Last week there were two related bits of news that should cause those who are interested in the human space program to take pause and think a bit. The first was the announcement that Space Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale was leaving his position to take a new job at Johnson Space Center. The other was the announcement of a new, traveling “Columbia Safety Exhibit” displaying several pieces of debris recovered from the Columbia accident. The creation of that exhibit was due to Wayne Hale. And nobody should be surprised by that.
During the Columbia flight, Hale had tried unsuccessfully to gather more data on the effects of a foam strike on the shuttle’s wing. For many of those who worked for the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB), Hale was “one of the good guys” and was widely admired (see “Wayne Hale: one of the good guys”, The Space Review, September 25, 2006). There were plenty of people at NASA who had seriously screwed up and who had rather appalling attitudes towards safety. After one impact test on the foam, I remember one NASA engineer loudly bragging about how tough his foam was and how it was not responsible for the accident—exuberance that seemed badly misplaced, if not outright offensive. Although Hale may not have fit the mode of Gene Kranz in the movie Apollo 13, he was really the ideal NASA role model: competent, smart, and thoughtful.
Read the Rest about one of the Best HERE.