Falling with style!
I like that, very nice words-man-ship.
It comes from the movie “Toy Story”. I will borrow a description from the web:
“Two of the main characters are Woody, a 1950s style cowboy action figure, and Buzz Lightyear, a spanking new spaceman action figure who comes into the playroom as a birthday gift to Andy, the little boy to whom the toys belong. Buzz has wings, and Buzz believes he can fly " to infinity, and beyond!". Woody is the naysayer. "You're a toy! Toys can't fly." So what does Buzz do. He dives into the emptiness, and through a series of 'coincidences', flies to another part of the room. Woody, staid, steady Woody, says That's not flying. That's falling...with style.”
YouTube video (not great quality):
But saying Apollo’s CM was “Falling with style”, yeah, I’ll take credit for that...
But back to the original topic. Sure the shuttle can fly and land on automatics, but again the weather requirements are very restrictive. Particularly the wind.
Crosswind, yes. Unlike airliners, they cannot even land in rain, or it will erode the tiles horribly, almost like sandblasting but with water drops (well, I think they could at least land safely, but at this point of the remaining schedule it would be impractical to replace the tiles to fly again).
The good thing is that they can choose when they come down, so if the weather and wind forecast is reasonable 45 to 50 minutes before the planned landing, they go for the de-orbit burn, and if the forecast is not good they can wave off and perhaps try one orbit later if the forecast was for a temporary problem. If that is bad, then they can try the next day for KSC, or if things are going to be bad at KSC for several days in a row, go for Edwards AFB in California. If crosswind might be an issue for the big primary runway at Edwards, they could also land on one of the “painted” runways on the dry lakebed, once of which would be of an acceptable crosswind vector, unless there is simply a hell of a windstorm going on.
I must admit that I have no been following too closely the most modern unmanned military aircraft regarding how they simply take off and land. I know they started out little more than oversized R/C model airplanes, with a TV camera onboard. But I had thought there have been a couple by now that are 100% automated, capable of taking off and landing all by themselves without a human to do it?
And of course the Russian “Buran” shuttle, on its one and only flight in 1989, was unmanned, landing by itself quite smoothly (I do not know what the winds were like).
Anyway, to really go back to the original question of this thread, about hacking, does it matter then if there are human pilots onboard or not? If someone hacked the shuttle’s computers, or ANY fly-by-wire aircraft, there is nothing that the pilots can do to save the aircraft if there is a virus screwing up the programming to make the elevators move down, or even an unintentional programming error that would have the same effect.
Or that B-2 bomber that crashed on takeoff a year ago. As with the shuttle, it is the epitome of an aircraft that has to use fly by wire, no direct “stick and cables” mechanical controls.A quote from the news:
“The crash was caused by distorted data in the aircraft's flight control computers, according to a report released Thursday. Air Force investigators blame the distortion on moisture in the system, which caused the computers to calculate the wrong airspeed.”
Of course the pilots were controlling the B-2, and the computers were converting their control inputs into the control surface moments to produce the desired flying response. But with the air sensors (I am not sure if those were some advanced angle of attack sensors of more like Pitot tubes, but I think AOA) screwed up, the computers were lacking the accurate feedback info they needed. And there was nothing the pilots could do other than what they did... eject.
Now, take that example of screwed up air data sensors and imagine someone hacking the system of other fly by wire aircraft to simulate bad data. Something that would not be noticeable on the ground. Or even something as classic as the ailerons being reversed. I cannot recall exactly which, but know of some British prototype airliner around 1940’s or 1950’s that crashed on takeoff because the ailerons were installed reversed, and somehow nobody ever realized it in ground testing (I have to admit to having had that happen with my R/C models a couple of times, due to using different models with different set-up requirements using the same transmitter).
- George Gassaway