Practicing for Disaster

Even though we sometimes hated them, the training teams that prepared mission control and the astronauts for every flight are real heroes.  Without their efforts, all of us flight controllers would have believed we knew everything there was to know about everything and would have tripped over our own shoelaces at the first sign of trouble.

I can remember after about a year of integrated training for STS-1, just when we were feeling like we were hot stuff, a new capability drop for the simulators came on line.  That first day of training with the new capability, the EGIL sang out “Control Bus AB1 is down” on the Flight Director loop.  We all looked at blankly each other and asked, ‘what the heck is a control bus’.  Turns out that failures in the shuttle electrical system works were not simulated before, and now they were.  All of us learned an awful lot about the shuttle electrical system very quickly.

Training flight controllers and astronauts was a complex job especially when we had “integrated training” which was the closest thing to real space flight available.   There were certain ‘cases’ that each flight controller and crew member were required to experience and master.  These malfunction cases were practiced over and over and over again until they became so routine that we were bored by them; identification and reactions were automatic and swift.

Then there were new cases for new crew members and new flight controllers; hundreds of potential malfunctions that could possibly occur.  Each new person had to demonstrate familiarity and confidence to identify and rectify hundreds of potential shuttle systems failures.  Little failures, big failures, complex failures, simple failures.  Hundreds, if not thousands.

Then the gain was raised with complex interacting multiple failures: this computer and that electrical bus, this IMU and that GPS, this hydraulic system and that aero data set with wind shear, this TAL abort and that leaking tire, and on and on and on.  A seemingly infinite set of dual complications.

Master all the dual combinations?  Get ready for triples!  Shesh.

On a busy day the sim team had to make sure that multiple flight controllers saw multiple failures in each eight and a half minute shuttle launch profile.  We generally did six launches in one day.  Or in the entry sims that simulated the last 15 minutes of entry – four of those cases filled up a day.  The nexus for all problems of course was the Flight Director.  Sometimes it felt like the Flight Director was wading through a class of excited grade school students all calling for his attention at once.  The Flight Director had to recognize and prioritize failure responses very quickly.  Some things just had to wait (“Flight, the cockpit voice recorder just failed, have the crew switch to recorder #2.” ” OK INCO, we will do that as soon as we get the cabin air leak stopped, the fire out, and the abort mode selected”).

Flight Directors – including this one – tended to get testy on days like that.  ‘Not realistic Sim Sup’  or ‘We will never have an ascent with that many failures Sim Sup’ or other brief communications that we cannot reproduce in a family oriented publication.  In the old MCC of Apollo heritage which we used for early shuttle missions, the Sim Control team area overlooked the Flight Control Room – but there were curtains on the MCC side  When the Flight Director really had enough, he would have the curtains closed, blocking off the sim control team’s view.  Later on, the sim team used the remote controlled TV cameras in the Flight Control room to observer their victims, er, trainees during tense moments.

An eight and a half minute ascent simulation with a full malfunction count could leave you breathless and heart racing.  Sometimes the debrief took two hours to discuss what had happened and action items would be assigned that might take weeks of research to finally answer.

When we got to real flight, it was so calm by comparison as to be boring.  Many the nominal ascent I would look back and wonder what we trained so hard for.

Then came STS-93.

After that one, the Flight Directors complained a lot less about busy training runs.

 

 

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STS-93: Dualing computers

In the early days of rocketry, when subsystems reliability was low, hard experience led designers to add redundancy for critical functions where they could.  Redundancy comes at a cost:  increased weight, increased complexity, unintended interactions, complex schemes to manage the redundancy, etc.  Now days, subsystem reliability is much higher, especially electronic parts.  So today we have sophisticated discussions about dispensing with redundancy and living with single string high reliability systems, even in critical areas.

Whenever I am engaged in one of these discussions I remember STS-93 where a 2 cent screw and a 10 cent length of wire demonstrated the vulnerability of an otherwise highly reliable critical system.  “Dualing computers” is not a misspelling, it is a safety concept.

Each Space Shuttle Main Engine has a computer mounted right to its side to run the complicated functions required for safe operation of that very complex, high energy device.  And every SSME controller is made up of two redundant computers:  DCU A and DCU B (Data Control Unit).  The A computer is always in control while the B listens along – until and unless the A computer fails; then the B computer takes over.  Each computer has its own way to control every valve and its own set of instrumentation required to run the engine:  pressures, temperatures, valve positions, turbine speeds.

