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Former BUFF driver; self-styled military historian; paid (a lot) to write about beating plowshares into swords; NOT Foamy the Squirrel, contrary to all appearances. Wesleyan Jihadi Name: Sibling Railgun of Reasoned Discourse

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Environmentalism Can Kill

Started to post on this last Friday, but got distracted.

As I write this morning, however, the crew of the space shuttle is about to repair heat shield tiles that are exhibiting extruded filler material that may endanger re-entry due to shield hotspots. This follows the loss of foam insulation from the shuttle's external boosters--a repeat of the problem that destroyed the Columbia two years ago.

Why is this happening? Here's part of the story that you might not have heard about yet. Seems that in order to reduce emissions of that hideous death-vapor that was asphyxiating millions every year across the globe and slicing holes in the ozone you could drive the moon through....


[There. I wrote it. I apologize to the faint-hearted for using such a blood-chilling--and I do mean chilling--word. Mea culpa.] order to reduce emissions of........THAT gas, NASA switched to a more enviro-friendly manufacturing process that omitted its use. Sadly, as those who remember how much better car air conditioners worked before we got rid of fr.........uh, CFCs.....can attest, the replacement refrigerants / solvents / propellants don't work quite as well. Just as sadly, NASA used such a miniscule amount of f..........sorry.....R-12 that it could easily have gotten a waiver from the US Dept of Silly Requirements to continue using......that stuff. This suggests that the problem has been known of for some time:

Environmental political correctness in a bureaucracy run amuck may have directly contributed to the [Columbia] tragedy. Prior to 1997, according to Fox News, the Space Shuttle's external tank was insulated using Freon based foam. Widespread use of chlorofluorocarbons like Freon was thought to be damaging to the Ozone, so their widespread use was phased out under the auspices of a treaty called the Montreal Protocol.

The Freon foam worked well, and an exemption for this usage could have easily been obtained, but in a move to be the kinder, gentler National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the foam was replaced with a more "environmentally friendly" foam. In 2001, the Environmental Protection Agency officially exempted NASA from the ban on CFC's, as the small amount they used would have no measurable impact on the environment as a whole, but the bureaucrats at NASA chose political correct appearances rather than the safety of the crew.

There was a problem on the first mission where they used the eco-friendly foam. More than one hundred of the tiles were beyond repair, well above the previous average of forty. Naturally the eco-friendly foam was suspect. It was only a matter of time before tragedy struck. When on that tragic February morning, when the shuttle broke up upon reentry, it would seem obvious that the eco-friendly foam would be the immediate suspect.

To the internal NASA commission set up to investigate the accident, this is not the case. The crash is enough of a black eye to NASA without having to admit that foolish goals of environmental harmony attributed to the loss of seven astronauts, and cost the government more than a quarter of a billion dollars. Consequentially, the commission investigating the Columbia refused to see the obvious.

We got lucky....this time. Let us hope that NASA can overcome its bureaucratic ineptitude and inertia and order the tiles replaced via the original process while the fleet--what's left of it--is grounded.

When does NASA's bureaucracy become accountable for all of this?

When can we finally turn our nation's space program over to the folks who gave us this?


Or this?

(The ESA & JPL)

Or this?


Or even this?

(Scaled Composites and Rutan Aircraft Factory)

Not this....


Update 5 Aug 05
: Way cool! This is the kind of thing NASA needs to be doing a lot more of. I doubt the bureau boys in DC came up with this one.

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