Shuttle Down stories

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James Nicoll

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Feb 5, 2003, 10:32:34 AM2/5/03
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What's odd about most of the stories I can recall about
shuttle and other re-entry vehicle mishaps is that in fiction
the accidents are very survivable by the standards of the airplane
industry. I think it's _Encounter With Tiber_ that has most of the
astronauts surviving an abort using an escape system that at least
one of the authors probably knew was a bit dodgy. Certainly untested
at the moment, since testing it would likely be very hard on the
shuttle and harder on the humans (It involves open hatches at high
speeds, and sliding down a long guidence tube to avoid getting
clipped by the shuttle on the way out. Better than nothing, I guess).

The one example I can think of where an incident like
the one this weekend ended in much the same was Clarke's "Death
and the Senator", which differed from Columbia in that the process
as experienced from inside the RV was much slower and voice telemetery
was not lost until later in the process, which gave the senator
an exceeding unpleasant tape to use as ammunition to get the US
crewed space program cancelled (But only the US one...). I'd suspect
Clarke was drawing on the deaths of three cosmonauts in the 1970s
except I am fairly sure DatS predates that incident.


--
"Repress the urge to sprout wings or self-ignite!...This man's an
Episcopalian!...They have definite views."

Pibgorn Oct 31/02

Peter Meilinger

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Feb 5, 2003, 10:50:19 AM2/5/03
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James Nicoll <jdni...@panix.com> wrote:
> What's odd about most of the stories I can recall about
>shuttle and other re-entry vehicle mishaps is that in fiction
>the accidents are very survivable by the standards of the airplane
>industry. I think it's _Encounter With Tiber_ that has most of the
>astronauts surviving an abort using an escape system that at least
>one of the authors probably knew was a bit dodgy. Certainly untested
>at the moment, since testing it would likely be very hard on the
>shuttle and harder on the humans (It involves open hatches at high
>speeds, and sliding down a long guidence tube to avoid getting
>clipped by the shuttle on the way out. Better than nothing, I guess).

This reminds me of the end of the movie Space Cowboys. Spoiler space,
I guess...


Clint Eastwood, Donald Sutherland and James Garner are stuck trying
to land a crippled shuttle. A couple of younger astronauts have
been injured, and to give them a better chance of surviving they
eject them at high altitude with automatic parachutes or some
such. I don't remember what the stated odds of the injured crew
surviving were, but they were pretty low.

Clint managed to land the shuttle, of course. I don't remember
if the fate of the injured crew members was ever mentioned.

Pete

James Nicoll

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Feb 5, 2003, 10:58:31 AM2/5/03
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In article <b1rbrr$pn3$2...@news3.bu.edu>,

They almost certainly survived. I hope so because otherwise
the three space geezers have to explain to the government and the press
the thought processes that led them to push two unconscious men with whom
the geezers had had documented disagreements out of a functioning shuttle
to their deaths, which would undermine the triumphant tone of the resolution
of their part of the storyline.

The evidence that in that universe collisions are more forgiving
is shown in the Tommy Lee Jones sequence at the end of the film. If TLJ
can hit the Moon at 2.5 km/s or more and leave a photogenic corpse, two
unconscious cat's paws should be able to survive a mere (Mach 1+?)
parachute ride. Hell, Chuck Yeager could do it in his sleep while on
fire, I'm sure.

I liked Grumpy Old Spacemen, mind you, but it's clearly not set in
a world with our laws of physics.
James Nicoll

Peter Meilinger

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Feb 5, 2003, 11:51:16 AM2/5/03
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James Nicoll <jdni...@panix.com> wrote:
>In article <b1rbrr$pn3$2...@news3.bu.edu>,
>Peter Meilinger <mell...@bu.edu> wrote:

>>This reminds me of the end of the movie Space Cowboys. Spoiler space,
>>I guess...
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>

>>Clint managed to land the shuttle, of course. I don't remember
>>if the fate of the injured crew members was ever mentioned.

> They almost certainly survived. I hope so because otherwise
>the three space geezers have to explain to the government and the press
>the thought processes that led them to push two unconscious men with whom
>the geezers had had documented disagreements out of a functioning shuttle
>to their deaths, which would undermine the triumphant tone of the resolution
>of their part of the storyline.

I had that thought, too.

Reporter: "So you threw them out of the shuttle at 75,000 feet?"