However, when both A and B are working, they share data.  So there is a pressure measurement for the main combustion chamber wired to DCU A and another one wired to DCU B, but when both computers are working they share data and make computations based on the average of the two chamber pressure measurements.  If one of the computers fails, the other carries on but then has only one measurement to make calculations from – no more averaging.

Almost all the telemetry that is sent from the engine to Mission Control comes from the A computer; if it fails the B computer sends only a few data points, not nearly as many as the A side.

When STS-93 had its little problem, every engine kept working just fine even though two computers on two separate engines went silent.   There was never another case of SSME computer loss in the entire suite of shuttle flights.  These computers were highly reliable. The computers never failed because of an electronic part problem or a software error.

But in systems design, like warfare, defense has to be made at the most vulnerable point.  For the SSME controllers this was the power source.

If the shuttle designers hadn’t built in redundancy, two of the three engines would have shut down just after lift off.  The results from that would not have been good.  The crew has a procedure to run called “2 out First Stage”.  It is one of those procedures that Capt. Young used to describe as “keeping busy while you wait to die.”

The next time someone tells me they have a highly reliable system that doesn’t need redundancy, I will remember STS-93. I hope you do too.

 

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STS-93: Dodging Golden Bullets

 

Calling it Rocket Science is, of course, a misnomer. Science provided the background but today it is definitely Rocket Engineering. Scientists and Engineers mix together like, well, cats and dogs. Friendly détente some days, not so much other days.

But there is one part of building liquid rocket engines that can still be called Rocket Art – making the injectors work. All combustion engines mix fuel and oxygen to make a fire; but for really complete combustion – really good gas mileage – that mixing can be very tricky indeed.

In a large, high pressure, high thrust liquid rocket engine like the SSME, a great deal of art is involved in designing the injector plate at the top of the combustion chamber. In a poor design, spray patterns from the injector can create hot spots on the wall of the chamber, defeating the cooling mechanisms and melting out the side – like letting loose a welder’s cutting torch. In other cases poor mixing can lead to combustion instability. Think of an overloaded out of balance washing machine, but much more powerful. The mighty F-1 engines of Apollo were plagued by combustion instability which was never really quite solved. That made each moon launch more of a gamble at the very start than you probably realized.

In the world of technical and economic secrets, injector design is protected by ITAR and economic espionage laws. We won’t go to that level of course.

In the SSME, the very hot partially burned Hydrogen gas must be mixed with the still super cold liquid Oxygen in just the right way to protect the engine through the start transient, main stage with its varying throttle settings, and the shutdown transient. Did I tell you that the propellant flow is over a half a ton a second? And it burns at over 3,000 degrees F? And passes through the throat of the nozzle – about the size of a dinner plate – at the speed of sound? And in all this, the engine is 99.9% of the maximum theoretical efficiency for this type of heat engine? And that’s not all, its reusable, too. Only one in the world.

LOX posts and pin

Looking at the picture, the liquid oxygen is introduced through a forest of stainless steel tubes called LOX posts. Cooled by the LOX inside, heated by the hot Hydrogen outside, the tubes are both robust and at the same time frighteningly fragile. Hugh forces work on the LOX posts, especially during start up. Vibration forces are high throughout. And if one of those posts breaks off at the root, well, very bad things can happen. In the cool NASA parlance, a LOX post failure is CIL Crit 1. Loss of vehicle, loss of crew ‘promptly’ upon just one failure.

To eliminate the potential of a LOX post failure, inspections of the hundreds of LOX posts is performed with ultrasound. If a post shows signs of ‘fatigue’, the remedy is to plug it at the base. They use a gold pin, about the size and shape of a bullet. In the history of the program, over 200 LOX posts were pinned in this way, and only a couple ever worked loose. STS-93 was one of those.

Back to the case of STS-78 discussed in the last edition of this blog; the ‘overboard mixture ratio’ for the vehicle was changed because of the number of LOX posts that were pinned on the engines of that flight. Instead of being the expected 6.03-ish, it turned out to be more like 6.002-ish. That difference of .028 meant more fuel was used, less oxygen, and, in combination with other factors, resulted in fuel depletion just at the guidance commanded MECO. A bigger difference would have cut the engines off early – safe except for the trajectory implications. We got lucky.

