Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Looking Back - Fault Cuts Short Space Shuttle Mission

On this day in 1997, the US space agency, Nasa, aborted the latest space shuttle flight and ordered its crew to return to Earth because of a defective fuel cell.
Nasa officials insist that the other two fuel cells are working normally and that the spacecraft and its crew of five men and two women are in no danger.
But after a day of intensive discussion, the decision was taken to bring Columbia back early, with touchdown at 1434 local time (1834 GMT) ,
The shuttle had been in orbit for just four days, out of a mission planned to last over two weeks.
Explosion risk
Tommy Holloway, manager of the US space shuttle programme, told a news conference the fault in the fuel cell meant the supercold liquid hydrogen and oxygen it uses to generate electricity might overheat and mix, causing a disastrous explosion.
"We have come to the conclusion that the conservative thing to do is to land the shuttle," he said. "We have learnt always to be conservative in issues of research."
There are three electricity generating units on board Columbia, providing the power to conduct planned experiments and also to make drinking water for the crew.
Each of them is made up of 96 cells, arranged in three 32-cell "substacks".
Almost immediately after lift-off on Friday, engineers noticed lower than expected power from one of the substacks in unit two.
Safety 'might be jeopardised'
The unit continued to weaken during the next 18 hours of the flight. It was feared that allowing it to continue deteriorating would seriously jeopardise the safety of those aboard.
Nasa is still haunted by the Challenger disaster more than 10 years ago, when the space shuttle exploded just after lift-off. All seven crew members died.
The Columbia crew was to have carried out an ambitious program of research. It included lighting controlled fires in space to see the effect of zero gravity on flame.
The shuttle also carried a greenhouse unit for plants to study the effect of weightlessness on growth.
The Columbia space shuttle is the oldest of the four shuttles in the fleet.
It has had problems with fuel cells before, causing an earlier mission in 1981 - only the second Nasa shuttle mission - to be cut short.
There has been only one other aborted shuttle mission, in 1991, when a navigation device developed a fault.

The aborted flight was relaunched on 1 July 1997 with the same crew of seven on board Columbia. This time the mission was carried out in full, landing on 17 July without mishap.
Columbia continued carrying out shuttle missions without a problem until February 2003, when disaster struck.
Right at the end of a routine mission, just as it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere 16 minutes before its scheduled landing, Columbia disintegrated, killing all seven astronauts on board.
An independent investigation confirmed initial suspicions that a piece of insulating foam from an external fuel tank which hit the shuttle's left wing as it took off was to blame.
The foam had damaged the shuttle's heat shield, causing it to break up on re-entry.
Shuttle flights have since been suspended. Nasa has set a target date to resume shuttle missions in May 2005, with stringent new safety procedures in place.
Discussions continue over how to replace the ageing fleet of space shuttles when they reach the end of their original design life in 2010.

A Matter Of Convenience

Especially for men who dribble!


An interesting article appeared on SkyNews last Thursday, regarding Pineberries (I must admit I had never heard of them) but despite being called 'freaky fruit' they do sound quite exotic, but a litttle expensive.

What looks like a strawberry, but is white and tastes like a pineapple? A pineberry, of course.

The freaky fruit is going on sale at selected Waitrose stores.
While the delicacy might look like a faded strawberry, it is said to have the exotic flavour and smell of a pineapple.
If the pineberry tantalises your tastebuds, you best be quick - they are only in season for the next five weeks.
The fruit, which has the same genetic make-up as the common strawberry, originated in South America where it grew wild.
It had been near to extinction until seven years ago when Dutch farmers saved it.
Now it is grown commercially in glasshouses, turning from green to white and is ripe when the seeds turn dark red.
Waitrose fruit buyer Nicki Baggott said: "Pineberries offer our customers the chance to add a new fruit into their diet and the berry's bright appearance can add an unusual decoration to sweet dishes.
"As the summer unfolds we won't be surprised to hear that our customers are inviting their friends over for pineberry pavlovas, punch or serving them up with yogurt for a lighter alternative."
:: A 125g punnet of pineberries will sell for £2.99 until April 13, and afterwards for £3.99.