Clint: "Well, yeah. It seemed better than leaving them onboard."

Reporter: "Onboard, where they would have landed perfectly safely
along with you folks?"

Clint: "Well..."

> The evidence that in that universe collisions are more forgiving
>is shown in the Tommy Lee Jones sequence at the end of the film. If TLJ
>can hit the Moon at 2.5 km/s or more and leave a photogenic corpse,

Photogenic corpse, hell. He survived the crash and managed to walk
or at least crawl to a nice spot for viewing the Earth as he waited
to die.

> two
>unconscious cat's paws should be able to survive a mere (Mach 1+?)
>parachute ride. Hell, Chuck Yeager could do it in his sleep while on
>fire, I'm sure.

True. But as the movie pointed out, these newfangled astronauts
aren't nearly as tough or cool as the old guard.



> I liked Grumpy Old Spacemen, mind you, but it's clearly not set in
>a world with our laws of physics.

Yeah. Suspension of disbelief was easy to manage, though, which is
all I ask.

Pete

Matt Ruff

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Feb 5, 2003, 1:00:10 PM2/5/03
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Peter Meilinger wrote:
>
> James Nicoll <jdni...@panix.com> wrote:
>
>> I liked Grumpy Old Spacemen, mind you, but it's clearly not set in
>> a world with our laws of physics.
>
> Yeah. Suspension of disbelief was easy to manage, though,

Well, you only get halfway to suspension of disbelief, and then its
gravity takes over...

-- M. Ruff

lal_truckee

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Feb 5, 2003, 1:07:21 PM2/5/03
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James Nicoll wrote:
> It involves open hatches at high
> speeds, and sliding down a long guidence tube to avoid getting
> clipped by the shuttle on the way out. Better than nothing, I guess

You do recognize that the pole escape was real - part of the original
escape design, after the separating crew capsule was discarded to save
weight?

James Nicoll

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Feb 5, 2003, 1:19:09 PM2/5/03
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In article <b1rjk3$15m8up$1...@ID-90251.news.dfncis.de>,
Yup. I just don't expect it to work very well. It's hard to
get people out of a moving shuttle safely, given that the shuttle's
stall speed is between 270 and 460 km/hr, if I am reading this faq
correctly (Shuttle lands at 375 km/hr so it looks to me like that's
the right range because I assume if they could land at slower speeds
they would). For comparison, most parachutists jump from airplanes
moving at 130-180 km/hr. The low end of shuttle stall speeds is up
around the record for jumping (300+ km/hr) so an escape system needs
to safely do under unfavourable conditions what is a record breaking
achievement for the people who do parachute jumping routinely.

James Nicoll

wth...@godzilla4.acpub.duke.edu

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Feb 5, 2003, 2:31:49 PM2/5/03
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jdni...@panix.com (James Nicoll) writes:

>
> The one example I can think of where an incident like
> the one this weekend ended in much the same was Clarke's "Death
> and the Senator", which differed from Columbia in that the process
> as experienced from inside the RV was much slower and voice telemetery
> was not lost until later in the process, which gave the senator
> an exceeding unpleasant tape to use as ammunition to get the US
> crewed space program cancelled (But only the US one...). I'd suspect
> Clarke was drawing on the deaths of three cosmonauts in the 1970s
> except I am fairly sure DatS predates that incident.

The story was first published in 1961, part of a
set of darker stories he wrote at that time ("Hate", for
example).

The crash was, IIRC, of the "X22", and dated I think
to the 1960s

It was set in the late 1970s - the senator's illness
disqualifies him for the 1980 presidential race, for
example.


William Hyde
EOS Department
Duke University

Cori

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Feb 5, 2003, 4:09:29 PM2/5/03
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This left me disillusioned, not so much in space exploration or the
shuttle program--perhaps I'm too trusting in that regard--but in
fictional versions. I was fascinated by the short-lived show "The
Cape." In one episode, several exterior tiles were lost or damaged
and an astronaut did a spacewalk with a sort of glue gun and pasted
new tiles on over the old. They were worried about them holding as he
had to leave on some of the old adhesive, but the shuttle landed with
nothing worse than a few sparks and maybe a scorch mark at the damaged
spot. On the news last night, Eugene Cernan, the last man on the
moon, was shown explaining why a space walk to repair damaged tiles
was impossible! And I thought that show was accurate and
well-researched! It was extremely good in explaining the importance
of the tiles. The news last night also explained that there was an
escape hatch and parachutes, but they were already in trouble at
40,000 feet and it was impossible to parachute from that altitude.
They didn't go into reasons, of which even a fairly ignorant
individual could doubtless name several.

