Friday, September 26, 2003

Why Why Why?

More information has come to light regarding the decision by certain idiots within NASA - idiots who are, mind you, still working for NASA since NASA Administrator Sean "Bush Appointed Me to Whack the Budget" O'Keefe refuses to indulge in what he refers to as "witch hunts" and the rest of us refer to as "justice" - to not seek outside imaging aid to try and determine how much damage had been done to Columbia by foam shed by its External Tank during ascent.

They elected one of their number, a soft-spoken NASA engineer, Rodney Rocha, to convey the idea to the shuttle mission managers.

Mr. Rocha said he tried at least half a dozen times to get the space agency to make the requests. There were two similar efforts by other engineers. All were turned aside. Mr. Rocha (pronounced ROE-cha) said a manager told him that he refused to be a "Chicken Little."

The Columbia's flight director, LeRoy Cain, wrote a curt e-mail message that concluded, "I consider it to be a dead issue."

Hmmm. So LeRoy considered it a "dead issue." Can anyone here imagine a REAL flight director, say, Gene Kranz, coming up with this tired excuse for not doing his job?

A feature of the article is a nice profile of Rodney Rocha, who, like many of us, was a believer in space and the space program, who could, understandably, not believe how the brainless Linda Ham and other senior managers treated the debris impact.

Mr. Schomburg insisted that because smaller pieces of foam had broken off and struck shuttles on previous flights without dire consequences, the latest strike would require nothing more than a refurbishment after the Columbia landed. Mr. Rocha maintained that the damage could be severe enough to allow hot gases to burn through the wing on re-entry and threaten the craft.

As their voices rose, Mr. Rocha recalled, Mr. Schomburg thrust out an index finger and said, "Well, if it's that bad, there's not a damn thing we can do about it."

Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and the late Jack Swigert must have been glad that that wasn't Gene Kranz's reaction to their oxygen tank explosion on Apollo 13. But failure had not only become an option at NASA, it had become mandatory.

Emergency plans came out of binders; engineers locked their doors to outsiders and began to store data from the flight for the inevitable investigation. Frank Benz, the Johnson Space Center director of engineering, and his assistant, Laurie Hansen, came in. Mr. Rocha recalled that Ms. Hansen, trying to console him, said, "Oh, Rodney, we lost people, and there's probably nothing we could have done."

For the third time in two weeks, Mr. Rocha raised his voice to a colleague. "I've been hearing that all week," he snapped. "We don't know that."

Get off your dead butt, Sean. Reassigning nitwits like Linda Ham isn't enough. Heads have to roll.


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