Wednesday, August 15, 2007


In my last post I made the comment that "mining disasters happen." As several commenters pointed out, s**t does happen. And it's not always somebody's fault.

I believe strongly in personal responsibility. I think a lot of what's wrong with our society today can be traced back to our too-prevalent victim mentality; one that says, "It's not my fault -- I came from a dysfunctional family -- the education system failed to teach me -- it's all that negative peer pressure -- the devil made me do it -- etc."

I try to accept responsibility for my actions. If I wrong someone, I try to make it right. I believe in restitution if I damage someone's property. I deplore the knee-jerk reaction of many to file a lawsuit, just to get some easy money. The attitude that says, "Sure, the lawyers will get most of it, but hey, chances are the other side will settle just to avoid the cost of defending the suit (the damage to their professional reputation, loss of future business, and so on), and the lawyer says he'll take the case on contingency. It won't cost me anything if I don't win. All I gotta do is wear this neck brace for a few monhts, and I won't have to work for years!"

So where's the dichotomy in that?

I've been reading about the latest space shuttle (Endeavor) damaged tile incident. I find myself beginning to wonder who's responsible for the system of heat-shielding tiles that are so delicate that insulating foam can destroy them.

This is a system that a number of lives depend upon. A system that, the last time it failed, caused the fiery spectacle of Columbia breaking into flaming pieces over Texas. Now they're saying that foam caused the latest tile breakage . . . AGAIN!

Now I understand that the folks who fly in the shuttle know they are taking a deadly risk. Every time I allowed my F-4 Phantom jet to be fired off the front end of the Forrestal I knew I was taking a deadly risk. But I was well trained, and able to evaluate and minimize that risk to a point. But with aircraft accidents, once an investigation determined that a design flaw caused a fatality (or even a potential one), the design flaw was corrected.

Why aren't the tiles adequately shielded from the foam and ice that clearly does break off of the external fuel tank? Or a better heat shield system developed? Or a different tank insulation system (that won't break off and cause the damage) developed? Too expensive? Too heavy? Some other reason(s)?

A report in "Science Daily" says, "National Aeronautics and Space Administration controllers in Houston said the damage to a small section of Endeavour's heat shield poses no threat to crew safety or mission operations."

Why am I not reassured? Why am I wanting to find out who is making these decisions? And hold them responsible if the worst happens to Endeavor?

Is there a dichotomy in all this? Am I guilty of a double standard?

Could be. I read in the morning paper that some are now blaming a practice called "retreat mining" for the Utah collapse. This practice has been used for decades, and the risks of collapse can be minimized. But the article implies that greed is the culprit -- the desire of the mining company to get all the coal they possibly can even at the expense of safety for the miners. I find myself reluctant to blame the mine owners. . . yet.

Meanwhile I pray that the crew of Endeavor is not harmed on re-entry due to this tile damage. But the thought that they might be makes me want to find a "responsible party" and string him up.

Just could be a dichotomy there.


Badabing said...

I'm with you 100% on the Endeavor issue, Duke. And I fear politics within NASA is in play here...some years ago I personally witnessed this in areas related to shuttle support. Let's all hope and pray that the crew makes it back safely.

Now, as for lawyers...geez it just jacks up my blood I'll stop here.

kenju said...

I agree! It is bound to be a bottom line thing.

Nankin said...

I think it all comes down to the idea of, "McDonalds made me fat." Why take responsibility when there is always some corrupt lawyer out there who will take any case...or make one where it didn't exist in the first place.

robotjam said...

instead of wondering about foam I think we should ask whats the point of sending people into space anyway ?

Why not just send robots instead.

Or monkeys like they used to.