# Woops. Houston, we have a problem.

1. Nov 19, 2008

### Topher925

Saw this on on Yahoo this morning; http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081119/ap_on_sc/space_shuttle [Broken]

Are these people for real? How do you just let a big expensive bag of tools just float away. Have NASA engineers never heard of the amazing invention called the rope? This isn't the first time its happened either. I don't understand how this administration can put a person on the moon yet still make so many stupid mistakes.

Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
2. Nov 19, 2008

### Office_Shredder

Staff Emeritus
Did you even bother reading the article?

That's like, the third paragraph. And I'm not sure a grease gun and a putty knife can be described as "expensive".

Who is 'this administration'?

3. Nov 19, 2008

### mgb_phys

It is when it's a linear complaint sealing matrix distribution facilitation system

4. Nov 19, 2008

### turbo

A cheap tool becomes pretty valuable once you have lofted it into orbit.

5. Nov 19, 2008

Staff Emeritus
I know the astronaut in question quite well - I went to school with her - and can tell you that there is nobody I would trust more to handle a delicate job in difficult circumstances. Spaceflight is still not routine. I doubt very much you would have done any better.

6. Nov 19, 2008

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
I tend to agree that this is ridiculous. Yes, mistakes happen, but this one doesn't require the best minds in NASA to be avoided. I don't know if the astronaut is to blame, but it is certainly an embarrasing and pedestrian level failure of the system.

7. Nov 19, 2008

### Topher925

Yes I did. The fact that a tool bag can even some how become unteathered shows a serious flaw in the design. And it may have just been a tool resembling a butter knife but it was required to complete the repairs. Which in the end means more money and/or more man hours will be required to make that repair.

Thats nice. But I wasn't questioning the astronaut, but the idea of having a way to keep a tool bag where its suppose to be. Thanks for making it personal though.

BTW, I can disassemble a pencil strut on a dodge neon, upside down, with my eyes closed. How do you know I couldn't do any better?

8. Nov 20, 2008

Staff Emeritus
One thing that a career in experimental physics has taught me is that when you have a one-of-a-kind task, sometimes it doesn't work the way you think it will. Even if you've thought about it, practiced it, had the whole thing reviewed: sometimes you get surprised. Space exploration is still exploration - filled with these one-off tasks that have not yet become routine.

And I know you can't do it any better, because nobody could do it better.

9. Nov 20, 2008

### redargon

I want you on our next mission to space. I'm sure the dodge neon they have up there will definitely need professional attention. But, we'll let you do it with your eyes open, just to make sure it all goes to plan

If you make a tool bag that can't be untethered, then you have to have a specific space suit for every job you do, or a space suit that has all the tool bags permanently attached to it. Stuff fails, that's engineering for you. Whether it's human error or design failure, it's unavoidable after so many missions that nothing goes wrong.

10. Nov 20, 2008

I'm not sure if they have to be designed special for astronauts due to their gloves, but regardless, you do have to pay transportation costs, which are $10,000 a pound. That makes it pretty expensive to have them FedEx you new ones. 11. Nov 20, 2008 ### Redbelly98 Staff Emeritus No matter what the profession, mistakes are made. Doctors and hospitals will always need malpractice insurance, for example. 12. Nov 20, 2008 ### Topher925 I don't think you can compare the accidents in the medical field to those made in aerospace. The ISS has billions of dollars behind it along with thousands of some of the brightest minds this world has to offer. With all of the resources and labor put into the ISS, mistakes should be rare and relatively unheard of. The same can not be said for a surgeon leaving a sponge in a patient or prescribing the wrong subscription. This is not the first time a bag of tools have been lost in space. These mistakes are expensive, careless, and worst of all they keep repeating. 13. Nov 20, 2008 ### WarPhalange You're right. One only costs money, whereas the other costs human lives. And mistakes are still made by doctors. 14. Nov 20, 2008 ### cristo Staff Emeritus But this is human error. There is always going to be human regardless what you are doing or who is doing it. To think that the probability of such mistakes happening should be zero is naive at best. 15. Nov 20, 2008 ### FredGarvin I bet if that bag was from Coach she would have remembered it. Sorry. I couldn't resist. Right now it seems like a stupid mistake until a bag of tools travelling 17,000 MPH crashes into something. 16. Nov 20, 2008 ### mgb_phys 17. Nov 20, 2008 ### Redbelly98 Staff Emeritus Right on. Doctors are also pretty smart and get lots of training. I'd venture to say even more training than astronauts. Those wrong presciptions can and do cost lives, a lot higher stake than losing a bag of tools. 18. Nov 20, 2008 ### Topher925 When it comes to engineering such things as the ISS, EVERY error is human error. Obviously there will be mistakes as with every project. But mistakes such as this shouldn't be made, especially since it can be solved with$2 worth of Velcro.

True. But you don't have 600 doctors working with a single patient running up a \$3.4 billion dollar medical bill. If you did, I bet there would be little or no mistakes.

19. Nov 20, 2008

### BobG

Wow. The space spider's web has to be added to that video with the crack spider.

Too bad the lack of gravity makes such a mess of spiders' web making abilities. There goes one possible solution to dropping the tool bag.

20. Nov 20, 2008

### BobG

Anyone who thinks that human error can be eliminated is going to eventually create a disaster. The sensible solution is to figure out what to do after human error is committed (i.e. - make sure you have spare tools, etc.)

Even using that strategy, there's going to be a few tasks where recovery from an error is going to be impossible. These should be few, they're the "critical" tasks, and these should be the few tasks that a person knows so well that the odds of making an error become miniscule.

One of the reasons space missions are a high risk enterprise is that you're never going to simulate a space mission perfectly while on Earth. The only place to get the truly realistic conditions that provide the practice necessary to reduce the chances of error is on the mission itself.

Last edited: Nov 20, 2008