Monday, August 13, 2007

Time, What Now?

On August 13, 2007 Time.com published an article called "Endeavour, What Now". Throughout the mission of STS-118 there has been an endless stream of reports by journalists that reflect how uninformed the press is about the Space Shuttle and the space program. Jeffrey Klueger's Time.com article ends by saying "But the anxiety this mission is causing is one more reason that so many NASA employees and astronaut families are simply marking time until shuttles' scheduled retirement in 2010, when the snakebit ships will fly no more." Really Jeffrey? Who are all these people who are saying this? or is this your flair for the dramatic? Snakebit ships? First Jeffrey, the Space Shuttle is a system comprised of many components - the orbiter, space shuttle main engines, external tank and solid rocket boosters. The orbiter including the space shuttle main engines have been anything but snakebit. Two have been lost to other failure points in the system. The spacecrafts, now over twenty-five years old are remarkable feats of engineering that flew as a routine craft since day one, but were really in an experimental stage. Look how much we've learned about the vehicle and the dynamics of flight since their inception. Yes, it was thought that they had brought the word routine into spaceflight. Even your magazine said in 1981 after the maiden flight of Columbia "So it was: simple and flawless, almost as if it had been performed countless times before. Yet the picture-perfect landing on California's Mojave Desert last week all but obscured the historic nature of those last, breathtaking moments of Columbia's 54½-hr. odyssey. Gone were the great parachutes and swinging capsules of earlier space missions, splashing into the sea, never to travel into space again. For the first time, a man-made machine had returned from the heavens like an ordinary airplane—in fact, far more smoothly than many a commercial jet. So long delayed so widely criticized, Columbia's flight should finally put to rest any doubts that there will one day be regular commuter runs into the cosmos. "

When the shuttle launched it truly was and still is an amazing machine it was a machine that we didn't know everything about, but learned through trial and error and through tragedy. The shuttle has taught us volumes about spaceflight and for us to be a space fairing nation we need to take risks to move forward. You've got it wrong Jeff, retiring the shuttle will be a sad day for the program. Astronauts know the risks and want to push the program forward. We learn more about spaceflight every time the shuttle flies. The job of a journalist is to accurately inform the public, not opine in subject where they would be challenged to understand how Sputnik worked much less the space program of today and the future