>> Wednesday, May 12, 2010
As Today.com is no longer in existence as it was (and they wouldn't let me on when they were), I'm going to recycle some of my old and beloved posts here 'cause, hey, I liked them. And, since I'm consumed with my current writing project, I feel less guilty.
Here's the first that wasn't "Hi, I'm me." from August 29, 2008:
I don’t know how many of you feel about the Space Shuttle. I’ve been working in the space industry for nearly 20 years and my own feelings are not clear cut. I read the blog for Wayne Hale yesterday. Wayne Hale was the manager for the Space Shuttle. I know him and I know he cares deeply for this program, for what he did. He knows the end is inevitable.
The Shuttle program is coming to an end. People are talking about extending it like that’s a viable option. But the people who supported this program and provided eighty kagillion [kagillion is a technical term] tiny custom parts have moved into other businesses. Some are suppliers that have moved to more viable customers, providing materials that will be in demand for the long haul. Or they’re retiring. After all, the Shuttle’s been around for more than twenty years. Or they’ve already become part of the exploration effort.
The decision can’t be undone.
Truthfully, I’m not as fond of the Shuttle as Wayne is. Since my focus has been safety, it’s hard for me to look at it without seeing as a collection of things that can go wrong, some of which we didn’t see coming. I see it as a technological achievement that has also killed fourteen astronauts and I, like Wayne, never want that to happen again.
I see it as a mishmash of conflicting requirements, an exceptional engineering feat that was sold as more than a single item can be. Those unrealistic expectations have tarnished it despite the hard work it has done year after year, coming home chipped and worn from the horrendous environments of space and reentry. Yet, battered and limping somewhat from the clever workarounds we need to keep it’s aging systems working effectively and reliably, it can still do what nothing else we have can do: take big loads into orbit and bring them back down safely. And it can protect crews as large as seven going up and down. Building a replacement has been a nontrivial task and we’re not there yet.
No, I’m not as fond of the Shuttle as some. But a lot of good people have devoted decades to her care. And she has done some damn fine work. I know her problems, but I respect her and the job she’s done.
Here’s hoping her last few flights go off without a hitch.
Ironic, isn't it, how the more things change, the more they stay the same. Who knew? It's still pertinent. The cool thing about recycling this is that it makes me think of something I don't think I have written about. Next time, then.