We’re nearing the end of the Space Shuttle program. There are two, maybe three flights left. In almost every briefing I’ve watched about the STS-132 and STS-133 missions, there has been at least one question about how the workforce is doing, asking if their emotions are getting in the way of their jobs, and asking, though not directly if the quality and dedication to their work is slipping at the end of the program. The care with which NASA is investigating the GUCP issue as well as the cracked stringers in the ET, shows that NASA has learned and is still learning from the mistakes of Apollo 1, STS-51L, and STS-107.
NASA doesn’t appear to be rushing through to get the problem fixed so they can fly, they appear to be following their (admittedly bushy) fault trees to run the issues down and fully understand them before even thinking about flying again. It’s amazing to see the tweets of those affected by the change in launch dates, there’s no anger, there’s no “Why can’t we fly now?”, it’s just the dates have changed and we’re working around that. The NASA folks I’ve met in person and online are dedicated to their jobs, dedicated to the program, and dedicated to flying only when it’s safe.
I’m proud of the NASA folks that I’ve met. I’m lucky to be a part of the space community and the Space Tweep Society and lucky to have made friends out of my interest in space.
Mike Leinbach, the Shuttle Launch Director has summed it up very elegantly in a couple of briefings on STS-133. To quote him, “We’re going to fly when we’re ready and not before that.” Also, “Right now our machine is broken and we need to go fix it.” In my mind, these quotes sum up NASA’s attitude very well. When Discovery is safe to fly, she will fly. Until then, she will stay on the ground…
Photo Credit: Larry Tanner, United Space Alliance