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January 28, 2014

Two Days in January

Today, Jan 28 marks the 28th anniversary of the loss of the space shuttle Challenger and her crew. Yesterday on Jan 27, 19 years earlier a fire broke out in the Apollo 1 command module during a launch test that killed the three crewmembers scheduled to fly that mission a month later. Two dates next to each other on a calendar separated by almost 2 decades.

4 days from now on Feb. 1 will be the 11th year since the breakup and disintigration of the space shuttle Columbia in the skies over Texas during their re-entry.

47 years seems like a very long time, but to put that into context it was a mere 66 years from the Wright Brothers first successful flight at Kittyhawk to Neil Armstrong's first step onto the moon.

There were other training accidents. Almost a year before the Apollo 1 fire, astronauts Elliott See and Charlie Bassett died when their T-38 trainer crashed into the McDonnell Aircraft building at Lambert Field in St. Louis where their Gemini space capsules were being built. And later in October of that same year astronaut C.C. Williams died in another T-38 crash in Huntsville.

Over at Meathead, Mollie Hemingway asks some interesting questions about risk aversion and meaningful accomplishments in the space program. Her basic point is if we expect to accomplish great things we have to become more comfortable with the idea of people dying in space.

I'm not sure I agree with her entirely but I absolutely do agree NASA has become just another large overfed federal agency - mostly interested in self-preservation and funding. You can argue for more private sector involvement (I would) but if it's just NASA letting out contracts that's still the government. To be effective and competitive it'll have to be done without NASA writing the checks.

I don't know if we should get more comfortable with the idea of people dying in space so much as we should understand the nature of the job means the risks are greater. Hemingway mentioned in her twitter feed she was surprised so many astronauts agreed with her. I'm not. They're aggressive and passionate about what they do, they train hard, and they're usually pretty smart. They know the risks far better than most and still choose to do the job.

Roll call below the fold:

T-38 crash in St. Louis, Feb 28, 1966

Elliott McKay See, Jr. Commander, USNR. Slated as Command Pilot of Gemini 9
Charles Arthur Bassett II, Captain, USAF. Slated as Pilot, Gemini 9

Apollo 1 Fire, Jan 27, 1967

Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, Lt. Colonel, USAF. Pilot Project Mercury (Liberty Bell 7, the second Mercury mission), Command Pilot Gemini 3, Apollo 1
Edward H. White, Lt. Colonel, USAF. Pilot Gemini 4, Senior Pilot Apollo 1. He was the first American to walk in space.
Roger Bruce Chaffee, Lt. Commander, USN. Pilot Apollo 1

T-38 crash near Huntsville Alabama Tallahassee Florida, Oct. 5 1967

Clifton Curtis "C.C." Williams, Major, USMC. Backup pilot for Gemini 10

Space Shuttle Challenger mission STS-51-L, explosion after launch Cape Canaveral, Jan 28, 1986

Francis Richard "Dick" Scobie, Lt. Colonel USAF. Pilot STS-41-C, Commander STS-51-L
Michael John Smith, Captain, USN. Pilot STS-51-L
Ronald Irvin McNair, PhD. Mission Specialist STS-41B, STS-51-L
Ellison Shoji Onizuka, Lt. Colonel, USAF. Mission Specialist STS-51-C, STS-51-L
Judith Arlene Resnick, PhD. Mission Specialist STS-41-D, STS-51-L
Gregory Bruce Jarvis, Captain, USAF. Payload Specialist STS-51-L
Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Teacher, Concord High School. Payload Specialist STS-51-L

Space Shuttle Columbia mission STS-107, destroyed during re-entry over Texas and Louisiana Feb 1, 2003

Richard Douglas Husband, Colonel, USAF. Pilot STS-96, Commander STS-107
William Cameron "Willie" McCool, Commander, USN. Pilot STS-107
Michael Phillip Anderson, Lt. Colonel, USAF. Mission Specialist STS-89, STS-107
Kalpana Chawla, PhD. Mission Specialist STS-87, STS-107
David McDowell Brown, Captain, USN. Mission Specialist STS-107
Laurel Blair Salton Clark, Captain, USN. Mission Specialist STS-107
Ilan Ramon, Colonel, Israeli Air Force. Payload Specialist STS-107

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posted by Dave In Texas at 04:45 PM

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