February 3rd, 2003


Columbia disaster: from other threads

Participated in two threads (here and here) and decided to repeat my words here.

• We should avoid confusing religious and philosophical issues with technical issues. If you want to find a "meaning" to this, it's the former; if you want to know why this happened and how to fix the problem, it's the latter.

[Jewish luck] Yes, there was a Jewish astronaut in Columbia and there was one in Challenger. So what? There were 3 large catastrophes in the US space program (Apollo 1 in training, Challenger on liftoff, Columbia on landing) as well as 3 large catastrophes in the Soviet space program (Bondarenko in training, Soyuz 1 on landing, Soyuz 11 on landing). Jews, if you insist on counting, were present in 2 of the 6 cases, and did not pilot either craft. On the other hand, there were several Jewish astro- and cosmonauts whose missions were completed successfully.

• What could have been done, had they had a chance to know about the problem in advance? They could not walk around the shuttle, because there were no technical means for that. But they could dock at the ISS (International Space Station), since the docking mechanisms are unified. This is a difficult maneuver, but no more difficult than landing. Both crafts can maneuver, in case there was not enough fuel in the shuttle tanks. Then the shuttle crew could use the attached Soyuz craft to land, and another Soyuz would have to be launched quickly (this is the tricky part, since there is no replacement Soyuz craft ready, AFAIK, but I am sure a Progress could be adapted, since it is essentially a modified Soyuz anyway). Fuel and other consumables could be replaced by the Progress ready to launch (it would have to be repacked, of course). In addition, the shuttle attached to the station could be space-walked, the problem diagnozed and fixed, if possible.

Disclaimer: I have no idea what I am talking about. I just think this is a better way to commemorate, and I prefer commemoration to commiseration.