Saturday, July 28, 2007

Following up the week in space

The independent panel that made headlines with reports of astronauts drinking before flying also cautioned that its aim was to determine how well the process of clearing astronauts for flight was working - not whether specific incidents, as reported to the panel, had actually occurred. NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale said the panel did not provide specifics and NASA had to investigate further. She added, "Alcohol use in regard to spacecraft or aircraft -- and anybody's that's impaired -- is not going to be tolerated by this agency." So we have a while to go before NASA investigates the claim that one impaired astronaut went up on a Soyuz capsule, while another was cleared to board a Shuttle flight but was sent home when the flight was delayed for unrelated reasons.

The transcript from the NASA press conference shows the distance between the actual findings so far and the dramatic headlines (like "Three-Martini Launch"):

Meanwhile, Burt Rutan's cutting-edge space technology firm, Scaled Compsites, LLC (whose server appears to be down this morning) has released this statement on its first-ever fatal accident, which occurred on Thursday the 26th:

Scaled Composites, LLC is deeply saddened to report the loss of three of our colleagues. Eric Blackwell, 38, Glen May, 45, and Todd Ivens, 33, were killed by an explosion that occurred during a routine cold-flow test of the oxidizer system we’re developing for SpaceShipTwo. Three other Scaled employees were seriously injured and are hospitalized.
We are doing our best to take care of the families of the deceased as well as the injured and their families, and we hope you will join us in keeping them in your thoughts and prayers.
As you may imagine, the Scaled family is devastated by this event. As we grieve together, we are also beginning to gather up all of the information to determine what caused this accident. We are committed to learn all we can from this tragedy and move ahead.

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