Cosmic Corruption

Of the millions of ways the government missuses, squanders, wastes money, the space program is one of those things I generally just shut up about. Yes, it’s all the same theft–parasites sucking money from you and me in order to finance their values–but there are a million ways in which the state does harm beyond even the fact of the theft, and it’s not obvious to me that the space program is one of those. So I give it a pass.

But perhaps no more.

The thing about the aviation and space business is that it’s very serious business. While a bunch of dolts in DC and the statehouses have no compunction about sticking their noses in all manner of affairs they know nothing about–like how a business should be run–they have tended to leave the business of aviation design and space exploration to people who are actually experts in the field, like engineers, pilots, astronauts and such. Imagine that!

Now this:

NASA engineers had already seen how fixes can break things. After
they made a minor change in the foam application process in the late
1990’s to comply with environmental rules, small divots of foam rained
off of the tank during ascent. The phenomenon, called popcorning, was
caused by trapped bubbles; NASA solved the problem by venting the foam
with tiny holes, but it was a reminder, if any was needed, that
seemingly small changes could have profound effects.

"Foam really is complicated," said Douglas D. Osheroff, a professor
of physics at Stanford and a member of the board that investigated the
Columbia accident. "Once you go supersonic, the top surface melts, the
bottom surface is brittle as all hell because it’s very cold, and
you’ve got everything in between."

Although the material could be made less fragile by adding fibers
to the foam, he noted, "that adds weight" to the shuttle, and any
changes can take years

Ultimately, the accident board recommended that NASA find ways to
prevent any shedding of foam or other debris. And NASA gained
confidence during the time between flights that it was making progress.

Among other things, it improved the training processes for applying
foam by hand. At the Michoud tank assembly plant in Louisiana, an
observer monitors every worker spraying foam – "for every sprayer
there’s a watcher
, a second pair of eyes," said June Malone, a NASA

But the tank that flew with the Discovery last week was made before
the new procedures went into effect, and NASA stopped short of
requiring that the ramps be redone, said a spokesman, Martin J. Jensen.

[emphasis mine]

So now the popes, cardinals, bishops and priests of environmental hysteria get to have a say in the design of spacecraft? And now, even in the face of good evidence that complying with these environmental rules by formulating a foam that does not contain the dreaded freon is the very root cause of the Columbia meltdown, they fail to address that root cause? They just throw more money, more people, and more bureaucracy at it, so now it’s virtually indistinguishable from any other sort of government boondoggle.

Well, perhaps Rutan and Branson will get it right. See the first three articles.

He also said that test program would put more people into space than
have flown there in the last 44 years of spaceflight. Forty-four years,
which have so far yielded fatalities for each 62 flights, according to
Rutan. It’s the result of ground-launch methodology that among other
things places people "on top of a one kiloton bomb," according to
Virgin Galactic’s Whitehorn. Part of the plan is to exponentially
surpass that safety record.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. Kyle Bennett on July 31, 2005 at 08:15

    There's a good argument that without NASA, we'd already have a solid and extensive space infrastructure. Their tendency towards the big splashy goals has taken resources away from building a foundation for an ongoing everyday use of space. If space had been developed privately, with a profit motive, we'd likely already have numerous permanent presences up there, and an infrastructure to support productive use. Now all we have is a few feel good events that increasingly leave us less and less to feel good about.

    And Zach, I'd give up a lot of things I want if the government would just STOP funding the schools entirely. It's that important. There's probably no single thing the government does that is as destructive to all of us than the public schools.

  2. Richard Nikoley on July 31, 2005 at 08:26

    My wife is an elementary school teacher of 23 years. I interact with her and her teacher friends quite frequently and am convinced that there is essentially no problem at the school level. The teachers are, for the most part, quite capable, dedicated, and effective. Yea, they're a bunch of silly lefties, but they do know how to teach the "three Rs" and they do quite well at it, at least in the two schools my wife has taught at.

    But, they are stiffled by the enormous bureacracy above them, as well as the NEA who works primarily to get more members, not to educate kids.

    We can quibble all day about a lot of the rot that kids get taught in school, from the religion of environmentalism to every other sort of pet scare of the day, but it's small potatoes, really. What's happening is that they are being choked from above by a bureacracy intent on promoting its self for its own sake.

  3. Kyle Bennett on July 31, 2005 at 09:16


    You're right about the inefficiency and low quality of education being driven largely form above, but what I see as destructive is the content of that education – the stuff you call small potatoes. That also is driven from above, but after decades of NEA influence, it has trickled down to the teaching level as well.

    Either way, it's an argument for privatization: allow parents to choose what will be taught to their children, allow parents to choose schools that will provide quality as cost-effectively as they can, and allow the good teachers to earn what they're worth and have the resources to do the job right.

  4. Billy Beck on July 31, 2005 at 13:17

    The cultural destruction and mutilation wrought at the hands of public schools is so enormous that, on about three days out of any given five, I'll tell you that it is the single most important and pressing problem that must be solved before anything else. For an example: consider that the arguments over evolution could never have risen to the pitch that they have if parents — from Christian to atheist — were free to choose among market alternatives for their own children, according to their own values. And that's only one example, before we even get started on the positive indoctrination of good little statebots.

    I'm with Kyle. Nothing about public education is "small potatoes", Rich, and the good intentions of teachers amount to nothing, in the end. The destruction of American culture begins with untold numbers of budding minds, daily, in forced attendance of government interests. Without that, it's nearly impossible for me to imagine how the rest of this could go on.

  5. A College Student on July 31, 2005 at 08:28

    Think of how much money the government spends in America. Per the CIA world fact book, the GDP of the USA was estimated at 11.75 trillion in 2004. The "Budget" (which I think is the expenditure of the federal government, correct me if I am wrong here) is listed as 2.338 trillion.

    Now, how much of that money, from one year, would people voluntarily put into private entertainment/investment/exploration in the space industry if they had control over it? How much money would they spend on better private education? How much less would they spend on health care?

  6. Jen on July 31, 2005 at 11:44

    Good post, but keep in mind that all of your information about the situation was gathered from the news media and that there is a lot more to the story that what the media chooses to talk about. I am a Space Shuttle Technician, and even I can't pretend to know a whole lot about what goes on at the upper levels of NASA decision making. I can tell you that it is definitely not as cut and dried as it may seem, and that you would be truly amazed if you knew what it actually takes to process a shuttle for flight, especially now. Everything is scrutinized multiple times, photographed repeatedly and otherwise documented. Almost no process gets done without at least three people to observe and verify. Just some food for thought. The media is very much behind the curve on this one. They don't have a clue about what we go through. There is no way they could without being put in our shoes.

  7. Zach Cone on July 31, 2005 at 07:44

    I would support the funding of NASA more if our schools would be getting some money. Local schools have been laying off teachers because they just don't have the money to keep them. All while we spend billions in Iraq and billions on sending poepel and robots into space. I also think NASA is now putting peoel lives in risk for its own good. They should not sned people up when they know there could be a problem. I hope thy ahve a safe landing for the sake of their families and friends.

  8. Walter E. Wallis on July 31, 2005 at 18:26

    We do need a presence in space to protect our communictions, to detect an attack and, ultimately, to intercept and redirect an earthbound rock.
    I don't think NASA is suitable for the prime contract. 2 and a half years to resolve a problem, but no one had the guts to say "Screw the EPA, we want live landings." I thought, after Challenger, that the ugliness of "Take off your engineer's hat and put on your management hat" would change things, but it did not.

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