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  The most complex machine ever built...

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Author Topic:   The most complex machine ever built...

Posts: 344
From: Hudson, MA
Registered: Jul 2005

posted 10-22-2007 09:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul78zephyr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
At NASA's shuttle website, the banner states: "The space shuttle, the most complex machine ever built..."

I would have thought that the three stage Saturn V with its CSM/LM spacecraft would have held the honor of being "the most complex machine ever built...".

Opinions, please?



Posts: 4046
From: Geneva, Switzerland
Registered: May 2006

posted 10-23-2007 12:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I guess the complexity term comes from the fact that the Shuttle is a reusable vehicle (the SSME comes to mind) and is of a very different nature (winged vehicle) compared to "traditional" rockets, no matter how large they are. Just a thought.


Jay Chladek

Posts: 2211
From: Bellevue, NE, USA
Registered: Aug 2007

posted 10-23-2007 11:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Factor in the size of the orbiter and the number of moving parts vs. the Saturn V and it indeed is the most complex machine ever built by man that has flown in space and come back. The main reason being is that different parts of the Saturn V and Apollo are engineered to be single use items used at a specific time in the flight. In shuttle, only the ET gets jettisoned while the SRBs and orbiter get reused. The orbiter also does a lot more things then just act as a rocket booster, pressure vessel and docking platform (which is what the CSM does). But at the same time, the relative simplicity of Apollo vs. the complex nature of shuttle IMHO contributed to how well the Apollo spacecraft did during the manned program.


Posts: 1571
From: Atlanta, GA, USA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 10-29-2007 12:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Paul think of the software alone in the Shuttle versus the older spacecraft. Along with the multiple orbiter functions mentioned above the Space Shuttle certainly seems the most complex machine ever.

As magnificent as the Saturn was I think it's greatest claim to fame was it's 100% reliability record. In Neil Armstrong's JSC oral history he states something like "even at 99.999% perfect (the legendary three 9's strived for in quality control) there would have been thousands of failures. But there were not. There were not even hundreds of failures, there were a few tens of failures on each flight. That meant the vehicles were essentially perfectly assembled." It's amazing to me that the Saturns were designed and built by humans but were for all intents perfect machines.

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