Whiskerino 2009

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  • posted: November 17 @ 6:07pm
Okay, so tonight's caption has nothing to do with the photo. I mean, when it comes to the photo, quod erat demonstrandum.

@hale asked me the other day in the chat what I thought about the looming end of the Space Shuttle program. I've got mixed feelings about it:

1. The acceptable catastrophic failure rate---in other words, losing the vehicle---was 1% in the proposal. That's *small* in spaceflight. America has lost relatively few people in spaceflight accidents; the Russians have had more accidents, but they covered them up better in the Soviet days. America's openness is both a strength and a weakness. [Some will argue that the openness of America's early spaceflight opportunities, including Explorer I and Mercury I, led to the US following the USSR's lead. That's a discussion for another time, I guess.]

2. In terms of sheer business, it's been good for me. In case you don't know what I do for a living, I manage the manufacture of unpressurized cargo carriers that carry hardware to the International Space Station. You likely heard that a lot of the coverage about the STS-129 launch on Monday said, "Carrying spare parts to the space station." Who built those carriers [note: not the spares themselves, but the cradles that carried them to orbit and will protect them in orbit]? My company did, for the most part. I had a *lot* of hardware on yesterday's Shuttle, probably north of $5M, much of it hardware that I managed.

But at the same time, work has been so busy the last four years that I just about suffered a mental breakdown and, in fact, took three weeks off from work to fight depression and clear my head this summer. And I'm still in therapy. So, there's that.

3. The Shuttle program does need to eventually end: it's far more expensive than originally designed, and in this era of strained budgets, we only get out of low earth orbit if we stop flying to it. I think it's a mistake to end it before Orion/Ares is online, but then I also want NASA to have three times the budget they currently get. [For what we paid in money and blood to fight in Iraq, we could have put a man on Mars in the same period of time. I'd rather do that than fight a war, regardless of the justification.]

4. I will miss the Shuttle. I grew up with it. Challenger's explosion in 1986 is really why I got into the space program---it was important enough for people to die for, and I wanted to help make sure that they didn't die.

Anything else?

Comments

Rolf Bastard says:
well said, GF. NASA should get all the $ they need. you do great work.
Posted: Nov 17th, 2009 - 6:10pm -
ThatGuy says:
2nd longest caption, that I actually finished reading. Thanks for the insight. I've probably never values our space program enough. I hope everything works out for you. That beard can do nothing but help in all situations.
Posted: Nov 17th, 2009 - 6:11pm -
ThatGuy says:
values=valueD
Posted: Nov 17th, 2009 - 6:12pm -
doubles says:
a good read, thanks for posting this. i wish nasa had all the money they could use.
Posted: Nov 17th, 2009 - 6:12pm -
tedford says:
thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really enjoyed what you had to say. now let's all go to Mars!
Posted: Nov 17th, 2009 - 6:13pm -
KC says:
Well said, man. Thanks for that.
Posted: Nov 17th, 2009 - 6:25pm -
benfrank says:
i am kinging you for the caption alone!
Posted: Nov 17th, 2009 - 6:48pm -
Scrivener says:
I remember the Challenger disaster quite vividly--I was in Florida at the time and could see the smoke clouds in the aftermath. I wanted to be an astronaut and was preparing to apply to the Naval Academy to become a pilot so I could go into the program, but then at my physical exam was when I found out I did not have perfect vision. I walked out right there, without even finishing the rest of my exam. To be honest, thank goodness for that because I would not have been happy in the Navy.

Do you think sending manned missions to Mars is worth the expense and difficulty? Would it be better to launch a bunch of unmanned missions, to Mars and elsewhere, for the price of one manned mission to Mars?
Posted: Nov 17th, 2009 - 7:00pm -
hale. says:
@gfmorris, thank you for for being so frank and thorough in your response, i really appreciate it. i have always had a love for space and the idea of being an astronaut and anything related to it. that you are part of something so big and so important is a wonderful thing, and i hope that wherever the space program eventually goes (so many things can come into play that may affect the program- advances in technology, budget constraints, political upheaval) that you are somewhere in there. also, i hope that whatever part you are playing in the future of the space program is not stressful and depressing, but rewarding and challenging, and allows you many opportunities to take photos of yourself playing with random space objects at your desk.

you're the best.
Posted: Nov 17th, 2009 - 7:41pm -
gragaband says:
You're kind of my hero. I've wanted to do space work since I was knee-high.
Posted: Nov 17th, 2009 - 8:14pm -
gfmorris says:
@scrivener Yes, I believe in manned spaceflight because human explorers grab our interest in a way that no robotic explorers ever can.

@hale Thanks. I may not stay in the field forever, and not just for stress/budget reasons. I often think that I'd like to be a teacher or a preacher.
Posted: Nov 17th, 2009 - 11:33pm -
Site closed!
Whiskerino. fin.