On STS-93, a different set of circumstances was in play and the results were worse. Manageable, but that is due to being luckier than we deserved.

As my old boss used to say: “It’s better to be lucky than smart.” I hate that but it’s true.

Stay tuned.

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Understanding STS-93: the key is Mixture Ratio

Some time back I started to tell the story of the most interesting shuttle launch:  STS-93.  I think it is time to return to that topic.  To understand what happened, some background is necessary.

If this is too engineering-geeky for you, well, what are you doing thinking about rockets and space travel?  Consider this part of your education.

Consider the following graph – I certainly spent many hours studying it and its relatives.  I would tell you frankly, I am sure I never completely understood it.  So don’t feel bad if you don’t either.  But it gives a summary of some very complex interactions.

FPRFlight Performance Reserve (FPR) is the mass of fuel (Hydrogen) and Oxygen left in the External Tank when it is jettisoned just short of orbital velocity.  Minimizing FPR is a good thing – every ounce thrown away is an ounce that could have been payload – food, water, experiment, satellite – something useful.  FPR thrown away is . . . .wasted.

At the same time, keeping too little FPR, or making the mistake of not keeping any reserve at all, means that one likely comes up short.  Short of energy, short of velocity, not in orbit, but on a ballistic trajectory that re enters the earth’s atmosphere very soon.  Too soon.  STS-93 was nearly that case.

If you look at the burning of Hydrogen and Oxygen – the second highest energy release possible on the Periodic Table – you would find that the stoichiometric ratio for complete combustion and maximum energy release is 16: 2 hydrogen atoms (atomic mass = 1) attached to one oxygen atom (atomic weight 16) for a complete combustion MR of 8.0.  But the space shuttle’s main engines have a mixture ratio – reminiscent of Avogadro’s number without the exponent – of 6.02.  If you look at the chart above, you will find at that mixture ratio, the unusable masses are just about at minimum.  But anything that drives combustion in the engines away from that optimum point will lead to increased unusable mass.

The reason for such a wretchedly low mixture ratio is that the closer the MR is driven toward stoichiometric, the hotter the fire.  The turbine blades in the turbines that power the pumps feeding the engines can’t take a much hotter fire than results from 6.02.  Blades would melt, casings too, bad things indeed would happen.  Temperature sensors in the turbines should trip the engine to shut itself down before that happened. On STS-51 F in July of 1985, both voting temperature measurements failed and started reading higher than the turbine temps actually were:  51F became the only case of an SSME shutdown in flight and it was caused by faulty temperature readings.  But back to our story:   6.02 is ‘just right’. At least to two decimal points.  We spent 30 years arguing about what the next decimal point should be.

Important Safety Note:  if propellant depletion occurs, it must occur first on the oxygen side.  If the hydrogen runs out first, the last sputters at the turbine will be much closer to stoichiometric, and, well, bad things wil happen.  Did occasionally happen early in ground testings.  Big mess in the bottom of the flame trench at Stennis.  Not what anybody wanted in flight.

So STS-78 was  a real wake up call.  On that flight, the low level sensors in the ET flashed ‘dry’ just a fraction of a second before the engines shut down.  No problem ensued, there was enough fuel in the line to shut down safely, but it scared the bejabbers out of everybody.  At least everybody that understood what that meant.

Bet you never heard about that close call.

There is supposed to be a ‘fuel bias’ (extra hydrogen) of almost 1000 lbs.  But on STS-78, due to another instrumentation failure and some funny mixture ratio business, the engine burned right through that extra thousand pounds of hydrogen and all the other ‘dispersion’ allowances that were loaded in the tank.

It all started with plugged LOX posts.  LOX post plugs played a part in STS-93, too.

All space geeks need to stay tuned.  It really is rocket science.

 

 

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O Columbia

When I first heard that the Houston Grand Opera proposed to produce an opera about the Columbia disaster, I was appalled.

 
If HGO wanted a spaceflight opera, it would better be the moon landing of Apollo 11; or the successful story of Hubble repair; or the construction of the ISS. But not Columbia.
I envisioned a maudlin, inaccurate, titillating soap opera treatment of a still too painful event. Something that would be disrespectful of the dead, their families, and all those who worked so hard and yet failed a decade ago. Something that Hollywood might produce.
I resolved to try to shut this down.

