This was my reply.
It's not the shuttle that was a mistake, so much as that NASA made many, many mistakes.
After we won the space race, NASA lost the largest reason for its existence. Like all bureaucratic institutions, it existed not so much to accomplish anything, but because all its members wanted to keep their jobs.
To keep NASA's funding, they had to keep justifying the existence of the agency. They had to emphasize the importance of the scientific studies (mostly not that important, and in very low volume), the importance of the continued space program for national morale (the first launch, yes, the 200th?), and the safety (...).
So they continually raised expectations, and had to keep fudging things to make sure no one ever found out how bad it was.
The shuttle was designed almost whole cloth as it was. It wasn't built and tested time and again piece by piece to make sure we knew how they functioned. Those pieces weren't integrated unit by unit and tested again.
This showed in the many problems they've always had in maintaining equipment. Eventually it showed in the Challenger explosion. It showed again two years ago with the Columbia.
As the equipment got older, it got worse. The engineers all knew it and kept reporting the increasing lack of safety. But when those reports hit management, they were unwelcome. In a single memo you find "the chance of seal failure is critically high" and lower down "seal failure is not a critical issue" (I paraphrase).
In the end, the mistake was in trusting a political entity with its own oversight. That's how we lost two shuttles.
Then I adjourned to the bathroom, where I keep magazines for companionship, and read an article in US News and World Report (7/18/05) on the then impending launch of the Discovery (happened 7/26) and what do I read?
|Excerpt From a Report on NASA Dumbassity:|
|Of the 15 changes that the Columbia Accident Invistigation Board recommended be checked off before another flight, NASA says it is sure of only 12. Stull uncentain is whether debris will fall from the external tank during launch, and the agency has not been able to replace the leading edge [of the wing] with stronger materials nor devise a sure way, once in orbit, to repair any damage on the way up. But the agency is going ahead, after its flight team concluded that while the board's concerns are not all met, the chances of a second, similar accident are now below the risks posed by other known dangers, such as meteor damage.|
Tards tards tards tards tards.
Now, to my recollection, we've had three disasters in space, only one of which did not kill everyone on board, and all of which were caused by failure of the equipment.
Here you will read that no spacecraft has ever been hit by a meteorite. They've even gone out there with collectors to try and sample them and came back empty-handed. The space station has had to patch 2 holes. Two. As in 1+1.
When an accident occurs, that does NOT mean it will not happen again. That means that the likelihood of its occurence is NOT negligible. What these goddamn fools bet on was that because they flipped a coin and it came up tails, that in the future it's more likely to come up edge.
This is exactly the dumbass attitude that was discovered after the Challenger explosion. Because they wanted so badly to keep sending the shuttle to space, the management insisted that the odds of an accident were 1 in 10^5. That's one flight in every 100,000. Or once every 300 years if we launched every day. We've had three that I can recall, and we DON'T launch every day.
And because the shuttle landed safely (8/9/05), they're just going to assume that their horse-[bleep!] statistics are valid, downgrade safety precautions, postpone indefinitely the final changes recommended after Columbia, and kill more astronauts.
Thank god, at least, that they're running out of shuttles. They're playing Russian roulette, only the bullets are million dollar, 10 year old Pintos with hundreds of thousands of miles. Here's hoping the next one lands on NASA management.
And then, after posting that, I think, "It's praiseworthy that a political figure said a succesful mission was a mistake. That guy has balls. I'm going to say what a good guy he is." Then cynicism kicked in and I decided to try and find the news story so I know the circumstances around his comment.
Here you'll see that I'm prescient. I'm so right it hurts. I can predict these things with remarkable acuity. That they've already happened doesn't mean it's not a prediction. With sufficient evidence of past events I was able to predict exactly this.
I don't know how long the link will work, so I'll blatantly steal the relevant information.
|Excerpt From Yet Another Report on NASA Dumbassity:|
|In a numbing setback sure to set off a national debate over the future of the space program, NASA has grounded all future shuttle flights because of a large chunk of foam that broke off Discovery’s fuel tank in hauntingly similar fashion to Columbia’s doomed mission.|
That the Columbia accident didn't happen again is because they got damn lucky.