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From: Henry Spencer <>
Subject: safety (was Re: The US Needs NASA and the Space Program)
Date: Mon, 19 Feb 1996 20:11:12 GMT

In article <4g3fj1$> doyle@PROBLEM_WITH_INEWS_GATEWAY_FILE () writes:
>> >> NASA has shown an outstanding safety
>> >> record, with only a very few accidents in their entire history.
>> >I don't think apollo 1, 13 and chanlanger are an outstanding safety
>> >record. 
>> And how many people died on Columbus's ships...
>It does not matter how many people died.
>3 acccidents is not an outstanding safety record.

In fact, it is an unacceptable safety record.  35 years into a vigorous
space program, there should have been more.

Yes, I'm serious.  That *low* an accident rate, for exploring a new
frontier with new equipment, indicates a half-paralyzed space program
which is terrified of any kind of risk.  Look at the death rates in
experimental aviation (or just the names on the street map of Edwards)
for an example of a more realistic attitude.

The way you learn things is to make mistakes.  A low mistake rate means a
low learning rate.  And that is exactly what we see when we look at the
space program today.

Now, of course, one tries hard to ensure that the people involved
*survive* the mistakes, as the crews of Gemini 8 and Apollo 13 did.  But
realistically, perfect safety is not possible, and trying too hard for it 
will cripple the program.

In conquering a new frontier, a certain number of failures and deaths are
inevitable.  The choice is not whether this happens, but how quickly it
happens.  You *can* cut the failure rate and the death rate down... by
slowing the rate of progress down too.

>It might be an exceptable record if they had not been doing stupid
>thing in Apollo 1 and Chalanger.

Stupidity is not something you can banish by a wave of the hand, or by
spending vast amounts of money.  The way you keep it under control is with
occasional demonstrations of its consequences.  Note that I didn't say "a
way", I said "the way", and I didn't say "eliminate it", I said "keep it
under control".  There is no alternative, and all the wishful thinking in
the world won't make one appear. 

"We're in a risky business, and we hope if anything happens to us, it
will not delay the program.  The conquest of space is worth the risk
of life."  -- Gus Grissom, commander, Apollo 1.

Space will not be opened by always                 |       Henry Spencer
leaving it to another generation.   --Bill Gaubatz |

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