November 24, 2010

Farewell to Discovery — but what's all this delay about???

I was wondering about all this recurring delays afflicting the final flight of Discovery. And I thought people are choosing to remain silent about a massive elephant in the room. It's a very commonplace and predictable issue really.

Imagine a circus company that has been performing shows for 30 years and now has only two or three shows left to perform before bringing the curtain down permanently. Or, imagine a factory manufacturing cars that has been doing it for the past 30 years but is now on the verge of being closed in a couple of months.

Clearly, there would be a lot of churn going on in either that circus or that plant. I think that's what is happening with NASA as well. Many of the people are probably going to lose their jobs once the shuttle program winds down. The lucky ones will move to different projects inside NASA. Applies to internal NASA employees as well as contractors.

So, probably contractors are being faced with a situation of their best and most talented employees leaving them ... which would clearly affect the quality of execution of their current projects.

These contractors would be basically at various stages of shutting shop as it were. And therefore, perhaps they are not as prepared for somewhat unforeseen challenges as they normally would have been. And I somehow feel that might have something to do with the problems relating to the foam on the external tank .... seems to be some sort of a mark of something getting shoddy somewhere ... may be, some contractor cutting corners somewhere. Same can perhaps apply to the problem with the ground umbilical carrier plate as well.

Surely, NASA will vehemently deny that any such thing is happening or that any such factors are responsible. And yet, my doubts linger.

Well, all one can do is hope for a majestic and successful final flight and a glorious journey into retirement ... Discovery has certainly earned a permanent place for itself in the National Air and Space Museum.

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