Richard Feynman’s thoughts on the Shuttle Disaster – Richard Feynman is a renowned physicist and played a pivotal role in the investigation of the 1980s Shuttle disaster that occurred on takeoff. His thoughts, which are available here, are worth considering. Here is one excerpt from the conclusion of his thoughts on the perils of spaceflight:
Official management… claims to believe the probability of failure is a thousand times less. One reason for this may be an attempt to assure the government of NASA perfection and success in order to ensure the supply of funds. The other may be that they sincerely believed it to be true, demonstrating an almost incredible lack of communication between themselves and their working engineers.
In any event this has had very unfortunate consequences, the most serious of which is to encourage ordinary citizens to fly in such a dangerous machine, as if it had attained the safety of an ordinary airliner. The astronauts, like test pilots, should know their risks, and we honor them for their courage. …
Let us make recommendations to ensure that NASA officials deal in a world of reality in understanding technological weaknesses and imperfections well enough to be actively trying to eliminate them. They must live in reality in comparing the costs and utility of the Shuttle to other methods of entering space. And they must be realistic in making contracts, in estimating costs, and the difficulty of the projects. Only realistic flight schedules should be proposed, schedules that have a reasonable chance of being met. If in this way the government would not support them, then so be it. NASA owes it to the citizens from whom it asks support to be frank, honest, and informative, so that these citizens can make the wisest decisions for the use of their limited resources.
For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.
No doubt the engineers and NASA officials responsible for the flight did everything they could, and no doubt their decisions will now be scrutinized and second-guessed. That’s a shame. Space flight is still a very dangerous undertaking, notwithstanding the increasing efforts to put celebrities in space. When we humans undertake dangerous activities there are sometimes tragic consequences.[Ernie the Attorney]