OT re: Columbia (long diatribe)

From: Hans B Pufal <hansp_at_aconit.org>
Date: Sun Feb 2 09:47:01 2003

J.C.Wren wrote:
> Don't get me wrong, I'm a big NASA fan.

As am I.

> But if you look at number of
> flights or flight hours against losses, it's far worse than the commercial
> airline industry. Granted, it's a lot more complex, but if we're going to
> sling just numbers around with no adjustment for risk factors, etc...

Numbers, numbers. For a while there on the BBC website they were citing
a failure rate of 2 per 113 as being equivalent to not surviving a month
if you took your car to and from work every day.

They (later) added that taking into account hours flown, space-flight is
about 4 times riskier than commercial flying, and taking account
miles travelled, space flight is the safest means of transport.

So which is it?

Of course it is risky, always will be, but so if crossing the road to
catch a bus. We live is a world of risk.

I wonder how many pioneering aviators were killed in the first 40 years
of flying, that is from 1903 to 1943 - several hundred I would imagine
(anyone know of the figures). Was that too high a cost for the (possibly
debatable) benefits of commercial flying today.

The difference is, I think, the media. Whereas pioneering aviators who
died were reported relativly anonymously in newspapers, days or weeks
later, today we have instant replays of almost the entire lives of each
crew-member and all their families the same morning. It makes it a much
more personal affair and people react emotionally.

Don't get me wrong, I feel of the families who lost ther loved ones
yesterday, but it stops there. Those brave astronauts knew the risks,
accepted them willingly, and performed magnificently. Given half a
chance I would fly the shuttle tomorrow.

What bothers me is the possibility that NASA will be forced to quit on
manned spaceflight and the nay-sayers will (finally) manage to kill a
project they see as a waste of money and effort. The shuttle itself
as originally designed was a fully resusable vehicle. Budget cutbacks
and naysayers resulted in the hybrid version we know (and love) today.
How much safer (and in the long run cheaper) would that original design
have been?

Sorry for the rant, but I needed to get it off my chest.

Normal programs will resume shortly......

   -- hbp
Received on Sun Feb 02 2003 - 09:47:01 GMT

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