[FPSPACE] Kranz: From Giant Leaps to Baby Steps
DSFPortree at aol.com
DSFPortree at aol.com
Wed Aug 3 21:17:58 EDT 2005
> > From Giant Leaps to Baby Steps
> >By EUGENE F. KRANZ
> >Published: August 3, 2005
> >TO read and listen to the coverage about the space shuttle,
> you would
> >think NASA's mission team has taken careless risks with the
> lives of the
> >seven astronauts who went into space on the Discovery last
> Tuesday. During
> >the launching, foam fell off the external tank. For the
> risk-averse, the
> >only acceptable thing to do now is retire the shuttle
> program immediately
> >and wait for the divine arrival of the next generation of
> spacecraft. I am
> >disgusted at the lack of courage and common sense this
> attitude shows.
> >All progress involves risk. Risk is essential to fuel the
> economic engine
> >of our nation. And risk is essential to renew American's fundamental
> >spirit of discovery so we remain competitive with the rest
> of the world.
> >My take on the current mission is very straightforward. The
> shuttle is in
> >orbit. To a great extent mission managers have given the
> spacecraft a
> >clean bill of health. Let us remember that this is a test flight. I
> >consider it a remarkably successful test so far.
> >The technical response to the Columbia accident led to a significant
> >reduction in the amount of debris striking this shuttle
> during launching.
> >Mission managers have said that the external tank shed 80
> percent less
> >foam this time than on previous launchings. Only in the news media,
> >apparently, is an 80 percent improvement considered a
> failure. Rather than
> >quit, we must now try to reduce even more the amount of foam
> that comes
> >off the tank.
> >The instruments and video equipment developed to assess the
> launching and
> >monitor debris falling from the tank worked superbly. For
> the first time,
> >the mission team knows what is happening, when it is
> happening and the
> >flight conditions under which it occurred. This was a major mission
> >objective, and it is an impressive achievement.
> >Having spent more than three decades working in the space
> program, I know
> >that all of the flights of the early days involved some
> levels of risk.
> >Some of those risks, in hindsight, seem incomprehensible by
> today's timid
> >standards. If we had quit when we had our first difficulties
> in Project
> >Mercury, we would have never put John Glenn on the Atlas
> rocket Friendship
> >7 in 1961. Two of the previous five Atlas rockets test-fired before
> >Friendship 7 had exploded on liftoff.
> >On Gemini 9, 10 and 11, all in 1966, we had complications
> with planned
> >spacewalks that placed the astronauts at risk. Rather than
> cancel the
> >walks, we faced the risks and solved the problems. These set
> the stage for
> >Gemini 12 later that year, during which Buzz Aldrin spent
> more than five
> >hours outside the capsule and confirmed to NASA that
> spacewalks could be
> >considered an operational capability.
> >Eventually, this ability enabled astronauts to retrieve
> satellites and
> >repair and maintain the Hubble space telescope; and during
> the current
> >mission, spacewalks were used to repair a gyroscope on the
> >Space Station and will allow the crew to fix some of the damage that
> >occurred during the launching. These are the rewards for the
> risks we took
> >on those early Gemini flights.
> >I understand the tragedy inherent in risk-taking; I
> witnessed the fire
> >aboard Apollo 1 in 1967 that killed three crew members. It
> filled us with
> >anger at ourselves and with the resolve to make it right.
> After the fire
> >we didn't quit; we redesigned the Apollo command module.
> During the Apollo
> >missions that followed, we were never perfect. But we were
> determined and
> >competent and that made these missions successful.
> >I see the same combination of anger, resolve and
> determination in the
> >space shuttle program today. These people are professionals
> who understand
> >risk, how to reduce it and how to make that which remains
> acceptable. Most
> >important, the current mission has demonstrated the maturity of the
> >shuttle team that endured the Columbia disaster and had the guts to
> >persevere. This is the most important aspect of the recovery
> from the
> >Columbia accident, and is a credit to the great team NASA now has in
> >place, headed by its administrator, Michael Griffin.
> >There are many nations that wish to surpass us in space.
> Does the "quit
> >now" crowd really believe that abandoning the shuttle and
> >Space Station is the way to keep America the pre-eminent
> >nation? Do they really believe that a new spacecraft will
> come without an
> >engineering challenge or a human toll? The path the
> naysayers suggest is
> >so out of touch with the American character of perseverance,
> hard work and
> >discovery that they don't even realize the danger in which they are
> >putting future astronauts - not to mention our nation.
> >Eugene F. Kranz, author of "Failure Is Not an Option:
> Mission Control From
> >Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond," is a former Apollo flight director.
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