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Disaster at Xichang

By Anatoly Zak
Air & Space magazine, February 2013

The main gate of the Xichang launch center, after the accident. American visitors saw hundreds of people gathered here before the launch. Chinese officials claimed they were evacuated in time.

In October 1994, Bruce Campbell, a safety specialist with Astrotech Space Operations, based near Cape Canaveral, Florida, boarded an airliner in the Chinese city of Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province. He was heading south to the town of Xichang, in the remote mountainous region of the country bordering Burma and Vietnam. Along with a small group of American engineers, Campbell was there to help prepare for the launch, still more than a year away, of an American-built Intelsat satellite on a Chinese rocket.

In the 1990s, U.S. satellite operators were still scrambling to buy rides on European and Chinese launchers following NASA’s decision to ban commercial payloads from the space shuttle in the wake of the 1986 Challenger accident. The Chinese government, determined to succeed in a competitive business, offered Western customers prices they could not refuse. So in 1992, the Intelsat consortium contracted—for a reported $56 million, about half the cost of a European Ariane launch—to send one of its seventh-generation communications satellites, Intelsat-708, into space on China’s still-untested Long March 3B rocket.

Like many of his colleagues, Campbell had the background for working on sophisticated Western technology in remote and unfamiliar places. Born on a U.S. military base in Germany, he had followed in his father’s footsteps by enlisting in the Army, where he trained as a medic. After leaving the Army he got into the aerospace business, where his medical background proved useful in helping to design safety protocols for hazardous operations with spacecraft, including handling toxic propellants.

Campbell, whose company was subcontracted at the time to the satellite builder Space Systems Loral, recalls that first trip to Xichang. After boarding a Chinese Y-7 turboprop airliner (a copy of the Soviet Antonov-24), he sat down next to a young Chinese man. From his window seat, the man kept looking at the landing gear; when it retracted shortly after takeoff, he smiled broadly. “You seem to be very happy,” Campbell said, pointing at the window. “Yes, we studied this landing gear in engineering school,” the man replied. Campbell’s new acquaintance explained that he worked for the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, which oversaw China’s Long March rockets. “Do you fly to Xichang often?” Campbell asked. “No,” the man replied. “It is too dangerous.” Squeezed between the mountains, the Xichang “airport” was actually a military runway housing a squadron of fighters guarding China’s southern border with Vietnam. To land in Xichang, civilian pilots had to perform a dangerous corkscrew maneuver, similar to the spiraling descent military pilots use in war zones.

quite a story...

Sample page from the new Superman Comic written by bigot Orson Scott Card

Wednesday Toon Roundup 4- The Rest







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Wednesday Toon Roundup 2- Pope Gone

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Woman Drank Herself to Death with Coca-Cola

A New Zealand woman's 2.2 gallon a day Coca-Cola habit was a major factor in her death, a coroner found Tuesday, urging the soft drink giant to put health warnings on its caffeinated products.

Natasha Harris, a 30-year-old mother of eight from Invercargill in southern New Zealand, drank huge amounts of the fizzy beverage for years before her death in February 2010, coroner David Crerar found.

He said Harris suffered from a number of health conditions which could be linked to the "extreme" amounts of Coke she downed, playing a role in the cardiac arrhythmia that finally killed her.

"I find that when all the available evidence is considered, were it not for the consumption of very large quantities of Coke by Natasha Harris, it is unlikely that she would have died when she died and how she died," he found.

Texas: DNA Test Leads to Freedom After 30 Years

A 58-year-old man who served nearly 30 years in prison on a murder conviction has been freed after DNA testing pointed to another man as the culprit. The convict, Randolph Arledge, was allowed to go free on Monday by a judge in Corsicana, about 50 miles southeast of Dallas.

Mr. Arledge was convicted in 1984 of stabbing Carolyn Armstrong more than 40 times and leaving her body on a dirt road. He was sentenced to 99 years. But prosecutors and Mr. Arledge’s lawyers with the Innocence Project agreed that he should be released after DNA tests on a hairnet found in Ms. Armstrong’s car turned up a near-perfect match for another man, who is still at large.

Judge James Lagomarsino agreed with the lawyers and will recommend to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that the conviction be formally overturned. Mr. Arledge also served a sentence for armed robbery during part of his time in prison.


Derf Toon- Not the Matrix we wanted

Slowpoke Toon- Gun nut or killer?

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