About Science
Study reveals why the leopard got its spots
Allergy risk linked to time of first trimester
Hubble reveals furthest galaxy yet
Scientists confirm water from lunar probe
Researchers power up tiny batteries
Plants clean air better than expected
Haiti fault capable of another big quake
Japanese man joins growing genome ranks
NASA releases report into balloon crash
Tree's ability to soak up CO2 has limits
Ground coffee helps robot get a grip
Assassin bugs lure arachnid snack
Research reveals spring in ostrich's step
Lizard gender bends at altitude
Study suggests early primates out of Asia
Flamingos boost their colour to find a mate
Globular clusters more than one-off event
Ancient Africans first to use sharp tools
Grass could turn toxic waste into energy
Earth-like planets may be common
Natural born cell killers
Fingers spot typo ahead of the brain
Ecofriendly styrofoam from milk and clay
Study proves exercise boosts immune system

NASA releases report into balloon crash
NASA has released its findings from an investigation into the crash of a multi-million dollar balloon in Alice Springs earlier this year.

The organisation has identified "a flawed underlying assumption" about the safety of balloon launches as one of several key problems which led to the April incident, which almost killed several people watching the launch.

The space balloon was set to carry a gamma-ray telescope designed to look for distant galaxies from high in Earth's upper atmosphere.

But it broke free from the crane holding it during the launch.

"In the process of maneuvering the crane, the payload inadvertently broke free of the launch vehicle and was dragged by the wind-driven balloon through the airport fence and into an unoccupied vehicle that was owned by a public spectator," the report states.

"The spectator, who was photographing the launch attempt, was able to jump off the roof of his vehicle just prior to the collision.

"Other spectators were observed scrambling to avoid the payload."

No one was injured but in the moments after the crash, the report notes how further incorrect assumptions were made.

"Realising that a vehicle was hit and spectators were involved, the campaign manager did attempt to call emergency response personnel, but became confused between the United States '911' emergency number and the Australian [000] emergency number, and was unable to make the call," it states.

The report determined weather conditions were acceptable for launch and that there were no technical problems.

But it listed 25 causes, including insufficient risk analysis, government oversight and public safety issues.

It says staff failed to conduct rigorous hazard analysis and did not do enough to ensure the public stayed in safe areas.

It also found the restraint pin was not sufficiently lubricated on the payload and a secondary release mechanism did not exist.

"There is no question in our minds that balloon launches are fragile processes," says Michael Weiss of NASA's Mishap Investigation Board.

"The mishap board reviewed a large volume of information about the accident and conducted numerous interviews with eyewitnesses.

"But in the course of our investigation, we found surprisingly few documented procedures for balloon launches.

"No one considered the launch phase to be a potential hazard."

Researchers put spark into scramjets
Fish found making their own 'mozzie' nets
Japan confirms asteroid dust on outback probe
Genetech pioneer awarded science prize
Scientists capture anti-matter atoms
Study reveals Icelandic eruption build-up
Astronomers spot galactic intruder
Open-mouthed laughter appreciated most
Financial crisis causes dip in CO2 levels
Puberty genes linked to body fat
Face shields needed for combat: study
Organically-grown vegies not more nutritious
Bloodstains could give age away
Models show pterosaurs flew long, slow
Marsupial carnivores were underestimated
Massive black hole collision revealed
Jet-lag causes long term memory loss
Sunken tanks could detect secret nukes
Dino demise supersized the mammals
Binge drinking linked to heart disease
Cassini sniffs oxygen on Saturnian moon
Image shows echoes from before big bang
Research uncovers diamond's soft side
World warmer, but trends at odds: report
Humans caused megafauna demise: expert
The world: Four degrees warmer
Blood vessels show pollution, heart disease link
Young great whites don't have the bite
Dolphin social network good for calves
Is fish-oil Alzheimer snake-oil?
Cosmic rays trace Sun's journey through space
Marsupial mole mystery solved
Scientists warn of new polio virus strain
Oldest known stone axe found in Arnhem Land
Fly-by captures first comet photos
Dead quasar's ghostly glow reignites debate
Mum and Dad tell us how to wear our genes
New images expand solar flare knowledge
Experts urge caution on Snowy cloud seeding
First little Big Bangs created at CERN
Tarantulas help map the fear factor
Neanderthal brains developed differently
Whales showing more sun damage
Bush cricket has the biggest balls of all
Giant gamma bubbles found in Milky Way
Complex life possible earlier than first thought
Happiness evades wandering minds?
Cat lapping defies gravity
Physics unravels wet dog shake
Hubble captures rare galactic view
Early wrinkles no sign of an early grave
World's forests suffer from 'leakage'
Visit Statistics