Skip to main content

Flashback to 1988

It may not surprise you to know that I carry around a 2009 desk calendar entitled "The Year in Space.".......yeah, didn't think so.

It is so nifty because not only does it include an awesome space picture for every week of the year, but it also lists space-related events' anniversaries and such. For example:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009
1977: Salyut 6 space station launched

1988:
STS-26 Discovery launched, first Shuttle flight since Challenger disaster
2001: First satellite launch from Alaska

And today as I read those three space events, I couldn't help but reflect on the Challenger disaster. I even thought about typing one of those cliche questions Carrie always asks on the show Sex in the City....like, "What have we learned since that fateful day in January 1986?"

A day that started like this....


And ended only 73 seconds later like this....



And how appropriate, this taken from the official Government review of the Challenger accident...
"The expression Lessons Learned has been an important concept in NASA and aerospace industries for many years. It was conceived as a tool to perpetuate experience and keep from repeating costly mistakes. If this is to be done, the lessons must not only be learned--they must be remembered."

Unfortunately, I'm not sure if the recommendations, or "lessons learned" recorded in the official government report really capture the true root of the problem that dismantled a great space shuttle and killed seven heroic astronauts. The review calls for more "program oversight" and "program and safety management".

The problem is, it was these "overseers" and "managers" that made the call to launch that day. The peon engineer who showed the managers that the temperature was too low (out of the chart range) was pushed aside to make way for personal agendas and ultimately the chance to gain more government funds. And from my own personal experience at NASA this summer, if there is one thing NASA doesn't need it's more managers. NASA needs to return to its own roots and invest in people and engineers who are willing to speak up, who know how to complete the calculations, who put lives ahead of their own personal agendas.

So...what have we learned from the Challenger accident?

We have learned that a routine flight into space is always anything but routine.

Some of us have learned to value safety over speed, and those of us who have learned this are trying our darndest to convince others of it.


We have hopefully learned as a nation that no one is perfect and sometimes it takes an accidental death of seven people to prove that.

And I hope to hell that we have learned to listen to the little people. To question answers that don't seem right. To check and double check and triple check the calculations. To value life above personal agendas.

It took us almost 2 and 1/2 years to build up the courage to launch Discovery after the Challenger accident.

Yes Challenger, we have learned from you--but we are still in the process of
remembering.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

MCM - Certified Mom

This morning I woke up early, the baby monitor was chirping just a few minutes before my alarm was set to go off. Chris graciously rolled out of bed and set out to re-insert Otto's paci. Meanwhile, I pressed my clothes, curled my hair and brewed some coffee - my standard pre-console routine. After a quick breakfast Zara peeped her head over the railing and I heard a gentle "mama" echo down the stairs. It was still dark, but this little one was ready for her daily breakfast of oatmeal and milk in preparation for a fun day at swim lessons and school. As she sat, eating her "oatsss" (as she calls them), I whirled around the kitchen prepping bottles, gathering outfits for school, and ensuring all the swim lesson supplies were set out. It's hard leaving Chris to take care of both kids in the morning (#momguilt) so I try my best to complete as many get-ahead tasks as possible, in hopes his morning goes smoothly. 
This morning schedule description may seem mundan…

MCM - On Call

It's definitely Monday. Otto spit up on my work clothes this morning, I forgot to brush my teeth and I sat down in my car forgetting to clean the layer of sand from the beach yesterday. Whoops. But, it's also MONDAY!!!!! Which means you get a special look behind the proverbial curtain of Mission Control in a series I'm dubbing "Mission Control Monday". We all need a little "boost" (pun intended) at the beginning of the week, so why not get it from the heart of Manned Spaceflight itself - NASA's Mission Control
This week I am highlighting the little known fact that sometimes, as an ADCO Specialist, I am scheduled to be "On Call". It just so happens I am "on-call" this week! Even though we don't have a sweet 1990's pager, the ADCO on-call is a Specialist with the cumbersome responsibility of having their cell phone strapped to them at all times. Yes, even during the night. Yes, even when you have a 3 month old. Yes, just…

Critical Space Item: Handle With Extreme Care

Someday I want to open a box. The box will be neatly wrapped up with an excessive amount of packaging. Its contents will have been years in the making, and even though it won't weigh much, this small box will represent a huge step forward.


As most flight hardware begins, the space-rated closed-loop insulin delivery and monitoring device inside the box will be sterile and stark. But as the batteries whir to life and insulin is placed within, it will become an extra appendage, an external pancreas, for this Type 1 astro-hopeful. Bluetooth connections will be made and doctors, hungry for telemetry from my bionic body, will be at the ready. We will rely on each other - he on I for his very existence, and I on him for my continued existence. Together we will make up one whole, completely functioning, Type 1 Diabetic astronaut.

Admittedly, this dream feels further and further from reality. I have lived with this disease just under 20 years now, and the cure has always been "just 5 …
01 09 10