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Celebrating classic and modern Polynesian Pop

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I've never seen this before. I just had to pick up this paperback book because it has tikis on the cover and it sounds so weird.
Shuttle Down by Lee Correy circa 1981

I wasn't familiar with this one, but wow, talk about a product of its time:

the Space Shuttle Atlantis launches on a polar orbit flight from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California. During the launch, the main engines cut off prematurely and the Shuttle is forced to make an emergency landing on Rapa Nui, better known to most of the world as Easter Island.[2]

Landing is just the start of the problems for NASA, who now have to deal with the immense technological challenge of getting the Shuttle back home. Problems include lack of documents for the astronauts and shuttle, bringing in the crane that's used to lift the Shuttle onto the specially modified 747 that carries it, widening the runway to accommodate the 747, building turn-arounds on the runway so that it can turn and take off again, bringing in fuel for the plane and many, many other problems.

VANDERBERG for crying out loud! Not many folks remember the shuttles were planned to launch from there into polar orbits (Cold War stuffs). And in the book, the Soviets were trying to steal the wayward shuttle as well. Sounds similar to a spate to espionage/technothrillers that were popular at the time.

This was a real plan back in the early days of the shuttle program. I’m heading for the island next spring!! I’m as big a fan of the space program as I am of Tiki so it’s a double win in my book.


Just like the TAL sites for the KSC-based launches, the landing runways were primarily to save the crew. NASA never did really solve the logistics behind getting a shuttle back from the TAL sites. You would have to disassemble, ship and re-assemble a MDM (mate/de-mate) structure to get it on the 747 in the first place. And then all the TAL sites were beyond the range of the fully-loaded 747. There were 747s that were modified for in-flight refueling, but NASA never made the modifications to their ferry aircraft and they certainly didn't test refueling with a shuttle sitting atop the plane!

Then you have to factor in the weather. Very often, the ferry flights back from California were often detoured to Texas or other locations due to bad weather. A trans-oceanic flight would have no margin for weather issues.

A boat was the next obvious solution, but the issues around getting the shuttle to an actual port and loading/off-loading were never actually addressed as well.

I had a friend who was in charge of setting up the MSBLS (microwave scanning beam landing system) for the TAL sites and he admitted there was a lot of "we'll deal with it when it happens" surrounding the whole thing.

And don't even get me started on the hand-waving surrounding the whole RTLS (return to launch site) protocol!

[ Edited by: TikiHardBop 2019-05-11 09:37 ]

Growing up on the Space Coast, I remember reading the novel and that it created something a stir in the local area. I found this thread that covers some of the background of the author as well as some of the technical hurdles around getting a shuttle back from a TAL site:



On 2019-05-10 16:30, 8FT Tiki wrote:
I've never seen this before. I just had to pick up this paperback book because it has tikis on the cover and it sounds so weird.
Shuttle Down by Lee Correy circa 1981

Cool how the cover illo traces directly to Aku Aku - it's like recognizing old friends!

(Images taken from online sources, since I'm much lazier than the illustrator was!)


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