Thursday, July 28, 2005

Similarities between LANL and NASA

From Anonymous:

I find myself feeling irate that we have 7 astronauts in space who are facing the same kind of reentry that killed their predecessors in the last shuttle flight. Yes, I am aware that NASA now says the lost foam from the liftoff didn't damage the orbiter, but NASA has grounded all future shuttle flights, which suggests it doesn't have much faith in the safety of the shuttles. The part I find so appalling is the fact that the shuttle Discovery was found unfit to fly on June 28 and NASA sent it off anyhow.
Maybe this set of astronauts will survive and I hope and pray that they do, but what I see is an agency so concerned about publicity that it didn't listen to its own safety advisory team. It appears that only luck prevented a disaster and we still don't know that such a disaster has been prevented.
I think of LANL's many failures to enforce safety rules and to repair reported hazards over the years, which resulted in accidents such as the one that caused a laser burn to a student's retina, and radiation uptakes, and numerous near misses. LANL advertises a deep concern for the safety of its employees but in the end fails to enforce its own rules over and over again -- usually in an attempt to get work done in a hurry, to meet deadlines, or just because they think something else is a higher budgetary priority.
Nanos tried to solve the problem with a stick. That approach was an utter failure. I just see a model of LANL's problems in the current NASA Discovery problem. The only possible solution is the ability to face the truth and to tell higher ups what they do not want to hear. It would help a lot if telling the truth wasn't career suicide and coverups were.

It's incredible that they did this launch with the fuel gauge problem. The existence of such a problem is evidence that there might be other problems, and there were!

The NASA managers also screwed up the Space Telescope because they were unwilling to fund a complete optical test such as is done on all ground-based optical telescopes of that size. NASA managment are the original buttheads.
Please do not compare LANL to NASA. Very different places, different people.

By the way NASA is the biggest
waste of money. Why the hell are
we spending money on the space station or manned space flight?
It cost a lot of money with little or no scientific payoff.
How about unmanned probes. Way cheaper, safer and get better results.

By the way the orginal post is
just way out of line and way off the mark. Also you should get
your facts right about our the
safety record.
The original external tank insulation used freon-blown foam, but under the Montreal Protocol to ban ALL CFCs, they changed to a (I think) CO2 blown foam. The freon blown foam was MUCH STRONGER than the current CO2 blown foam and had no mishaps.

Blame the foam problems and the deaths of the astronauts on the eco-pukes. NASA is SOOO CONCERNED with being "Green" that they're willing to kill people for it.
To 9:39 pm:

Manned spaceflight has never been about "scientific payoff" and never will be. It is about the excitement and first-hsnd response to exploration. Was Marco Polo about "scientific payoff?" How about Magellan or Columbus? (OK - be a pissant about economic gain if you must). Only those who have no dreams and no "wanderlust" will have the sour, bottom-line focus that you display. Where is your imagination and sense of wonder in the universe? For myself, I can only envy those few who are chosen to experience that which I will never do.
Anonymous : 7/28/2005 08:22:32 PM is correct in that "Manned spaceflight has never been about "scientific payoff" and never will be."
Neither is most of astronomy.

BUT, that does not excuse the NASA cowboy buttheads sending op the shuttle when it was known to have problems.
In response to 7/28/2005 05:09:39 PM, LANL does indeed have an excellent safety record and Nanos was wrong to say otherwise. On the other hand, LANL has a bad habit of not reporting accidents and especially near misses. Some of the near misses, though not recorded as safety problems, are trul hair raising.
And many of us have turned in safety problems to LANL which have not been fixed.
The truth is that LANL is tricky about how it reports safety incidents and possible safety problems. They don't show up in the accident records.
Yet those of us who have worked at LANL have seen some pretty scary things over the years.
LANL is more like NASA than most of us like to think about.

NASA still is a waste of money in terms of manned space flight. Let some private for profit outfit figure a way to put people in space. By the way it will be cheap to put a person on Mars. I just do not know how you will get them back.