Cori

Kerry Ferrand

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Feb 5, 2003, 5:48:50 PM2/5/03
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In article <b1rjk3$15m8up$1...@ID-90251.news.dfncis.de>,
lal_t...@yahoo.com says...
The Pole was only installed post-Challenger, part of the Rogers Commision
recommendations.

K

Dr. Fidelius

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Feb 5, 2003, 9:16:17 PM2/5/03
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James Nicholl wrote in <b1rkit$b9a$1...@panix2.panix.com>:

>In article <b1rjk3$15m8up$1...@ID-90251.news.dfncis.de>,
>lal_truckee <lal_t...@yahoo.com> wrote:
>>James Nicoll wrote:
>>> It involves open hatches at high
>>> speeds, and sliding down a long guidence tube to avoid getting
>>> clipped by the shuttle on the way out. Better than nothing, I guess
>>
>>You do recognize that the pole escape was real - part of the original
>>escape design, after the separating crew capsule was discarded to save
>>weight?
>>
> Yup. I just don't expect it to work very well. It's hard to
>get people out of a moving shuttle safely, given that the shuttle's
>stall speed is between 270 and 460 km/hr, if I am reading this faq
>correctly (Shuttle lands at 375 km/hr so it looks to me like that's
>the right range because I assume if they could land at slower speeds
>they would). For comparison, most parachutists jump from airplanes
>moving at 130-180 km/hr. The low end of shuttle stall speeds is up
>around the record for jumping (300+ km/hr) so an escape system needs
>to safely do under unfavourable conditions what is a record breaking
>achievement for the people who do parachute jumping routinely.

I am remembering another instance of the Escape Pole in fiction with bad
results. Probably a Dale Brown techno-thriller, pretty sure to have been
written since 1990.

The shuttle escape occurs early in the story, and the captain/pilot still
manages to wrestle the damaged bird to the ground. The fact that the captain
pushed his crew out to their deaths weighed heavily on his soul as he was
preparing for his next world-saving mission. Or something like that. I read
far too much of that crap to remember specifics.

If anyone can ID this I would appreciate it.


---
Dr. Fidelius, Charlatan
Curator of Anomalous Paleontology, Miskatonic University
You cannot reason a man out of a position he did not reach through reason.

---
quand vous retournez, apportez la tarte

William December Starr

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Feb 5, 2003, 9:55:56 PM2/5/03
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In article <b1rkit$b9a$1...@panix2.panix.com>,
jdni...@panix.com (James Nicoll) said:

> For comparison, most parachutists jump from airplanes moving at
> 130-180 km/hr. The low end of shuttle stall speeds is up around the
> record for jumping (300+ km/hr)

That low? Or are you differentiating between "jumping" and
"ejecting?" Because, intuititively (for all _that's_ worth) it seems
to me that there must have been higher-speed emergency ejections over
the course of military aviation history.

-- William December Starr <wds...@panix.com>

Alan Barclay

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Feb 5, 2003, 10:52:29 PM2/5/03
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In article <b1sirs$ouf$1...@panix3.panix.com>,

It seems to me that that is an important distinction.

If you jump out of an airplane then it's up to your muscle power
and gravity to get you out of the way before the plane reaches
where you are.

If you eject, then there is a power source, usually a rocket
motor, which performs that task for you. That means you
can get out the way faster, which in turn means that the
plane can be moving faster.

James Nicoll

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Feb 5, 2003, 11:47:01 PM2/5/03
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In article <b1sirs$ouf$1...@panix3.panix.com>,
William December Starr <wds...@panix.com> wrote:

That's for jumpers. Ejectors carry you farther and faster and
I think provide a little protection on the way out as well, not that
it wasn't possible in some jets to leave both legs behind on the way
out. Not sure what the record for ejecting is but I think it might
be above mach 1.

For mass reasons, an ejection system wasn't practical for the
shuttle. Too heavy.

Samuel Paik

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Feb 6, 2003, 12:56:15 AM2/6/03
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Kerry Ferrand <kfer...@rocketmail.com> wrote:
> lal_t...@yahoo.com says...

