Bad Space News

It’s been a bad couple of days for private and public spaceflight. In bullet points:

  • NASA: Drunk astronauts. On some occasions, NASA astronauts consumed heady quantities of alcoholic inebriants during the required 12 hour preflight sober period. This SMH story tries to be witty and say the astronauts were blasted into space on alcohol for fuel, quite forgetting that the Redstone rockets used for suborbital Mercury launches did actually run on alcohol and liquid oxygen.
  • NASA: Sabotaged ISS computer. A NASA subcontractor reports that a disgruntled employee cut electric wiring in a unit made to retrieve truss strain gauge data. No reason given as to why the sabotage was inflicted on a noncritical piece of hardware.
  • NASA: Embezzlement by former employee. A NASA employee whose job was credit card compliance tracking admits to having herself charged over $157,000 in personal expenses to her government credit card.
  • Scaled Composites: Fatal rocket blast. Hybrid rocket test (for SpaceshipTwo?) goes awry, kills workers on the ground. As Bad Astronomer points out, N2O is noncombustible (despite what the news outlets are saying), so some other factor was involved in the actual explosion.

One thing to be grateful for: none of these scandals or tragedies involved an actual spaceflight in progress. With the possible exception of the deadly Scaled Composites accident, all the bad news mostly rises from people behaving like idiots, and people will keep plugging onwards into space regardless.