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Control Centre - What are they up to?

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posted on Oct, 6 2005 @ 07:35 AM
So I've been messing about NASA's site today, and at some point it occurred to me that there's a whole lot of people looking after one "little space ship" in the Control room... You see it all the times in the movies and NASA pics...

Houston, Texas

Kennedy Space Centre

Now, I understand that shooting a billion dollar rocket into space is no easy task, and takes a bit more intelligence than two monkeys behind typewriters. BUT isn't most of it automated? I can understand that they needed this many people in the 60's...

So I found an explanation on NASA's site... Pretty convincing...

But think about it. 50 people on a team, three teams working about 9 hour shifts. In addition, there are many engineering people who support the mission in case there is a peculiar problem. Each team has a flight director and CAPCOM.

50+ people (100+ a day) to keep something in the sky that's automated in a hundred and one ways? Compare that to a flight controller at, say JFK airport. One flight controller controls a couple of airplanes going in and out.

From what I gather - most of these (NASA) guys are "controllers" - meaning they just check that everything is going ok. Is there really no computer strong/good enough to do all the controlling? Aren't most errors/accidents/problems - in any business - because of human error? Then why stick so many humans into this?
Do most of these guys actually do something all the time (monitoring all kinds of levels?) or are they just sitting there waiting for something to go wrong?

OK, given that these guys actually spend only 10% of their (career) time controlling an actual mission. 15% of the time they're training and 75% they're planning another mission.

And BTW - how much "control" do these guys have when something actually goes wrong?

Well, to me it feels a little bit excessive to have all these people sitting around to look at what's happening and that everything is going according to plan when everything has been planned years ahead, with every scenario in mind...?

This is probably what's making a mission so expensive. Not the spacecraft, but the (excessive?) human resources?

Just a thought.

posted on Oct, 6 2005 @ 08:03 AM
It all seems rational to me. 50 people on the floor per shift with 19 "workstations" means there's approximately 2.6 people working a station at a time. It hardly seems excessive, aspecially considering how vital each station is. To me it sounds just about right. That's an expensive brick we're sending up, and we intend to bring it back in one piece, so we apply whatever resources and manpower necessary to be sure that happens, not to mention human lives are on the line and alot can go wrong.

There's alot involved with a shuttle, and as such there's alot to be monitored, configured, n such while in flight. You'd need alot of man power to do all that. That's why there's so many, and that's why computers can't do it all. The human brain is the best computer out there, so they're in charge of the actual computers crunching the numbers and reporting back through their GUIs. If something goes wrong, say a computer runs into an error, the humans will have to decide how to correct the problem, because obviously the computer doesn't know what to do. All it knows is what its been programmed to know, and if we haven't considered something yet, then it doesn't know we have to find the solution, then input that solution into the computer.

I mean, there's a million reasons out there why Mission Control isn't fully automated, and why such a large staff is required at all times. The most basic reason -- if something goes wrong, the people have to correct the problem, and in a timely manner. This is another instance where the technology is only as useful as the people who use it.

[edit on 10/6/2005 by SkyFox2]

posted on Oct, 6 2005 @ 02:55 PM

50+ people (100+ a day) to keep something in the sky that's automated in a hundred and one ways? Compare that to a flight controller at, say JFK airport. One flight controller controls a couple of airplanes going in and out.

they are called "air traffic controllers", and its not just one person controlling a couple of planes. its a team of 7 to 10 controllers (in the tower...radar's a whole nother story), at any given time....20 or 30 a shift, backed up by supervisors, management, and a whole plethora of techs to insure all the equipment is working correctly, controlling somewhere in the vicinity of 100 aircraft an hour (again, thats just in the the radar environments, your talking about hundreds of aircraft an hour).

skyfox has done an excellent job of reflecting my opinion on the rest of your statements, so i'll leave it at what i've written.

posted on Oct, 6 2005 @ 04:27 PM
You can't automate chance. There are very few machines in the world that match the complexity of that entire system, and none carry the weight they do. I don't find it odd at all, rather amazing in fact that they've gotten the number down so low.

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