Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Feeding the Tigers.

"Dictators ride to and fro on tigers from which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry." -- Winston Churchill

Five or so years in the making, "The Columbia Crew Survival Investigation Report," mysteriously surfaced today. It came out on a day when most people are still on vacation between Christmas and New Years and probably not paying much attention to the news beyond what is happening in the Middle East. One spokesperson said it was released now to keep the crew's children from having to deal with questions from their classmates the following morning.

They say the report was commissioned to serve as a design guide for future spacecraft engineers. When was the last time you heard about something like NASA-STD-3000 being released to the news media for review?

No, today's release fits as another piece of the duplicitous campaign for the Emperor to keep his job. The report outlines in some detail the many hardware and human failures that occurred inside Columbia during re-entry. Couched as "safety recommendations" for future vehicles, they illustrate the fragility of the systems that came into play after foam incapacitated the orbiter's wing.

Along with his wife's unashamed late evening emails, a shady astronaut's petition, a moon man's op-ed piece, and a loud discrediting of the Snow Princess's credentials in a semi-public forum, the timing of the report is designed to give weight to the Emperor's shuttle retirement arguments and the need to go full steam ahead with his misbegotten replacements.

This man knows no bounds, using seven dead crew as a lever for advancing his own career.

At this point we have to ask, if our nation's space program is (like the space shuttle itself?) so fragile that it can not withstand independent scrutiny, yet so dependent on one single individual for its completion, can it realistically be expected to be sustainable? If the program plan is rational, should it not stand up to review? If the program is executable, could it not be led by any of the other competent leaders this country has to offer? And would not its founder be proud to demonstrate that for his legacy.

Icons like Low, Kraft, Gilruth, and Faget never campaigned for their jobs and they knew their value was not in being invaluable. If ARES/ORION was rational and executable, the current leadership would not find it necessary to campaign so desparately, with so little integrity, and without an ounce of shame, for their retention. That decision would be obvious.

And so is the one that has been made on D Street.


Anonymous said...

I agree whole heartedly. The release of this report is no more than PR for the retirement of the shuttle.

Mr. X said...

Having read thru the report, I have to say that it is a relevant and important document from a historical perspective and a learning experience for future missions. I don't think the report itself has any political agenda.

There's always the question of the report's timing, and it would be interesting to note how long it took to prepare the report. An exhaustive report such as this couldn't have been pulled together overnight. The question is whether NASA sat on the report long after it was completed.

The Columbia crew survivability report has historical precedent. A separate report was released on the crew survivability after the Rogers Commission had concluded its investigation of the Challenger disaster.

Danny said...

wow. Lot's of thoughts on this but I will leave it to just one. "a shady astronaut's petition". Do you refer to the letter from Neil Armstrong.
What would motivate Neil Armstrong, long out of the business, to send such a letter if it was not his true belief?
Your entire post is about "motivations". What is Neil Armstrong's motive to advocate for a NASA Administrator?

Anonymous said...

Rocket Man,

Why are no authors listed? I know who started the SCSIIT and some of the team members (the team office was 229 or 239 - the one with the lock - in JSC B17). I supplied some of the diagrams used. Last I heard Marsha was trying to squelch the report and the team for misappropriating the word crew as well as some other things.

Anonymous said...

What decision on D Street?

Happy New Year BTW!

skeptical said...

Wrong. Flat-out wrong. The report was largely complete earlier in the year, and at that time was scheduled for release "sometime in the fall".

About the only "political" consideration I can see affecting the release (beyond respect for the families, repeatedly stressed by the investigation team) was that it might have been done hastily to get it out before the end of the calendar year. Big deal.

How exactly is the release of this report supposed to help Mike Griffin in his quest to keep his job, anyway? I don't see it.

Anonymous said...

Actually I see the present performance of senior NASA management as a simple, clear extension of the tragic behavior that led to Columbia's destruction. Columbia was a nearly linear extension of the entrenched organization-think that caused Challenger. The next administrator would do well to think hard about his team, their organization and the de facto principles that guide their everyday behavior. This is not a harmonious situation that will lead to great things. These are small teams occasionally succeeding despite the infighting, political manipulations and ego-maniacal tantrums that act as huge brakes to them.

The new guys should open their eyes to teams that are really doing great things for small money. Not the reverse- as is typical with the ARES/Constellation swamp. The return on investment at NASA could be hugely amplified by some simple pruning of losers. Even IF this angers some Alabama congress critters.

Anonymous said...

Just wait and see how the report is used with Congress. Then we'll see who is right about this.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a simple matter of NASA dumping something very unpleasant at a time when no one will be paying much attention. There's never a good time to release something like this, but the holidays is maybe the worst for the families. This is a time when you're missing lost family members most. The spare the kids questions at school thing is touching but absurd given IM and Facebook. They're going to face questions whether they're at school or not. What era do these NASA guys live in, anyway?