Saturday, July 28, 2007

Diaper-Gate Leads to Bottle-to-Blastoff Row for National Alcoholic Spirits Association

Our local NASA facility here in Florida, as Jay Leno notes, is aptly named the Kennedy Space Center after a family known for both its sobriety and its aversion to space cadet substances [except for Robert Kennedy Jr.'s heroin conviction & a few untimely deaths]. I thought an interview on CNN with a character named after the Fielding novel scalawag was hilarious, as he noted that
"I didn't see any use of alcohol that infringed safety," said Tom Jones, who served on four shuttle missions before retiring in 2001. "I didn't see any flight surgeons who would have hesitated to blow the whistle."

Jones went on to say that there had been "no problems" with the Shuttle missions to the dead-head CNN interviewer, who nodded in agreement.

Am I having false-memory problems or did I just imagine two Shuttle trips exploding in mid-mission? Guess those don't count as problems, huh?

Richard Feynman, of "Cargo Cult Science" fame, noted that one out of fifty or so Shuttle missions would have catastrophic problems, as opposed to NASA's one of 100,000 missions. And in a possibly related development,
NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale said the space agency would implement the panel's recommendation for yearly psychological reviews of all astronauts. Prospective astronauts are screened for psychological problems when they apply. Only those later selected for missions aboard the space station receive further testing.

So no more stabbings by astronauts in diapers? Makes me feel my taxpayer dollars are at work. And in the private-sector space world, a slight hiccup occurred in man's ceaseless quest to surmount the surly bonds of gravity keeping us mere terrestrial animals. Although the sad incident above was an accident, some Luddite employed by a NASA sub-contractor threw another spanner into the works by sabotaging an on-flight computer.

To me, the real pleasure of this NASA drinking scandal is the launch of my favorite blogger, Dr. Sanity, into national newspace:
Dr. Patricia Santy, a psychiatrist at the University of Michigan who worked as a NASA flight surgeon from 1984 to 1992, said she often pushed for more extensive psychological reviews but was ignored. She said astronauts had an incentive to downplay any problems that would prevent them from flying.

"NASA management is in denial that any of their astronauts could behave badly," she said. Santy said she had never heard of any astronauts drinking during preflight hours. But she said the claims didn't surprise her. "These people are cowboys," she said. "They are hard-living. They take risks. They are ... exceptional."

Just like the Kennedys are exceptional, in more ways than one.

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