Saturday, July 22, 2006


NASA still doesn’t get it. After spending a billion dollars to get the Space Shuttle main fuel tank again ready for flight, the foam still cracks, still falls off and still creates an unreasonable risk of death to the crew.

NASA’s much touted management culture change, designed to fix for the third time its culture of non-safety, failed once again. Two senior engineers recommended against launch because of the still unsolved foam problem, and their protests were disregarded. That is exactly what NASA did that resulted in the Challenger and Columbia disasters.

Let’s see -- $1 Billion, fifteen scheduled launches, that comes to $66,000,000 per tank. If we can’t build a safe throw away fuel tank for $66,000,000 per copy, then maybe we ought to outsource it to China or even North Korea.

The continuing failure of NASA to address this problem effectively is a blight on them, our space program, and our future in space.

It is impossible to see a crack in the skin in the Shuttle unless the crack is a hole and it’s huge. Without running one’s hand without a space suit over every inch of the leading edge, it will be unlikely and more like impossible to know a crack has been caused by rapidly accelerating foam on lift off. Therefore, the current system of using the remote arm with a camera to look over the wing is interesting, but ineffective.

NASA is needlessly risking lives because it cannot seem to get it right. Hopefully it will be lucky, even if it isn’t smart.

If I were an astronaut, I’d buy a lot of life insurance.

July 2006