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Media's Hype Distorts NASA's Reality

Sunrise dissects a line of the Earth's atmosphere providing the backdrop for this image featuring a portion of the US Space Shuttle Discovery´┐Żs aft cargo bay, its vertical stabilizer and orbital maneuvering system (OMS) pods after departure from the International Space Station 06 August 2005. Discovery roared safely back to Earth 09 August 2005 after a tense first shuttle flight since the 2003 Columbia disaster. AFP photo /NASA
by Hans L.D.G.
Starlife Director, Cosmica Network
Washington DC (SPX) Aug 10, 2005
Recently I read a headline stating: "The world holds its breath for the shuttle landing..." But Who were holding their breaths? NASA? The Discovery astronauts? Or me? I think none of us! This is a grave distortion of reality, created by the media for their own commercial purposes.

Some media, along with a number of "experts" and politicians, have even gone one step further. They are stating that NASA's "failure" to fix the shuttle in 2 1/2 years constitutes a big crises for Human Spaceflight as such. In shows, they say, that NASA is incompetent and that US manned exploration is not worthwhile; that we should stick to robotic crafts.

The truth is, that Discocery's flight was one of the safest EVER undertaken. The truth is, that it suffered LESS from shedding and tile impacts than most previous flights.

Before we just didn't have the cameras to find out about it. Or we just didn't care if some gap filler was a bit loose. But now we care, and that made this flight - not safe - but safer than any flights before. So what's the worry, mate?

Even if there had been an accident this time, I would have said there's nothing wrong with NASA. It only would have shown that the Shuttle is a costly, inheritedly dangerous and unnecessary complex machine which shouldn't have been built in the first place.

Ask a very good surgeon to make a heart transplant with tools from the 19th century. It's likely to fail, even though he is skilled in his profession. That's precisly the position NASA has been in.

Another "expert" recently cried out his fears of using the horrible shuttle tanks in future launch systems, unless NASA really make some improvements first. But it's not really the tanks which are the problem - launch vehicles have shedded stuff in all times. It's this over-fragile "Concorde". Get rid of the shuttle, and let the tanks "have dandruff all day long", as NASA's administrator Mike Griffin recently said.

We are learning from our mistakes. NASA is about to develope separate launch systems for cargos and Humans, based on designs which are both safer, cheaper and more simple.

Certainly there will be accidents now and then - spaceflight is a risky business. But NASA has successfully taken Humankind to the Moon, and they can do it again - whatever the media try to make us believe. And in the end, a manned presence on the Moon and Mars will benefit science more than any robotic programs will ever do alone.

I always assumed there would be a broad media coverage of Discovery's flight, considering the tragedy last time around. I too couldn't stop thinking of Columbia and its crew, as I followed Discovery's re-entry. But what I cannot accept, is the false picture of reality that spread around the world with a speed faster than Discovery was flying above: "SHUTTLE DAMAGED! NASA IN CRISIS! END OF HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT..."

It's pity, because everyone instantly seemed to accept it. Ordinary, uninvolved citizens for sure. But also smaller media outlets, along with columnists, policy makers and even some of these "experts", just looking for a chance to promote themselves. They all jumped on this great "shuttle scare bandwagon". And nobody ever raised a voice to question it.

The media has a responsibility to report their news objectively. And society at-large has a responsibility to question what is being reported. Otherwise they will just continue building on media's false realities, until they have reshaped the policies, thinking and worldview of a whole nation - or a whole world.

Yes, for once - and only once - I agree with Jeffrey F. Bell. Let's scrap the Shuttle ASAP. However, not because of the events during Discovery's mission - it was the best of flights! But because the Shuttle is a true pain in the ass which, until it's retired, will only stand in the way and continue to consume both lives, money, time and energy which could be better used on the Moon and Mars.

Even Mike Griffin knows this.

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Scuttle the Shuttle Now
Honolulu HI (SPX) Jul 29, 2005
The dismal failure of the Shuttle RTF effort should signal the end of NASA's suicidal love affair with this fundamentally unworkable spacecraft writes Jeffrey F. Bell.

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