My heart be still: During a teleconference yesterday, members of NASA’s safety panel expressed concerns about Boeing’s Starliner capsule while cautiously and very tentatively endorsing SpaceX’s intention to launch future manned missions with reused Falcon 9 first stages and reused Dragon capsules.
I consider this safety panel worse than useless. For example, based on this news report, they appear to have had little involvement in the NASA/Boeing investigation into the issues that caused the premature de-orbit of first unmanned orbital test flight of Starliner. Instead, it appears they have simply reviewed that investigation, and are now just kibbitzing from the sidelines.
Of course NASA should be concerned about the 80 issues it found, mostly involving software. No one needs this safety panel to tell the agency this.
Meanwhile, the panel’s tentative support for reusing Falcon 9 boosters and Dragon capsules is merely a rubberstamp of already decided NASA policy, and also illustrates the panel’s uselessness. This safety panel spent the last five years blasting everything SpaceX was doing (causing many delays), while literally missing the real elephant in the room, Boeing’s own quality control issues.
It appears to me that NASA is very gently and quietly making the safety panel irrelevant to its operations. Even better would be to disband it entirely. It serves no purpose other than to delay and block future exploration, sometimes foolishly.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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