Sunday, June 18, 2006

Shuttle and safety

The space shuttle will finally fly again. NASA has scheduled it to launch on July 1st despite warnings from some officials and engineers that it is not safe to fly. Well it's as safe to fly, or safer, than it was 20 years ago, they just know the risks now. Part of the allure of space travel and indeed any exploration is a certain amount of risk. If it was easy and safe we'd all be dragging sledges to the South Pole, climbing Everest or walking on the surface of the moon.

Those who go know the risks, but they also know the benefits so they choose to go. All NASA can do is make it as safe as possible while accepting that all risk can not be removed. Part of me also wonders if the real concern is the risk of loosing another shuttle in the dwindling fleet with the replacement Crew Exploration Vehicle, or even the private sector craft, far from ready. The fear of loosing a shuttle and being unable to complete missions like finishing the International Space Station means NASA wont launch the shuttle and therefore not finish the missions anyway. Space exploration is supposed to be an adventure, unfortunately NASA view it like a Sunday drive in the country so we never get anywhere.

Update 4th July: The shuttle launched tonight. Brave of NASA to launch a rocket on the 4th of July but thankfully it seems to have been a successful launch, though they didnt pick up some minor damage caused during the previous launch until after inspecting the shuttle in orbit.

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