[FPSPACE] Spaceflight is a dangerous business

Michael K. Heney mike at heney.net
Sat Nov 1 14:45:02 EDT 2014

Back in the day, seafaring was a dangerous business.  People developed new
untried technologies for water transport.  Thosw which worked well over time
became standard; those that failed did not.

In the early days of aviation (and pre-aviation) ... but you know  
where I'm going
here, too.

What it boils down to, I think, is that there are thrill-seekers,  
pioneers, and
the general population.  And it's a case of "what's sauce for the goose is NOT
sauce for the gander".

Pioneers have always made one-way trips - and often died en-route.   
(See "Oregon Trial").
That's how settlement works.  Will we be ready for one-way to Mars by  
2030?  Almost certainly
not.  2050?  Unlikely.  2100?  Maybe.  Will someone try too soon, and  
fail?  Possibly.
Should that stop future attempts?  No, no - a thousand times no.

Thrill-seekers so things that others find unduly risky.  People die  
skiing, bungee-jumping,
running marathons, etc.  Should these things be disallowed because  
some find the risk
unacceptable?  Of course not.

People involved in the nascent commercial spaceflight industry -  
including ticket holders,
celebrity and otherwise - KNOW that there's a risk of getting killed  
in the process.
They don't EXPECT to die on their flight - but it's understood that  
it's possible.
And tht's a risk that's accepted.

And the bottom line is, if you ever want to get to routine,  
spaceflight - be it in 2030, 2080, or 2500 AD, there will be a  
high-risk phase where
the art is developed and lessons are learned - often the hard way.   
And there's nothing
special about governments vs private sector that makes things safer or  
the losses less

If being a part of the development of a commercial spaceflight  
industry isn't one's cup
of tea, that's fine. That's the case for almost everyone.  But that  
doesn't mean that
those who want to try should be held back from trying their ideas for  
moving forward.

Quoting David Portree <dsfportree at hotmail.com>:

> Dominic:
> Yes! That is exactly correct. And it's not only celebrities who are  
> naive. All these people who want to go one-way to Mars - yikes! (Tho  
> I have to say in that case that I think - or perhaps vainly hope -  
> that most who have signed up have done so not because they really  
> think that they can go to live on Mars right now, but rather as a  
> way of proclaiming their support for our future off the Earth.)
> dsfp
> David S. F. Portree
> author and stuff
> Email:
> dsfportree at hotmail.com
> dportree at usgs.gov
> Profile:
> http://astrogeology.usgs.gov/people/david-portree
> Blogs:
> http://www.wired.com/category/beyondapollo/
> http://theportreelibrary.blogspot.com/
> From: dominic_phelan at hotmail.com
> To: fpspace at friends-partners.org
> Date: Sat, 1 Nov 2014 15:38:45 +0000
> Subject: Re: [FPSPACE] Spaceflight is a dangerous business
> I'm just glad this "accident waiting to happen" took place during a  
> test flight. Apart from the fact that the design is now showing  
> itself to be fundamentally flawed - changing the rocket fuel this  
> late smacks of desperation - a later crash would only have killed  
> six passengers who naively believed their celebrity status protected  
> them from the realities of spaceflight.
> Dominic
>> Date: Sat, 1 Nov 2014 13:58:52 +0100
>> From: dokter.nuyens at telenet.be
>> To: fpspace at friends-partners.org; dsfportree at hotmail.com
>> Subject: [FPSPACE] Spaceflight is a dangerous business
>> David Portree wrote:
>> > Absolutely, but spaceflight can be made safer through good  
>> design. The more boring a design is, the safer it tends to be.  
>> Novel concepts invite catastrophe. SpaceShip Two is pretty, but its  
>> design and operational characteristics are complex.
>> > The Space Shuttle was also a novel design. We hyped it& spun it  
>> and eventually Challenger forced us to face the bald fact that it  
>> was so complex and contained so many design compromises that flying  
>> it could never be routine.
>> > Some people have developed the peculiar notion that, because  
>> inexperienced private entities are developing spacecraft, often  
>> with novel features, the hard facts of spaceflight do not and will  
>> not apply. My hope is that this week's twin accidents will serve as  
>> a wake-up call.
>> > It's not enough to say "spaceflight is dangerous." What we need  
>> to say is "spaceflight is dangerous - so are our designs and  
>> schemes realistic?"
>> David,
>> What do you want us to do? Use the same old stuff over and over again
>> being afraid of developing something new? And yes,everybody agrees the
>> shuttle was not up to its expectations because the way it was build was
>> too complex and dangerous. But it was mainly political bickering that
>> got us the shuttle that was.
>> Developing something new takes time,money and knowhow but if we really
>> want to go somewhere in space in this century, that's the way to go.
>> Will there be accidents-sure there will be. After more than a century
>> there are still plane crashes and car accidents.
>> Spaceflight IS a dangerous business-yes. We don't have to stop doing it
>> because of that.
>> Zeger
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