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What Not to Do

You’d think a Congressman from Texas, all places, would have more of a clue: Congressman Says Space Shuttle Not Safe

WASHINGTON – The space shuttle has cost the lives of 14 astronauts in just 113 flights and is not safe enough to keep flying with people on board, a Texas congressman said Thursday.

Lessee…we flew what, ten Apollo crews? and lost three astronauts (and very nearly three more)? That’s three astronauts in ten flights, or an average of .100 astronaut per flight. Shuttle’s average is .124 astronauts lost per flight. Your point?

Rep. Joe Barton, a member of the House Science Committee’s space and aeronautics panel, wants the government to build a new, safer space vehicle or modify the shuttle so it can be flown unmanned.

These are the only two alternatives? What about encouraging the private development of spacecraft, which NASA or any other government agency (or package delivery business, or paying tourist, or whatever) can then use as needed?

And an unmanned Shuttle? What exactly would be the point of that? “My morning commute is too dangerous — I think I’ll automate my car so it can make the trip on its own without risking the lives of me and my carpool buddies.”

Barton, R-Texas, said the space shuttle accident rate of one every 62.5 missions “is simply not acceptable.” In comments at a subcommittee hearing on NASA’s plans, he urged the space agency to abandon the shuttle and find a safer way to fly into space.

Well, he does have a point there. Too bad his imagination regarding NASA finding a safer way to fly into space appears to be limited to NASA building and operating a new brand of Shuttle.

“If we had that safety record even in combat aircraft people would be appalled,” Barton said in a telephone interview. He said the shuttle “is an unsafe system and it is technically impossible to make it safe enough, in my opinion.”

Funny, that didn’t stop Congressman Barton from attending a rollout ceremony for a particularly dangerous military aircraft, responsible for more fatalities than the entire US space program to-date. A vehicle which many critics charge cannot be made safe to enough to fly in combat.

Instead of fixing the shuttle, Barton said it should be grounded or converted to a craft that flies unmanned.

Groan.

“The time has come after two accidents for us to shut down the orbiter (space shuttle) and build a newer, safer spacecraft,” he said. “If we have to stop manned spaceflight for five or 10 years, then so be it.”

This is so dumb, I’m beyond words.

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