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Beyond the Shore

Whenever confronted with NASA’s preoccupation with safety, I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes:

Deep in the sea are riches beyond compare,
But if you seek safety, it is on the shore.
— Saadi of Shiraz

I dearly hope that NASA doesn’t overreact to this accident with even more stringent safety procedures that end up limiting human exploits in space.

We do NOT need to stop flying. We do NOT need to spend billions of dollars more on making Shuttle “safe”.

We need to replace the Shuttle system with something inherently safer, it is true. But we will never make space flight “safe”. This needs to be the message coming from NASA now: spaceflight has inherent dangers, and sometimes these dangers cannot be averted or even predicted, even with the best of efforts on the part of thousands of dedicated people.

It is said that astronauts today are in more danger driving to the Cape for their launch than actually flying in space. They are themselves well aware of the dangers involved, and choose to fly anyway because of the rewards of doing so. These benefits redound to the benefit of all of us, and what should be happening after today is less making Shuttle even safer for those who ride it than making space access more available to everyone, through less expensive (and by design, more reliable) new spacecraft and launch systems.

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