Tiles, Cavuto, and Contractors

While Endeavour STS-118 was in orbit and tile damage was on NASA’s mind, I noted with some amusement a link from Space Pragmatism to this op-ed on Fox News: “Earth to NASA: Fire Someone!” — in which Neil Cavuto demands that NASA dismiss whichever contractor manufactures the Space Shuttle’s thermal tiles, since they keep getting damaged.

Cavuto. Those more acquainted with the history of spaceflight than Fox News talking heads should know that the issues of foam strikes and tile damage are merely an offshoot of the whole engineering problem of flying an orbiter too large to be perched atop a launch rocket and too massive to use ablative thermal shielding less suited to the mass and surface area of a vehicle the size of the shuttle, thanks to outdated Cold War specs demanded by military interests connected to the Shuttle program. That’s a whole other book all by itself.

Much more amusing, however, is the fact that the contractors about whom Cavuto is ranting, the ones who manufactured the shuttle and its tiles in the first place, were Lockheed and Rockwell — now Lockheed-Martin and Boeing Integrated Defense Systems. Lockheed-Martin and Boeing are not only the two largest aerospace and defense contractors in the world, but are also advertisers on Fox News, as revealed here and here.

Perhaps Fox should allow Cavuto to continue his on-air demands to have NASA dismiss these two aerospace contractors: “And hey, that whole Constellation thing? Forget it!” I’m sure both Boeing and Lockheed will be quite happy to reward his extensive knowledge of aerospace engineering with a sensible response towards the Fox News advertising group.

For more info, see these articles critical of the Shuttle program:

And more basic shuttle program info from NASA and the contractors themselves: