NASA’s scheduling an unprecidented spacewalk to the underside of the shuttle to repair some dangly bits that might overheat during landing. I wish them well. These live video links from Trey Jackson should make for interesting viewing.
But you know what annoys me? This quote from Wayne Hale, deputy program manager for the shuttle program:
“This is the new Nasa. If we cannot prove this is safe, we don’t want to go there. It exceeded our threshold and we needed to take action,” Mr Hale said.
This is the BBC, so I’ll take that quote and its context with a large grain of salt. But if that’s what Mr. Hale really thinks then we might as well just park the shuttles and the rockets in a field somewhere and let the space station fall out of the sky. Because with an institutional attitude like that we might as well just give up and let the Chinese and the Russians and the Japanese handle things up there.
Space exploration is inherently not safe. People are going to die no matter how safe we try to be. There’s simply no avoiding it. That doesn’t mean we go out of our way to make things more dangerous, but it does mean that we have to accept that danger cannot be avoided. The astronauts know this and accept it. They didn’t volunteer for the work and train for years so they can sit on the ground and be safe. NASA’s “threshold” for manned space exploration is too low right now, and it’s preventing them from doing their job. It’s just one more reason to close down creaky old NASA and let private industry handle things from here on out.