Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas writes that U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) is not heeding the lessons of the 1986 Challenger disaster by insisting that NASA field an astronaut launching system at a cost and on a schedule the space agency says in cannot meet.
Thomas says engineers who believed NASA should postpone Challenger’s scheduled Jan. 28 launch due to concerns about the ability of the orbiter’s solid-rocket booster O-rings to withstand freezing temperatures were overruled. The O-ring on one of the boosters did in fact fail during the launch, and the escaping hot gases ignited Challenger’s external fuel tank, destroying the orbiter and killing its seven-person crew.
“Last month, NASA demonstrated it learned its lesson. It told Congress it could not develop a new manned rocket under the existing time and money constraints.
“The response from U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Kay Bailey Hutchison was to build it anyway.”