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From: Mary Shafer <>
Subject: Re: Shuttle safety (Was: Don't make me laugh!)
Date: 03 Aug 1999 12:00:45 -0700 (Don Sterner) writes:

> Every astronaut enters the program knowing fully well that
> there are risks. Every employee (NASA and contracator) that I've
> ever met there places safety as a foremost objective - and that
> was true prior to the Challenger flight, in spite of some news
> commentary to the contrary.

I have a good friend (we first met when I was 6 and he was 4) who was
one of the finalists for the Teacher in Space competition that Christa
MacAuliff won.  All the finalists went to Johnson, where they were
briefed _extensively_ on the risks involved in space flight.  My
friend told me that there was no chance that anyone didn't understand
the dangers involved.  After the briefings, the finalists were offered
the choice of withdrawing their names (privately and without
publicity) if they felt that they couldn't accept the risk for some
reason (single parents, only children of aging parents, etc).  He
thought that some five or so teachers withdrew after this explanation,
but couldn't tell for sure, as they'd been divided into subgroups and
were being tested in other ways (stuffed into pressure suits to
discover latent claustrophobia, for example).  At any rate, somewhere
between ten and twenty teachers withdrew following closer exposure to
the actual conditions, some of them because of the risk.

JSC was so true to its word that this would never be discussed
publically that they never told the press more than that the finalists
had been briefed on the risks.  That wasn't very interesting to the
media and rarely was anything about this mentioned to the public.  I
would never have known had a finalist not told me, in fact.

Remember that everyone on the Shuttle has striven mightly to be
there.  They have not just volunteered but actively competed for
flight slots.

For a better appreciation of NASA's views on safety versus expediency,
read "The Challenger Launch Decision" by Diane Vaughan.  For many it
will be a real eye-opener.

Mary Shafer     Of course I don't speak for NASA
Lead Handling Qualities Engineer, SR-71/LASRE
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA
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