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1 In 100 Chance of Death for Astronauts

By June 28, 2006

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If I had a 1 in 100 chance of winning the lottery, I'd be thrilled. However, I'm not so sure I'd be willing to start a voyage on which I had a 1 in 100 chance of dying. Those are the official odds which NASA has given on the next space shuttle launch, scheduled for Saturday, July 1, according to CNN. Some people aren't sure that the real odds are that good.

NASA's safety director and chief engineer dissented from the decision when it was made to go ahead with the launch despite not having a fix for the foam shredding problem. Chief safety officer Bryan O'Connor, a former shuttle commander, was uncomfortable with going ahead with the launch on July 1. He did not appeal the decision because NASA has contingency plans in which would allow the crew take refuge in the International Space Station while waiting for a rescue mission if the shuttle became damaged. NASA Administrator Michael Griffin felt there were a variety of reasons that a July 1 launch was worth the added risk.

So, let's recap here. Three and a half years ago, seven people died when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated during reentry, an accident caused by foam shredding and falling from the fuel tank to damage heat tiles on the shuttle wing. Last year, in the Return to Flight Mission, STS-114, it was discovered that the foam shredding problem had not been fixed, but fortunately, there was no damage to Space Shuttle Discovery, and the crew returned safely. Now, NASA is preparing to launch another 7 astronauts into space aboard a space shuttle which still has not had the problem of foam shredding repaired, over the protests of the chief engineer and safety director. Their emergency plan is to have the crew hole up in the crowded International Space Station while awaiting rescue from another space shuttle with the same foam shredding danger, which, by the way, now has a dented fuel tank.

The official odds may be 1 in 100, but if I were on this crew, I may just want to take my chances in Las Vegas.

What do you think? Leave a comment and share your opinions.

Image Credit: NASA Johnson Space Center - Earth Sciences and Image Analysis (NASA-JSC-ES&IA)
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June 28, 2006 at 3:19 pm
(1) John Fischer says:

I’m a big supporter of the space program, but I can’t understand how NASA cannot find a fix to this problem. They’re playing with the lives of these men and women all for the sake of the budget, I’m sure. Now we’re supposed to believe that they have the ability to get a crew to Mars and back?

June 28, 2006 at 3:25 pm
(2) Nick Greene says:

It does boggle the mind that an organization like NASA can’t figure out how to fix this one problem. I men, come on, they really are rocket scientists. :-)

It concerns me to think that monetary or political considerations may be coming before concern for the lives of the astronauts.

June 30, 2006 at 12:54 pm
(3) Clarence S. Wright says:

It may be said that no profession is 100% safe. Airline pilots fly hundreds of thousands of miles each year and risk having an accident each time. Some people believe that each time they “go up,” the odds that they will “come down” with a =THUD= increases. Not so. If you flip a coin, the odds are 50/50 that it will come down “heads.” If you flip the coin 99 times and each time it comes down “heads,” then what are the odds that the next flip of the coin will be “heads.” WRONG ! The odds are still 50/50. Each flip of the coin and, by extension, each space flight, must be considered on what is happening right then and there ~ not necessarily what happened yesterday or last week or three years ago. The onlyh thing that NASA can do is to do itgs best to assure that every possible safety precaution has been taken to assure the safety of the shuttle crew. (A little extra time in prayer would also be advisable.) No space flight will =EVER= be absolutely safe. It’s in the nature of the Job Description. That’s why our astronauts are called HEROES. So, pray for them and let them get on with doing what they do best. ‘Nuff sed.

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