Monday, June 26, 2006

Pray For Astronauts Flying 20 Year Old Ship

NASA has decided to launch the Space Shuttle once again on July 1st, despite dire warnings of potential danger from NASA’s own engineers. I have written again and again here about my concerns that NASA will not stop flying a defective space shuttle, which is over 20 years old, because they don't want to lose federal funding. There is a major difference with this upcoming mission on July 1st, from other missions, and that is the astronauts are well aware of the misgivings of NASA engineers and they have agreed to, risk their lives and make this trip anyway.

I love the whole idea of the exploration of space, but I don't like men and women who work as astronauts for NASA being put in harms way, unnecessarily. NASA management has costs the lives of two shuttle crews in the past when they ignored advice from their own engineers and allowed the shuttle to fly, anyway. On both of those occasions the astronauts on board these flights died in a most horrible way. I pray that these latest astronauts don't face a similar fate as they take to the sky on July 1st, but I must admit I don't have a good feeling about this flight.

Most of the experts agree that NASA has not solved the insulation on the main fuel tank flying off during lift off problem. The good news is that this shuttle mission is already headed to the International Space Station, so if the heat shields of the shuttle are damaged once again by falling insulation. This group of astronauts could stay at the space station until some way is found to repair the shuttle before their return to earth. This thinking is wise, but it doesn't solve my main issue with the Space Shuttle and that is the age of the spacecraft.

NASA should have moved on to newer technology years ago, but they have failed to do so, in my opinion, because they have already received billions of dollars in future funding from the Congress to complete the US portion of the International Space Station. In most other aspects of NASA the agency has changed and moved on to cheaper and less risky unmanned flights to other planets like Mars, which have yielded wonderful results from a scientific point of view. There is no way to take all risk out of human space travel and I understand that risk must be taken, sometimes, to further our knowledge about the universe.

I don't, however, believe that people should be put at unnecessary risk and that is what I believe is happen with shuttle astronauts, today at NASA. I respect the men and women are willing to risk their lives in the ongoing exploration of space. However, if there is another shuttle disaster, the public is more likely to demand less human exploration of space rather than more, which could cause federal funding to dry up for future, needed, NASA programs. Please pray for our astronauts who will be flying the space shuttle on July 1st that they return home safely to their families and the planet, Earth.