For those who aren’t superstitious or just weren’t aware of the history of American manned spaceflight, we have just entered NASA’s “witching weeks”. This is the strange bermuda-triangle period (late January-early February) that seems to attract catastrophic failures to the Agency – specifically:
Apollo 1 pad fire: January 27
Challenger destruction on ascent: January 28
Columbia disintegration on reentry: February 1
My suggestion: avoid flights in January/February. I’m not saying it’s anything more than a coincidence, but given the risks (and that we only have three orbiters left) I’d say better safe than sorry…
Except… well, I open the Washington Post and come across this little gem:
The article goes on to say that apparently there’s a little design flaw (to be fixed, of course) in the first stage that would violently shake apart the capsule housing the astronauts…
NASA engineers characterized the shaking as being in what the agency considers the “red zone” of risk, ranking a 5 on a 1-to-5 scale of severity.
“It’s highly likely to happen, and if it does, it’s a disaster,” said Paul Fischbeck, a Carnegie Mellon University engineering professor who has consulted on risk issues with NASA in the past.
Now of course there are those who believe that there’s nothing to worry about – NASA will solve this just as they have in the past.. for example, they’ve managed to find one Professor Jorge Arenas of the Institute of Acoustics in Valdivia, Chile, who said: “NASA has developed one of the safest and risk-controlled space programs in engineering history.”
1 of…. 3. That’s impressive. Last I checked, only three countries have a manned space program that is capable of launching their own astronauts into orbit (as opposed to hitching a ride with someone else). One could just as easily say “NASA has developed one of the the three riskiest and uncontrolled space programs in engineering history,” because, of course, the pool of such countries is so darn small.
The Post says that the first launch of astronauts aboard Ares I and Orion is set for March 2015.
Methinks they might want to consider building the rocket, testing it, and making sure it doesn’t go boom before they start announcing a target month for the launch. But hey, at least they’re avoiding January/February. No point taking unnecessary risks.