Golf Can Sometimes Be A Very Dangerous Game

I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud

"I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" (also commonly known as "Daffodils" or "The Daffodils") is a poem by William Wordsworth (pictured).
It was inspired by an April 15, 1802 event in which Wordsworth and his sister, Dorothy, came across a "long belt" of daffodils. Written in 1804, it was first published in 1807 in Poems In Two Volumes, and a revised version was released in 1815, which is more commonly known. It consists of four six-line stanzas, in iambic tetrameter and an ABABCC rhyme scheme.
It is usually considered Wordsworth's most famous work. In the "Nation's Favourite Poems", a poll carried out by the BBC's Bookworm, "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" came fifth. Well known, and often anthologised, "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" is commonly seen as a classic of English romanticism within poetry, although the original version was poorly reviewed by Wordsworth's contemporaries.
The inspiration for the poem may have been a walk he took with his sister Dorothy around Glendale, near their house in the Lake District. It may also have been nearby Glencoyne Bay. Wordsworth would draw on this to compose "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" in 1804. Dorothy later wrote in reference to this walk:

When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow Park, we saw a few daffodils close to the water side. We fancied that the lake had floated the seed ashore and that the little colony had so sprung up. But as we went along there were more and more and at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road.I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake, they looked so gay ever dancing ever changing.This wind blew directly over the lake to them. There was here and there a little knot and a few stragglers a few yards higher up but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity and unity and life of that one busy highway. We rested again and again. The Bays were stormy, and we heard the waves at different distances and in the middle of the water like the sea.
– Dorothy Wordsworth, The Grasmere Journal , Thursday, 15 April 1802

The death of his brother, John, in 1805 had affected William strongly. However, the effect of his sister Dorothy was positive, and "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" is considered an example of the benefit of her presence. In this respect, "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" is like "Alice Fell", "The Beggars" and "The Butterfly". At the time of the poem, Wordsworth lived with his wife and sister at Dove Cottage, in Grasmere in England's Lake District. Life had returned to some normally for Wordsworth.
Lyrical Ballads, a series of poems by both himself and Samuel Taylor Colleridge, had been first published in 1798 and had started the romantic movement in England. It had brought Wordsworth and the other Lake poets into the poetic limelight. Wordsworth had published nothing new since the 1800 edition of Lyrical Ballads, and a new publication was eagerly awaited. Wordsworth had, however, gained some financial security by the 1805 publication of the fourth edition of Lyrical Ballads; it was the first from which he enjoyed the profits of copyright ownership. He decided to turn away from "The Recluse" and turn more attention to the expedient publication of Poems in Two Volumes, in which "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" would appear.
Composition and themes
The poem is 24 lines long, consisting of four six-line stanzas. Each stanza is formed by a quatrain, then a couplet, to form a sestet and a ABABCC rhyme scheme.The poem is written in iambic
tetrameter. The fourth- and third-last lines were not composed by Wordsworth, but by his wife, Mary. Wordsworth considered them the best lines of the whole poem. Like most works by Wordsworth, it is romantic in nature; the beauty of nature, unkempt by humanity, and a reconciliation of man with his environment, are two of the fundamental principles of the romantic movement within poetry. The poem is littered with emotionally strong words, such as "golden", "dancing" and "bliss".
The plot of the poem is simple. Wordsworth believed it "an elementary feeling and simple expression". The speaker is riding among the clouds, viewing a belt of daffodils, next to a lake whose beauty is overshadowed:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
and twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
in such a jocund company:
I gazed - and gazed - but little thought
what wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Original version
The version published in the 1807 Poems in Two Volumes ran:

I wandered lonely as a Cloud
That floats on high o'er Vales and Hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd
A host of dancing Daffodils;
Along the Lake, beneath the trees,
Ten thousand dancing in the breeze.
The waves beside them danced, but they
Outdid the sparkling waves in glee: -
A poet could not but be gay
In such a laughing company:
I gazed -- and gazed -- but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude,
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.

Wordsworth replaced "dancing" (4) with "golden"; "Along" (5) to "Beside"; and "Ten thousand" to "Fluttering and" to create the 1815 revision. He then added a stanza between the first and second, and altered "laughing" (10) to "jocund". The last stanza was left untouched.