• Question: What would happen if the space shuttle got lost in space?

    Asked by Charlotte :) to Simon, Julia, Delma, Andrew, Alex on 14 Dec 2015. This question was also asked by Holly, Lauren k.
    • Photo: Alexander Finch

      Alexander Finch answered on 14 Dec 2015:

      It’s pretty unlikely that a spacecraft would get lost! They have a lot of systems to work out where they are at any time – including GPS 🙂

      If the navigational computers did all fail though – the closest thing to being “lost” they could be, the mission would abort and they’d plan to come home. If the communications with mission control was still good, they could provide the instructions. Mission control would be able to track the spacecraft with radar so they’d know where it was all the time. They could guide it home.

      If there was no communications, the astronauts would still be able to fly home – if nothing else, my looking out of the window and seeing what they were over! From that they could guess where they were, and where they could land.

    • Photo: Simon Challis

      Simon Challis answered on 14 Dec 2015:

      Dear Charlotte,

      I agree with Alexs answer. What’s more….

      Every morning, the ISS crew receive landing site coordinates from the ground for their Soyuz return vehicles so that they could program them to take them home if they had to leave ISS in a hurry either due to an ISS emergency like fire or depress or because of a medical emergency. Luckily in the whole history of ISS this has never been necessary!

    • Photo: Delma Childers

      Delma Childers answered on 15 Dec 2015:

      To add on to what Alex was saying – the planetarium where I took astronomy used to do (or maybe still does) star navigation training for NASA astronauts. That way if computer navigation systems fail, they can still work out where they are and where they need to be based on star position and other landmarks. Kind of like this: