Monday, February 14, 2011

NASA underestimated shuttle dangers

In a recent USA Today article I read where NASA's Shuttle Program Safety and Mission Assurance Office at Johnson Space Center in Houston did a risk assessment of the dangers of shuttle missions.

As much as I hate to NASA bash, the initial results are disturbing to say the least.

When NASA start flying the shuttles in 1981, NASA managers thought there was only a 1-in-100,000 chance of losing a shuttle and its crew. Engineers thought the probability was closer to 1 in 100. The frightening fact is that those early missions had odds of less than 1 in 10!

From the article:
  • Consider this: There was only a 6% chance that NASA would fly its first 25 shuttle missions without losing an astronaut crew, the assessment shows.
  • Moreover, on the 88 shuttle missions flown between the Challenger and Columbia accidents, there was only a 7% chance disaster would be averted.
NASA realizes that to be more successful they need a " very robust test program" and collect as much data as possible.

In fact after two major accidents and many near misses shuttle now is 10 times safer than it was during the first flight in April 1981. The odds of a catastrophic failure now are 1 in 90.


Anonymous said...

When the temp dropped below 32*, we GM engineers knew the O rings probably would not hold.
They didn't. 7 people were roasted like hot dogs over a bbq. If WE knew
it, so did Canaveral.

Beam Me Up said...

Ouch Anon!
I mean, you hear this stuff, but to have someone in the know step up and say unequivocally that there was a problem and the people who should have known DID. And for them to say that there wasn't any undue pressure to launch starts to wear thin.

Thanks for the words. They are still hard to read, but knowing is better than not. You certainly don't hold back on your punches