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.
- Related Resource: Loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia
- Quiz: Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster Quiz
- Related Article: Dangers of Space Travel.
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