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Monday, June 19, 2006

NASA Dismisses Concerns about Foam Panels on Columbia Discovery, Plans Launch

Posted by on June 19 at 10:50 AM

This sounds familiar:

NASA officials (the head safety officer and chief engineer on the space agency’s shuttle-management team) express concern that there is a “relatively high” likelihood that foam panels on the space shuttle might break off upon launching and present a hazard to the shuttle, but were outvoted by “other members of the [shuttle] management team,” clearing the way for NASA to launch Discovery on July 1. The Bush-appointed head of NASA, Dr. Michael Griffin, acknowledged his colleagues’ concerns, but said, “We have elected to take the risk.”


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At some point, risk-management necessitates SOME risk has to be acceptible; whether or not this threshold has been reached here, is onlny for NASA management to ultimately decide.

After all, this is space travel we're talking about here, not walking across a quiet residential street. Some level of risk is inherent in the nature of the activity itself; space is a dangerous place, and launching a spacecraft into orbit one of the most dangerous activites of all. As former Apollo and Space Shuttle astronaut John Young once put it, "Anyone who sits on top of the largest hydrogen-oxygen fueled system in the world; knowing they're going to light the bottom- and doesn't get a little worried- does not fully understand the situation."

Wow. Déjà vu.

And I bet this guy has better credentials than the International Arabian Horse Association on his résumé.

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