Friday, July 27, 2007

Close Encounters of the Blurred Kind

NASA is calling "troubling" reports that some astronauts on the space shuttle were allowed to fly while drunk. According to NASA's own report:
Several senior flight surgeons expressed their belief that their medical opinions regarding astronaut fitness for duty, flight safety and mission accomplishment were not valued by leadership other than to validate that all (medical) systems were “go” for on-time mission completion. Instances were described where major crew medical or behavioral problems were identified to astronaut leadership and the medical advice was disregarded. This disregard was described as “demoralizing” to the point where they said they are less likely to report concerns of performance decrement. Crew members raised concerns regarding substandard astronaut task performance which were similarly disregarded.
Troubling? I'll say. Including the cost of the shuttle itself, each launch costs 1.3 billion dollars. That's some pretty expensive equipment to be turning over to people in no shape to operate it. How could NASA flight controllers allow drunken astronauts into space? Forgetting the danger to the shuttle, how are besotted astronauts supposed to carry out their scientific mission?

I guess they realize there is no scientific mission. It's not that NASA doesn't do some good science--it's just that all the good science is done by unmanned space probes and earthbound scientists. The manned mission is a taxpayer-financed corporate welfare system that allows over-testosteroned space jockeys and love-crazed borderline-personalitied Alex Forrests to play Star Trek--and not the Captain Picard Star Trek with the good special effects, but the Captain Kirk Star Trek with the cheesy sets and rubbery-faced aliens. What are we getting for our billions of dollars? According to NASA, we're getting space age golf clubs and new generation toy airplanes. In other words, it just doesn't matter if the shuttle astronauts are drunker than Barney Gumble.

NPR quoted one NASA official as claiming that the agency's oversight functions failed because of NASA's "can-do" spirit. That's right--they couldn't let a little thing like a drunken astronaut stand in the way of colonizing the planets and exploring the asteroid belt. Apparently, the people running the manned space program at NASA are as much a part of the reality-based world as their current boss.

6 comments:

KarenOh said...

I have to say I am with you, rationally, on the whole unmanned space flight making way more sense, scientifically, but there is something in me that leaps with joy everytime I think about humanity in space.

hipparchia said...

i 2nd karenoh.

Archaeopteryx said...

Yeah, but we're not talking about "humanity in space" here so much as blasting tax dollars into space for nothing. NASA manned space has become an expensive joke.

twiffer said...

i say we move to texas and build our own rocket!

Keifus said...

Okay, but to be fair, Barney turned out to be a real top-notch astronaut.

Also, I agree with the ladies. (Any possible alien encounters are totally bonus, obviously.)

Bite oftheweek said...

Arch:

It wasn't a joke when they fixed the Hubble. We would have no Hubble pictures if there was not manned space flight.

Compare the cost of every shuttle mission (all of them) to the Iraq war. I vote for the shuttle