earth and make an eight-minute orbital flight.

“When the fixing bolts are disconnected and the solid rocket ignites, there is intense noise and vibration, ” Says Mullain, “and as the acceleration of gravity accumulates, things become more uncomfortable, and you feel the shock waves that occur when you break through the air violently.” Then, when the booster splits, everything becomes silent and unusually smooth. “

However, Discovery’s successful first flight was also a thrill. What the astronauts didn’t know was that two solid rocket boosters had begun to fail when they burned. The high temperature gas began to seep into the connection between the rocket’s sections, burning the rubber seals. In a few more minutes the booster will explode and destroy the space shuttle. Just 18 months later, during the launch of the space shuttle Challenger, seven astronauts were killed in the same failure, including Judith Resnick.

From the space shuttle to the Dragon Ship: What do astronauts worry about before launch?

SpaceX’s manned Dragon spacecraft was delayed on May 27 due to bad weather, followed by a successful launch on May 30

In 1988, while on a second mission, an accident exposed another flaw in the design of the space shuttle. Shortly after launch, the top of the front cone of one of the boosters fell off and crashed into the fuselage. The mission control center assured the astronauts in orbit that the problem was not great. However, after returning to the ground at the end of the mission, engineers were shocked by the severity of the damage. If the location of the front cone hit slightly different, Mullain and other crew members will die. In 2003, when the space shuttle Columbia returned to Earth, it exploded over Texas, killing seven astronauts, due to similar damage to the insulation.

It is envisaged that the space shuttle should be launched every few months, providing astronauts with regular access to orbit. The crash of challengers and Columbia showed that the launch was not routine, and that each launch amounted to an experimental test flight. The tragedies also reveal problems with NASA’s safety and management processes, many of which stem from the false assumption that the space shuttle system is fundamentally perfect.

Once in orbit, the shuttle is almost perfect on missions. In 1990, the space shuttle Discovery put the Hubble Space Telescope into planned orbit during the STS-31 voyage. The Space Eoin and Atlantis space shuttles then carried out maintenance missions to the Hubble telescope. The space shuttle has also created countless space for the first time in assembly and other missions on the International Space Station. However, the shuttle was strapped to a huge fuel tank and two solid boosters during launch, and if something went wrong, the astronauts were doomed to escape. This is a fatal design flaw that makes every launch dangerous.

On July 9, 2011, the space shuttle Atlantis carried out a mission to resupply the International Space Station, the shuttle’s last mission. On July 22 of that year, all u.S. space shuttles were officially retired. Nine years later, American astronauts completed another mission to launch from the U.S. mainland.

SpaceX’s manned Dragon spacecraft is very different from the space shuttle. In addition to futuristic touch screens and new structural materials, the spacecraft’s basic design dates back to the earliest space age. The manned capsule is set on top of a large multistage liquid-fueled rocket. Unlike the space shuttle, the Dragon and Falcon 9 rockets are much more rigorously tested. The escape system is at the heart of the design, and when a malfunction or explosion occurs, the crew capsule will be launched quickly by rocket.

However, the launch of the manned Dragon spacecraft could still be considered a test flight. Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, both “veterans” and former test pilots who have flown the shuttle, are well aware of the risks and frustrations of launch delays. Fortunately, their spacecraft eventually docked with the International Space Station, and the two joined the station’s other Russian and American astronauts.

“I know it’s more comfortable to be in the Dragon capsule on a Falcon rocket,” Mullen said. “

In 1990, Mullen completed his last mission and retired from NASA shortly thereafter. However, he hopes to return to the cockpit and experience the fear and “infinite happiness” of the launch again. “I really envy those guys on this flight!” Mullain said.

From the space shuttle to the Dragon Ship: What do astronauts worry about before launch?