"For myself, I can only envy those few who are chosen to experience that which I never will"

There are so many wastefull things
that some chosen few will experince
that you will not. How about having billions of dollars. Why not start
a progam where we give billions to
some average person. Would you envy them or think it is a waste. Why not
put yourself in a burlap bag and lay
down on a freeway for 30min. If you
live you can say you have had a very
unique experience. More people have
gone into space than done that.
LANL has an excellent safety record if you don't count incidents it fails to report. Wonder what would happen if we counted all the people who went to the hospital on their on nickel. Also, safety reports don't cover some of the disastrous near misses we have had.
This whole near miss thing is
BS. Let us face the facts. LANL
does have a great safety record.
We are a good lab. All this
is about politics and that is it.
7/29/2005 02:27:14 PM said:
"LANL has an excellent safety record if you don't count incidents it fails to report. Wonder what would happen if we counted all the people who went to the hospital on their on nickel. Also, safety reports don't cover some of the disastrous near misses we have had."

I don't recall the Lab mentioning the accident on the DARHT firing point early this year in which an employee received a severe cut on his hand. I read about it in the blog and verified it by talking to people who worked at DARHT.

When I was safety officer for M-7, we had a division safety committee that met monthly. In each meeting Roger Goldie reported safety incidents that occurred in the weapons complex, and we discussed accidents and near misses in our groups. We then went back to our groups and shared this information with group members. Does anyone do this now?

A few years ago, I described to the group safety officer an incident I had on the firing pad that could have resulted in a severe or fatal electrical shock. She thought it was important enough to have it published as a Lab-wide Safety Notice. It was not published. When was the last time you saw a Safety Notice? If you want to hear about it, contact me at
To 11:44 pm 7/28/05:

You are an example of what I called "pissants" - no imagination, no thrill of discovery, just a head in the sand on your own little world. So sad... "put yourself in a burlap bag and lay down on the freeway." Yep - you understand the excitement of scientific discovery in unknown environments. I hope and assume that LANSLLC or Lockmart will decide your job doesn't "map" anywhere.
NASA and all space programs are actually the most important activity on the planet in terms of technological value. As a species we have not yet realize that this planet is finite and vulnerable to assorted nasty events that can cause mass extinctions. On longer timescales, the Sun is not a going proposition either. Bottom line, a rational wagering species would hedge its bets by duplicating habitats whenever possible. Take your pick, terraform Mars, go interplanetary in an ecosphere, etc. Yeah yeah yeah, why spend money on space when people are hungry and sick? People are hungry and sick because other people don't care; it is a resource allocation and political justice problem, not a limited resource problem. We could have colonized Mars for the money we've spent on war in Iraq since 1991. Life on this planet faces an intelligence test, as life on all planets probably faces at some point: are we collectively intelligent enough to get our acts together and colonize offplanet (preferably out of the solar system, multiple locations, all over the galaxy), or do we just stay put and hope for the best? Knowing of course that the best is extinction, in the long run? Why not take half of what we spend on arms globally and have a global space effort instead? A lot fewer people get hurt, a lot more sustainable technology gets invented to help people on earth, and no more searching for pesky WMDs. Now asteroids are WMDs, my friends, as are gamma ray bursts, solar variability, global ice age or greenhouse, whatever your favorite scenario, one fine day on this planet things are going to get pretty freaking dicey for homo sapiens. So why care about something that won't happen until after you are dead? Why do archival science? We all die, that is not in question. The question is what are we doing while we wait. (Let's skip the whole after-death discussion as science is formally unable to address that line of questioning). And if you subscribe to one of the various end-of-time scenarios courtesy of the The Big Guy Upstairs, oh well, I'd just as well keep busy doing something interesting and meaningful waiting for the last trumpet. DNA as a whole has an agenda, whether you personally do or not! Ain't the universe amazing?
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