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Analyzing NASA's Role in the Shuttle Disaster

August 29, 2003

Re "Foam Was to Blame, Says Shuttle Study," Aug. 27: I can't help but feel pity for the poor folks at NASA. After years of having their budget slashed mercilessly by the government, to the point where they have to scrape by with radically insufficient resources, guess what happens -- another accident. Then, afterward, all of the dedicated and hard-working engineers who have been doing an amazing job on a shoestring budget have their feet held to the fire in public. And there is no mercy: Jobs are lost, hard-earned reputations ruined and the wobbly space program's credibility practically destroyed.

Contrast this with the 9/11 investigation. In spite of massive amounts of evidence pointing to gross incompetence on the part of federal law enforcement -- which was apparently too preoccupied investigating marijuana-growing West Hollywood AIDS sufferers to bother with the fact that known terrorists were infiltrating flight schools all over the country -- no one is held accountable, there is little reform and it's given a massive infusion of new federal money.

Gerald Gamin

Sherman Oaks

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How tragic that NASA paid so little attention to the work of the committee that investigated the Challenger explosion 17 years ago. In that report, commission member Richard Feynman of Caltech (who discovered the cause of the explosion) complained about NASA's overly optimistic evaluations of risk factors. Chairman William Rogers thought Feynman's criticisms could be "too damaging" to NASA and Feynman's report was relegated to an appendix.

The final words of his report are painfully accurate: "... reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled."

Murray D. Kucherawy

Santa Clarita

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