View Full Version : Discussion: NASA Considering What to Do with ...

2003-Jul-21, 05:38 PM
SUMMARY: As the Columbia accident investigation is wrapping up, NASA is considering what to do with the 84,000 pieces of debris; currently arranged on the floor of a hanger at the Kennedy Space Center. Several cities have requested pieces of debris for their memorials to the shuttle, and the agency is seeking guidance on how they can make it accessible while avoiding the "ghoulish factor", of putting it on display. Debris from the previous Challenger accident was packaged up and put into storage - that's unlikely to happen with Columbia.

Comments or questions about this story? Feel free to share your thoughts.

2003-Jul-21, 10:00 PM
Unfortunately there IS no way to avoid the "ghoulish actor". If you have pieces of the shuttle on display, sure you'll have those that want to see them in order to pay their 'last respects" :( but as always :angry: there will be those that want to wallow in the gore and in turn fire off what I will only refer to as "trashcan remarks" as to the foolishness of spaceflight ('see? I TOLD you so!') and to me that would be a disservice to those that quite willingly gave their lives for something that THEY felt strongly about.

Besides, If people in the early days of exploration didn't... where would we be today??

Let's show some respect to those "explorers of space" that gave the price the respect that they deserve. Peace and quiet and above all: Remember.

2003-Jul-22, 01:55 AM
[FONT=Impact]I most strongly suggest that the bits and pieces be left right where they are, and that all future flight-readiness reviews be held in the hanger - with the participants standing - in order that the seriousness of what they are deciding be brought to their immediate attention. Otherwise, the hanger should remain closed and guarded in the same manner that the Tomb of the Unknowns is at Arlington.

2003-Jul-22, 06:43 AM
That's an interesting idea. It would certainly help future participants recognize how important safety should be taken.

2003-Jul-22, 08:51 AM
That really is a great idea. If there's anyway to maintain that hangar as the in-house memorial then that is exactly what should be done.
If they need the hangar for something else, then a room should be converted so tha all flight readiness crew are standing in front of apollo 1, challnger and columbia crew pictures! YEah ... I like it.

2003-Jul-22, 02:28 PM
I wasn't thinking of it as a memorial.

My thoughts run more along the lines of a horrible example of what happens when MANAGEMENT takes it upon itself to try to over-ride the laws of nature. I have seen all too often the results of trying to turn "wouldn't it be nice if..." into "it shall be done come hell or high water...". The current mess in Iraq is another example. Ditto N. Korea and Liberia and a few other things.

I have worked for managers similar to those "running" NASA. Warnings of looming disaster (couched, I admit, in more "professional" terms) go unheeded: when the inevitable occurs then there is a mad scramble to shuffle the blame off on the handiest scape-goat, who usually winds up being "administratively terminated", or "found to be in excess of requirements", or "regretfully let go because of personality clashes". This usually means that the person in question calls a spade a spade.

You must know the syndrome: "just get it done - we'll fix it later...". Of course, "later" never arrives, or seldom does. The little mad scramble over "Y2K" (remember that one?) is one example. The Challenger and Columbia disasters are another pair.

In each case, "management" made decisions - conscious decisions, I think - to IGNORE signs of "clear and present danger". In the case of Y2K, programmers and analysts, like myself, were warning for years (in my case 20 of them) that the count-down was running, and it would be a "good thing" to start doing something about it NOW, while it could be done gracefully. But no, it might add to the developement time of the CURRENT "hot project", and we couldn't have that, now could we?.

In the case of Challenger... well, you must have read Richard Feynman on the subject. And it turns out that Columbia is another example of EXACTLY THE SAME PROBLEM IN EXACTLY THE SAME MANAGEMENT STRUCTURE.

I want it to HURT those managers. I want their noses rubbed in it every time they turn around. I want some of them very publicly FIRED, with the reasons for same very publicly announced. I'd like to see it branded on their foreheads, if that were possible.

This is not just to assuage my pain at the loss. It is to drive home the idea that RPF so clearly stated but which has not yet been learned by the "responsible authorities" who in this case are not just the NASA brass but also the Executive and Legislative branches of the United States Government. Remember the little sign HST had on his desk? "The Buck Stops Here"? I think it is in his Presidential Library. Maybe we should replicate it enough times to make sure that each and every member of the "chain of command" has a copy front and center of his/her desk.

I like the sentence from the report comparing "NASA style" to "Navy style": to the effect that in the Navy, safety is not a separate function: it is built into each and every job.

Oh, by the way, the "little accident" at Three Mile Island was due to exactly the same cause: "wearing a Company hat". I would like to see a LAW (Congressional type, not Nature type) requiring each and every civilian power reactor run, to the greatest extent possible, by retired Naval Reactor watch standers. A retired reactor-qualified Chief isn't going to take ANY guff from paper-shufflers and pencil-pushers when it comes to safety and reliability.

2003-Jul-22, 09:14 PM
I too read the Feynman observations on the Challenger crash, where he commented on the reliability fantasys NASA management and engineers were living by. He said management had calculated the reliability at 100,000 to 1, the engineers had it at 1,000 to 1, and independent observers calculated it closer to 50 to one. Reliability here is the ratio of safe launches to crashes of course. The same things he pointed the finger at then as problems applies the same today, nearly twenty years later.

Judging from recent newsleaks from the Columbia investigation, these so called managers have not changed their tactics at all since the Challenger crash. Sort of like the old saw about how you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Back on the farm, when you caught a dog killing chickens, you taught him to improve his ways by hanging the dead chicken around his neck for a week or two. Maybe we ought to take those parts from the Columbia crash and make these so-called "rocket scientists" wear them around their elongated egotistical necks for a while!

The story is that there are 83,000 of these parts that need to be disposed of, likewise, NASA employees and others that didn't make their concerns heard.

In the future, I think we all need to be a little more skeptical of what goes on there and question in great detail the reports they issue on problems that leak into the news. Management at NASA is really beholding to no one. If you botch your safety assignment, you don't get fired, you just get reassigned. We in the private sector, the ones paying the bills there, don't have that luxury and neither should they!

I think this forum could go a long ways in helping to keep tabs on what's going on that's wrong there.

2003-Jul-22, 10:43 PM
Welcome to the Universe Today forums drfloydhaywood!

I do think it's the taxpayer's responsibility to hold his or her space agency to high standards for safety. But I think that needs to go both ways. You need to be there for the agency when good programs are being cut for political reasons.

Somehow we need to figure out a way to both scold and support at the right times. Like raising a child. ;-)

2003-Jul-23, 04:01 AM
I like the pathos that keeping the hangar full of Columbia debris would bring to a management meeting. But lets move on. Encase a few pieces in acrylic cubes for the memorial displays, and ditch the rest of it in another underground IBM silo, like Challenger. The real crisis on completing the ISS, which will require a return to flight. And that means the focus should not be how to memorialize the grand old Columbia, but to remember the crew by pressing onward. The positive batting average is 111 out of 113, and the focus should be on the world's only female commander of a space ship, Eileen Collins, whose job it will be to return Atlantis to orbit and return it safely after an ISS construction mission. Press on regardless!