A couple more tidbits about the shuttle, mostly from reading two different Japanese newspapers yesterday evening. One was the bit about what happened to the authors of a safety report that was submitted last year. There were nine engineers who concluded that the shuttles were getting kind of risky and that there should be some strengthening of the safety procedures. For their diligent efforts five of them were forced to leave NASA, and apparently one of the others quit in anger. It actually sounded like Dubya has been pushing NASA for the kind of "result-oriented" thinking that Reagan favored--which also resulted in a destroyed space shuttle. There was also some stuff about Dubya's proposals for the NASA budget. Kind of confusing, which rings the warning bells, but if I managed to figure it out, it actually said that though NASA's total budget was supposed to increase even before the disaster, the actuality was that the space shuttle program was actually losing money. Of course that's not a direct thing, since it's really the number of missions that controls the costs there. However, more important was the fact that half of NASA's budget is now controlled by the Pentagon, so it's only natural that NASA should get a little more money as a part of the general military buildup.
There is already some talk about scuttling the manned space program. So maybe that will be Dubya's actual legacy? [Well, that and national bankruptcy.] Even though I'm a big supporter of sending men into space, it's kind of hard to defend their performance on this particular mission. The whole point is that men are supposed to be more flexible and intuitive and capable of dealing with unforeseen problems. However, in this case the men acted like good little robots as they perfectly obeyed the orders leading to their doom. In the movie version, the captain would have decided the safety of his crew came first and insisted on crawling out there to examine the damage.