Monday, October 22, 2007

NASA clears shuttle for Launch, but probably shouldn't

What has happened to NASA? Once the pride of America, NASA is slowly becoming just another cluttered bureaucracy. 2007 has been a year of bad news for NASA. From employment strikes, crazy diaper wearing jealous lovers, hostage situations, the off the wall remarks of Administrator, Michael Griffin, who "doesn't believe Global Warming is a problem", Freakish hailstorms pelting the Shuttle, the JPL crew going into revolt over "background" checks, to one Shuttle 'near' disaster after another. In short, 2007 has been rough.

But according to NASA, all is well and the Shuttle will depart on STS 120, on schedule, carrying her "school bus sized" payload to the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday,
Managers wrapped up an unusually short review of launch preparations on Sunday, with no major technical issues to discuss, said LeRoy Cain, NASA's lead shuttle manager at the Florida spaceport.

"We have no issues, no constraints to launch," Cain told reporters. "We're ready to move forward to launch Tuesday morning." reuters
Not so fast..."NO ISSUES" Are you kidding? The Shuttle has three CRACKED heat shield panels. Remember the heat shield problems from the last mission?

Who believes the 'heat panels" need replacing?...A mere 50 percent of NASA's safety 'experts'...that's who
Half of NASA's engineering and safety experts had recommended the suspect wing panels be replaced. reuters
but, the remaining 50 percent...well,
NASA determined the risks of flying with the questionable wing panels were less than those already posed by many other critical shuttle systems.

"If we thought otherwise, we wouldn't be flying," Cain said.
NASA is counting on the in-flight scans to detect any damage to the shuttle's heat shield, which protects the ship during its return through Earth's atmosphere for landing.

Discovery's wings will face extra scrutiny to allay any lingering concerns that three of the carbon-composite panels on the wings may be slightly degraded.

Engineers using a new X-ray analysis technique warned managers that three of the 44 panels have tiny cracks in silicon-carbide coatings that cover the panels.
This sounds absolutely ridiculous to me. If there is a problem fix it now...While on Earth! Little 'issues' now will lead to a greater crisis later. What is it now...the last 3..4 Shuttle missions that have had problems with the 'insulating' foam and a faulty fuel line 'connection'? Why has NASA, the agency that used to have a plethora of redundancy built into their program, just gone lax? One reason...sub par 'contractors'

Related reading:

NASA won't disclose air safety survey 10/22/07
"How to Prevent Strikes and Revolts in Space. 1980 By L5 Director, Carolyn Henson
The magazine of the National Space Society, adAstra
National Space Society website

Same Players. Different Scandal.

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