> > You do recognize that the pole escape was real - part of the original
> > escape design, after the separating crew capsule was discarded to save
> > weight?

> The Pole was only installed post-Challenger, part of the Rogers Commision
> recommendations.

Columbia did have ejection seats for the commander and pilot, which
were removed after the first [test] flight.

Sam

Joseph Nebus

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Feb 6, 2003, 1:24:42 AM2/6/03
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s...@paiks.org (Samuel Paik) writes:

>Columbia did have ejection seats for the commander and pilot, which
>were removed after the first [test] flight.

The ejection seats were there for the first four flights, all
tests, although they'd only have been useful if Columbia had gotten into
a stable and slow as possible flight. The seats were there, but were
disabled, for the first 'operational' flight -- this was the first flight
with four crew aboard. As the third and fourth crewmen couldn't eject
even in principle, they cast their lots together.

Joseph Nebus
------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Terrell Miller

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Feb 6, 2003, 9:12:21 AM2/6/03
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"Dr. Fidelius" <drfid...@aol.commoriom> wrote in message
news:20030205211617...@mb-mn.aol.com...

> I am remembering another instance of the Escape Pole in fiction with bad
> results. Probably a Dale Brown techno-thriller, pretty sure to have been
> written since 1990.
>
> The shuttle escape occurs early in the story, and the captain/pilot still
> manages to wrestle the damaged bird to the ground. The fact that the
captain
> pushed his crew out to their deaths weighed heavily on his soul as he was
> preparing for his next world-saving mission. Or something like that. I
read
> far too much of that crap to remember specifics.
>
> If anyone can ID this I would appreciate it.


probably Silver Tower, but don't quote me on that. I stopped reading Brown
when he got Higgins Syndrome (you read a book, three weeks later you're in
the bookstore reading the dust jacket to try to remember if this is the one
you just read).

--
Terrell Miller
mill...@bellsouth.net

Not making fuck-ups on the ground, is not an option. Humans fuck up,
period. Human institutions fuck up. Human processes intended to prevent
fuck-ups, fuck up. This cannot be avoided no matter how much time and
resources you expend in the effort, though NASA and the rest of the space
industry certainly try.

-John Schilling

John Schilling

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Feb 6, 2003, 3:00:17 PM2/6/03
to


There's three different things at work here.

Deliberately jumping out of airplanes, as by skydivers and paratroops,
tops out at ~300 km/h. Any faster, and you stand a chance of breaking
bones on the way out of the plane - and the rest of the skydiving
process really sucks if the bone you broke at the start was the skull
or neck.

Bailing out of wrecked airplanes allows for somewhat higher risks.
You definitely want to get the airspeed below ~300 km/h before you
jump, but if you are watching the wings of your Spitfire fluttering
gently a few thousand meters above, and the Channel a few thousand
meters below getting rapidly closer, that's not an option. Better
a chance of a broken neck now than the certainty of a broken everything
in a short while.

But as you approach 1000 km/h, the odds of dying while jumping out of
the airplane approach unity. I don't know what the record for a
successful manual bailout is, but a lot of people died trying to
jump clear of WWII fighters at modest airspeeds. Towards the end
of that conflict, we got the first ejection seats.

And ejecting is not the same as jumping, not even close. A gun or
rocket is used to propel you instantly clear of the aircraft,
and the seat itself serves as a metal exoskeleton to suppliment
the too-breakable endoskeleton. The best sorts include a bit of
aerodynamic protection as well, and automatically clamp down a full
restraint harness before firing the rocket.

Even so, ejecting above Mach 1 is a fifty-fifty proposition at best,
and using an ejection seat under any circumstances is somewhat dangerous.


The Shuttle design allows for ejection seats for the pilot and copilot,
and these were used on the first test flights. But you can't fit any
plausible ejection mechanism into the mid-deck, so once the Shuttle
started flying full crews, the two ejection seats went away. After
Challenger, popular demand required parachutes so the crew could jump
out, even though the shuttle can't travel slow enough for that to be
a safe option. The pole-and-harness kludge gives a chance of getting
out without breaking anything, but if you can fly the Shuttle well
enough to deploy the pole and take turns sliding out, you can fly it
well enough for a controlled crash that is probably safer than jumping.


