After Hours

Geek Trivia: The quibble of the week for Feb. 24, 2009

This week's quibble comes from the Feb. 17, 2009 edition of Geek Trivia, "Shuffling the (flight) deck." TechRepublic member mbaumli took issue with the notion that a mixed nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere on NASA spacecraft is a recent innovation.

If you uncover a questionable fact or debatable aspect of this week's Geek Trivia, just post it in the discussion area of the article. Every week, yours truly will choose the best quibble from our assembled masses and discuss it in a future edition of Geek Trivia.

This week's quibble comes from the Feb. 17, 2009 edition of Geek Trivia, "Shuffling the (flight) deck." TechRepublic member mbaumli took issue with the notion that a mixed nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere on NASA spacecraft is a recent innovation:

"This was a new technology to Apollo missions. Every Apollo mission after the cabin fire of Apollo 1 used the combo atmosphere. The great tragedy that ended in the loss of three of our greatest astronauts, two of which could be noted as the second American in space and the first American to space walk, was caused by the pressurized Oxygen Atmosphere. Every Apollo mission that followed used a 60/40 Atmosphere mix which reduced the flammability of the capsule contents."

TechRepublic member JohnMcGrew came to my defense, noting that the key word in the innovation description was in-flight:

"The mission started out with a 60/40 mix at launch, but then was gradually replaced with a near 100% oxygen once in orbit. Once gravity was out of the equation, a sustained fire was much less likely."

It is my understanding that new Orion and Altair vehicles will maintain a mixed atmosphere for the entire flight duration, decreasing the likelihood of fire even further. Thanks for the quibble, and keep them coming!

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About Jay Garmon

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

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