Saturday, July 28, 2007

Not A Good Week For Space Exploration

What the fuck is going on?

First there was the whole wacky Lisa Nowak story back in February about this crazy-jealous astronaut driving halfway across the country wearing a diaper to confront a romantic rival.

Is that really The Right Stuff? Depends.

Now this week, the hits just keep on coming!

Report: NASA lost $94 million in office items
Agency failed to keep track as computers were lost over the past decade, GAO says

"NASA has lost $94 million in office equipment over the past decade, looking the other way as employees give computers to spouses or claim missing laptops are lost in space, according to a congressional report."

Former NASA worker admits embezzling more than $157K
"According to court documents, Osborne admitted to using her Bank of America government credit card for 426 fraudulent transactions. NASA issued the cards to employees for use on all purchases of $2,500 and below. The idea was that doing so would simplify the acquisition process.

Osborne resigned from her position with NASA last October. Part of her responsibilities were to assure compliance with credit card rules and policies established by NASA's procurement office."

NASA reports computer sabotage
"CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - A space program worker deliberately damaged a computer that is supposed to fly aboard the shuttle Endeavour in less than two weeks, an act of sabotage that was caught before the equipment was loaded onto the spaceship, NASA said Thursday."

Scaled Composites Explosion Kills 3
Not NASA News, but still sucks ass.
"Initial reports indicated the mishap occurred during tests of an injector for the new rocket motor being developed for the SpaceShipTwo (SS2) program. The incident is believed to have happened during the transfer of nitrous oxide, an oxidizer that will be used in the hybrid rocket engine being developed internally at Scaled for The Spaceship Company, a joint venture between the Virgin group and Scaled."

Welcome to The Club boys. It's not a Space Program unless shit blows up and people die.

But finally, there was THIS news.

Astronauts Drank Before Flying, Report Says
"The report by the Astronaut Health Care Review Committee was leaked Thursday, and said that on two occasions astronauts flew after flight surgeons and other astronauts expressed concerns about the safety of letting those people fly."

Jesus Fucking Christ on a pogo stick! What the fuck is going on?

Are aliens infiltrating our ranks to sabotage our efforts to expand beyond the earth? If they have been monitoring the news coverage of earthly events over the past 6 years, I can understand why they would want to contain us.

But I want to zero in on this whole drinking astronaut thing.

You know military pilots in general and test pilots in particular have always had a reputation (which they themselves perpetuated) as being womanizing, hard-driving, hard-drinking, tough-guy, He-Men. It's part of the romantic fly-boy image.

So it's not all that surprising to me that some astronauts might be known to go out and get blasted before blasting off. In fact, when you take a good hard look at exactly what their job entails, I'm not sure how anyone could do it without knocking back a few stiff ones first.

The commute to "the office" is not without risk. Let's look at the vehicle that gets them there.

That big, fleshy-colored phallic center piece of the Space Shuttle assembly is the External Tank.

The External Tank contains two propellant components.

The forward section contains 143,000 gallons of liquid oxygen. The aft section contains 383,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen. Both components are HIGHLY EXPLOSIVE. That's why they make good rocket fuel.

Oxygen is what makes combustion possible. In a pure, 100% oxygen environment, all it takes is a single spark to cause an explosive reaction that will continue until all the oxygen is consumed. That is exactly what killed Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee in the Apollo 1 fire in 1967.

But the bulk of the External Tank contains liquid hydrogen. The liquid oxygen is only on board to allow the hydrogen to burn. Know what other famous vehicle was filled with hydrogen?

The Hindenburg.

Guess what single element makes up the majority of the mass in our own sun (and the known universe) and makes the continual nuclear fusion that heats our planet and makes all life possible?

Yep. Hydrogen. 'Nuff said about hydrogen.

So, every bit of professional caution and common sense would dictate that you keep every possible source of flame, spark or even static electricity as far away as possible from this half a million gallons of extremely explosive mixture, right?

NAH! Guess what they strapped to the sides of this huge fucking bomb?

Two, not one, but TWO Solid Rocket Boosters.

These are basically two REALLY FUCKING BIG pop-bottle rockets. Once they are ignited, there is no way in hell to shut them off until they have burned all of their fuel.

This combination of solid rocket boosters strapped next to a big fucking tank of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen has had a catastrophic failure that resulted in the loss of all aboard.

You may have heard of the Challenger.

So those are some of the perils of just getting TO work for an astronaut.

Once you are safely "in the office", you face extreme radiation risk from unpredictable solar flares, bone loss from prolonged weightlessness, possible collision with space junk at velocities of 17,000 to 34,000 mph, possible rapid decompression, and some rocket scientist spent years and employed uncounted engineers to just devise a way for you to pee or take a shit while you are at work. And the food sucks.

Getting home from work presents a whole other set of challenges.

Your "commute home" consists of strapping yourself as tightly as you can manage into your seat in a vehicle with all of the aerodynamic characteristics of a brick that is about to go hurtling back to earth at 30 times the speed of sound enveloped in a 3000 degree fireball. A method of returning home that has also met with catastrophic failure.

You may have heard of the Columbia.

Of course, this is still orders of magnitude safer than when someone had the idea to to strip the nuclear bomb off an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, replace it with a hastily built "spacecraft" designed by the lowest bidder, strap a human inside, blast it into orbit and see what happens.

Those fuckers had balls.

So, it really doesn't surprise me that someone getting ready to head into space using the technology available might feel compelled to avail themselves of some liquid courage.

In fact, I'm surprised the Shuttle and the ISS don't have mini-bars as standard equipment.

I want to take this opportunity to thank KC Sponge and M. Toast as they are the only visitors who have made it this far!


Stinkbait Boucher said...

I made it this far (even without a pogo stick),

Hell I can't even fly coach without getting popped first. You wouldn't get me on a shuttle with anything less than a couple of martinis.

I understand they have bongs installed on the launch pads now too. That might help somewhat as well.

Xavier Onassis said...

Thanks Stink.

Given the fact that they can launch and land a shuttle without ANYONE aboard, drunk or sober, why NOT get wasted?

As long as you are strapped in and don't touch anything, what difference could it make?

The occasional heartfelt "YEE HAW!" can only add a a bit of color to an otherwise dry, engineerish experience.

mainstream said...

Sorry XO, why don't you give up that defense.

I like to drink as much as the next guy, don't get me wrong.

But when I'm looking forward to climbing a volcano, hiking Mt. Ranier, doing something that you really want to experience, AND THAT IS RISKY BEHAVIOR the last fucking thing I would want to do is drink or get high for that experience.

The last thing I want to do is dull the thrill. And the last thing I want to do is fuck things up in front of 4B people.

If you're an addrenalin addict, if you like adventure and like thrills and excitement, those personalities will tell you THEY DON'T GET HIGH BEFORE.

Anyone will tell you getting high dulls everything.

Now, getting drunk the night before, or the night after, is understandable.

travelingal said...

Imagine a hangover during take-off.
I can't. Could you ever feel worse?

Faith said...

Ok, I was super-entertained by all the other stories besides the bit about the drinking...

I, personally, can't believe I've never thought of the "lost in space" excuse for a missing bit o' something. (Although I did lose a stuffed dog once, many years ago, and mom told me he'd gone to the moon whenever he disappeared like that. Maybe he really DID go to the moon!)

"Part of her responsibilities were to assure compliance with credit card rules and policies established by NASA's procurement office..." Bwahahahahahahahaha!!! I'd like to know what time period that took place over. I'm gonna go head to the article and see...

tec said...

I also made it this far.

Science nerds present and accounted for.