Sunday, July 02, 2006

Risky Business

The space shuttle Discovery sits on its pad at the Kennedy Space Center as I write, prepped and ready to make its stubby phallic way into the depths of space. There are only two shuttles now, the results of two accidents - one over 20 years ago, the other only 4 years ago.

NASA sold its soul when it harnessed itself to the Shuttle Transportation System after Apollo; it can't ditch the program because it would spell the end of its funding, but it needs the shuttle to complete work on the International Space Station. A new orbital delivery system is in the works, to replace the last two shuttles by about 2010.

So the shuttle sits, and the seven people who will ride in it - strapped to two gigantic Roman candles and about 500,000 pounds of explosive fuel - are taking a risk. It's been the same risk faced by a select and honored few ever since Y. A. Gagarin rode in Vostok 1 - the risk that Something Might Happen.

Space flight is risky business. You are flying into the most inhospitable environment known, propelled by a combination of high explosives, material technology and complex mathematics. Everything has to work just so, or you don't come back except as a corpse or as scattered ashes.

If heroism can be defined as ordinary people dealing with an extraordinary situation, then astronauts are heroes, one and all.

Goddess keep them safe.


The shuttle lifted off from KSC at 1438 local time on Tuesday 4 July. So far, everything looks exceptional for its 15-day mission.


Blogger pissed off patricia said...

There is a lot of hesitation about this flight and it frightens me. I hope this one is delayed until all agree it's safe, or as safe as can be.

So you'll make big bucks over the holiday, huh? Good for YOU!

6:38 AM EDT  

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