Commentary: Connections - A Light Little Number; February 1999; Scientific American Magazine; by Burke; 2 Page(s)
I poured myself a glass of delicious Bordeaux recently before settling down to watch one of the more spectacular things you can see on the box these days. As I idly sipped, my eye fell on the number on the bottle label. A pleasant little vintage-not too big. The percentage alcohol by volume number was only 11.
Meanwhile the shuttle was lifting off, and I was, as ever, glued to my seat. I'm amazed by everything to do with the shuttle, but in particular the delicate way the pilot gets to position the 78-ton vehicle to within a half-degree so he can do orbital delivery runs or pickups if required. This is accomplished with the aid of 44 tiny jets all round the spaceship, some of which can produce as little as 24 pounds of thrust, thanks to morebang- for-your-buck hypergolic fuel, one part of which is stuff called hydrazine.