--
*John Schilling * "Anything worth doing, *
*Member:AIAA,NRA,ACLU,SAS,LP * is worth doing for money" *
*Chief Scientist & General Partner * -13th Rule of Acquisition *
*White Elephant Research, LLC * "There is no substitute *
*schi...@spock.usc.edu * for success" *
*661-951-9107 or 661-275-6795 * -58th Rule of Acquisition *


Hobnob

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Feb 6, 2003, 3:17:20 PM2/6/03
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"Terrell Miller" <mill...@bellsouth.net> wrote in message news:<7Yt0a.23416$Bt1.9183@FE06>...

> "Dr. Fidelius" <drfid...@aol.commoriom> wrote in message
> news:20030205211617...@mb-mn.aol.com...
>
> > I am remembering another instance of the Escape Pole in fiction with bad
> > results. Probably a Dale Brown techno-thriller, pretty sure to have been
> > written since 1990.
> >
> > The shuttle escape occurs early in the story, and the captain/pilot still
> > manages to wrestle the damaged bird to the ground. The fact that the
> captain
> > pushed his crew out to their deaths weighed heavily on his soul as he was
> > preparing for his next world-saving mission. Or something like that. I
> read
> > far too much of that crap to remember specifics.
> >
> > If anyone can ID this I would appreciate it.
>
>
> probably Silver Tower, but don't quote me on that. I stopped reading Brown
> when he got Higgins Syndrome (you read a book, three weeks later you're in
> the bookstore reading the dust jacket to try to remember if this is the one
> you just read).
>

Don't think it's _Silver Tower_. Not much shuttle by-play in that, if
any.

I think something similar to the description happens at the beginning
of Stephen Baxter's _Titan_. Can't really remember if the details
match, though.

-- Hobnob

Samuel Paik

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Feb 6, 2003, 5:43:56 PM2/6/03
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neb...@rpi.edu (Joseph Nebus) wrote:
> s...@paiks.org (Samuel Paik) writes:
>
> >Columbia did have ejection seats for the commander and pilot, which
> >were removed after the first [test] flight.
>
> The ejection seats were there for the first four flights, all
> tests, although they'd only have been useful if Columbia had gotten into
> a stable and slow as possible flight. The seats were there, but were
> disabled, for the first 'operational' flight -- this was the first flight
> with four crew aboard. As the third and fourth crewmen couldn't eject
> even in principle, they cast their lots together.

This is what I get from working from memory instead of actually looking
stuff up.

Cheers
Sam

Niall McAuley

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Feb 7, 2003, 2:49:00 AM2/7/03
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"Hobnob" <hob...@nomates.org> wrote in message
news:36f8dc9.03020...@posting.google.com...

> I think something similar to the description happens at the beginning
> of Stephen Baxter's _Titan_.

I own a copy of _Titan_, but it's inside a block of vitrified nuclear waste
in a lead lined box inside a giant steel safe at the bottom of the Marianas
Trench, so I can't check.

Sorry.
--
Niall [real address ends in se, not es.invalid]


Dr. Fidelius

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Feb 6, 2003, 7:23:01 PM2/6/03
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Hobnob writed:

>I think something similar to the description happens at the beginning
>of Stephen Baxter's _Titan_. Can't really remember if the details
>match, though.

Couldn't be _Titan_. I have had all memories of that book burned from my
synapse. It never happened...

Chuk Goodin

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Feb 12, 2003, 4:16:26 PM2/12/03
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In article <0vC0a.8031$V6.1...@news.indigo.ie>,

Niall McAuley <gnmc...@eircom.ten.invalid> wrote:
>"Hobnob" <hob...@nomates.org> wrote in message
>news:36f8dc9.03020...@posting.google.com...
>> I think something similar to the description happens at the beginning
>> of Stephen Baxter's _Titan_.
>
>I own a copy of _Titan_, but it's inside a block of vitrified nuclear waste
>in a lead lined box inside a giant steel safe at the bottom of the Marianas
>Trench, so I can't check.
>
>Sorry.

_Titan_ is great.

--
chuk

Niall McAuley

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Feb 13, 2003, 2:19:55 AM2/13/03
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"Chuk Goodin" <cgo...@sfu.ca> wrote in message
news:b2edja$k5t$1...@morgoth.sfu.ca...
> _Titan_ is great.

I think I got a reflex. Charge to 300.

*Clear!*
--
Niall [real address ends in net, not ten.invalid]


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