S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Monday, October 22, 2007

"Whiz-bang" - NASA set to launch #120

If the weather cooperates the STS 120 launch will happen tomorrow. NASA TV's coverage begins tomorrow morning at 6:30 AM (CST). But NASA continues to be dogged by controversy. Even getting the go-ahead to launch was not easy because of safety concerns involving the leading wing edges.
Shuttle launches are always "Whiz-Bang" for us space nuts, but for me it has been more about the people than the hardware. There is much to admire about this bunch of folks who also love the "whiz-bang-stuff."
The crew is shown in the picture. Left to right: Commander Pamela Melroy, Pilot George Zamka, mission specialists Scott Parazynski, Stephanie Wilson, Douglas Wheelock, European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli of Italy and mission specialist Daniel Tani.
The two commanders -- There is no controversy here, just great news. A wonderful article by Marcia Dunn, who covers the space beat for, is headlined, "Spaceflights Mark One Giant Leap for Womankind." To quote:

When space shuttle Discovery blasts off Tuesday, a woman will be sitting in the commander's seat. And up at the international space station, a female skipper will be waiting to greet her.

It will be the first time in the 50-year history of spaceflight that two women are in charge of two spacecraft at the same time.

This is no public relations gimmick cooked up by NASA. It's coincidence, which pleases shuttle commander Pamela Melroy and station commander Peggy Whitson.

Further updates on the people and the 120 mission will follow at regular intervals during the next few days. The International Space Station is really beginning to take shape. Peggy Whitson and Clay Anderson are currently holding down the fort. Dan Tani will stay on board the station after the rest of the 120 crew returns to earth. Anderson is the bridging astronaut (the one who knows where things are stored and how stuff works) because the other two crew members have now come home to Russia.
The Ballistic descent -- This recent NASA update about the Expedition 15 crew's speedy return to earth makes it abundantly clear that things can rapidly turn into dicey whiz-bang situations. NASA's article used these terms: "A ballistic descent for the returning Soyuz resulted in a landing about 210 miles west of the nominal landing site." Spaceflight Now described it thus (emphasis mine):

Plunging back to Earth from west to east over central Kazakhstan, the flight plan called for a landing near the town of Arkalyk. But for reasons yet to be explained, the Soyuz flew a steeper-than-planned trajectory and landed short of the intended touchdown point, subjecting the crew to higher-than-normal braking forces. It was the first "ballistic" re-entry since the Soyuz TMA-1 spacecraft returned on May 3, 2003, with the space station's sixth full time crew.

"NASA won't disclose air safety survey." This is not over; you can bet on it. MyWay News carried the story as did a whole lot of bloggers this morning. Why? Because it smells bad. Part of the story has to do with disagreements between NASA and the FAA. Quoting from the story's basics:

Anxious to avoid upsetting air travelers, NASA is withholding results from an unprecedented national survey of pilots that found safety problems like near collisions and runway interference occur far more frequently than the government previously recognized.

NASA gathered the information under an $8.5 million safety project, through telephone interviews with roughly 24,000 commercial and general aviation pilots over nearly four years. Since ending the interviews at the beginning of 2005 and shutting down the project completely more than one year ago, the space agency has refused to divulge the results publicly.

Just last week, NASA ordered the contractor that conducted the survey to purge all related data from its computers . . . NASA directed its contractor Battelle Memorial Institute, along with subcontractors, on Thursday to return any project information and then purge it from their computers before Oct. 30.

Victoria Crater on Mars is shown at the Astronomy Picture of the Day from NASA.
Cross-posted (edited) at Southwest Blogger.
Cross posted at The Reaction.
Technorati tags:
My “creativity and dreaming” post today at Making Good Mondays is a shorter version of this story.


LaPopessa said...

I wish them good luck. NASA could use a whole lot of good news & good luck these days.

The Future Was Yesterday said...

A successful launch and touch down always reaffirms my faith in the human race. If we work really, really hard at it, we CAN do some impressive things!!

"When space shuttle Discovery blasts off Tuesday, a woman will be sitting in the commander's seat. And up at the international space station, a female skipper will be waiting to greet her."
I was on one of the worst flights I've ever had, going from Saginaw, Mi. (my home town at the time), to Cleveland. From the time the PIC (Pilot In Command) raised the wheels until we rolled up to the gate in Cleveland, it was one big roller coaster ride! Updrafts! Down drafts! Side winds! We were tossed around like a football. I felt like a peanut in a boxcar. I had decided that if I landed alive, to thank the PIC. So I waited to be last off the aircraft, and asked the copilot standing at the deboarding ramp, who the pilot was for the flight.

This cute (younger than my Daughter) head peeked out of the cockpit and said "That would be me, Sir." I about fell over from shock!:) Pelosi not withstanding, women CAN do anything we can do...and often better.

Carol Gee said...

The whole adventure is so very positive for me in so many ways.
Lapopessa, I think they (NASA) have a relatively good administrator whose political acumen has to be very finely honed. I am amazed they do all they do, given budget constraints.
Future, this was a great personal vignette. If you, as a guy, make rash assumptions; think how I, as a woman, feel when I do the same thing. We are all so conditioned by society's gender bias that we have to work hard to catch ourselves. And I still do.
Experiences like the current one at NASA help all people to see things in new ways.