 
Then I received an invitation to talk with the HGO leadership, the writers and creative talent who would develop and produce the opera. I drove downtown with the mission burning in my heart to stop this, direct them away, keep this project stillborn.

 
When I met the HGO team, they were respectful, considerate, and affirming. They reached out to more than a few members of the NASA community to gain input. We talked about everything possible aspect and I expressed my concerns in my best program manager brusque style. They listened. I came away grudgingly admitting that it might be barely acceptable. Not accurate, but possibly respectful.

 
Great tragedy, as I am reminded, can focus attention on great human values. Art, music, dance can lead to an emotional understanding which can transcend and reach people who otherwise would be unaware. The most powerful works of the stage – from Shakespeare to Faulkner – use tragedy to highlight values and meaning.

 
After the HGO team spend several weeks at work, we were invited back to hear the reading of the libretto; the words. A crowd of familiar NASA faces joined at the stage door of the Wortham center in downtown Houston to hear what had been created.

 
First we heard from the composer designated to work on the project. A soprano brought some of his previous work into glorious voice.

 
Then we were ushered into a room for the reading of the libretto. Very informal, no sets, no costumes, just a stark rehearsal room where we sat on folding chair while several performers on stools faced us over music stands holding the pages.

 
The various voices read, did not sing, the text, all the while in character.

 
It was not merely good, it was great.

 
It put space exploration in a historical context. It used the point of view of a young person aspiring to be an astronaut. There was nothing neither maudlin nor titillating. At one point there were tears among the audience. It was powerful.

 
After the reading we were asked for comments; the astronauts spoke first, then we all had the chance; praise for the approach, minor corrections to the script, overall an emotional release.

 
The music is in composition, much later the sets and costumes will be constructed, rehearsals will begin. The curtain should go up in October 2015. Just like all space projects, the schedule will take some time.

 
I think it will be great.
You should mark your calendar and go.

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Manifest Destiny or Pipe Dream?

“I started out as a child” – William H. Cosby, Jr., Ed.D.

I have been ruined by the timing of my childhood. Grew up with the space race; 3 years old when Sputnik launched, 7 when Gagarin and Shepard flew and JFK promised the moon, allowed to stay up late to watch if Ranger or Surveyor were going to be successful, watched Gemini through grade school, Apollo through High School, and somewhere in between read a host of science fiction stories.
SF definitely ruined my life; captivated as I was at an impressionable age by Asimov, Clark, Heinlein, and so very many others. Watched “Destination Moon” a thousand times along with every other B grade SF movie ever made. Then, of course, came Star Trek. After that show went off prime time network programming, one of the local TV stations in my area showed reruns every night. So I watched Star Trek reruns every night – every night! – all through high school. There was a time I could quote the dialog from any episode verbatim. My social life suffered accordingly.

Read about Goddard in his tree reading War of the Worlds and deciding to find a way to go to space.  “It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow.”
Long after he was dead, JFK’s speeches were the proof text for the future. Space – its exploration and exploitation – was the future. I read and re-read the works of Gerard K. O’Neill and believed. I had no doubt. It was our Manifest Destiny to explore space.
One of my middle school friends proclaimed in about 1967 that we would never reach the moon, it was impossible. Somehow he and I lost touch over the years but I expect he has become one of those fringe types who believe Apollo 11 was filmed on some sound stage in Arizona. I reveled in the fact that he was wrong.
Both fact and fiction pointed to an inevitable future.
Somehow it hasn’t quite worked out as expected.
2001 came and went without lunar bases, without any excavation of black obelisks in Tycho, without manned spaceships heading out to Jupiter or Saturn. I suspect that Zefram Cockrane wasn’t born last year, and I fear that warp drive might just not be possible in the universe we inhabit.
What happened to those flying cars which we should have by now? At least we should have the hover board. But no.
In a year when one’s birthday ends in a zero, brooding comes easily. Thinking about how there is more runway behind than ahead. Wondering if a career’s worth of work and worry were well invested or wasted. Wondering when – or if – the promise will come true.
It becomes easy to fall into cynicism, to write the whole thing off as a stunt. A one-time geopolitical ploy rooted in a particular time and policy made for reasons which no longer exist. Leaving us with the rump vestige of a dream which lives on merely to siphon off public money into some sort of jobs program. Something which exists merely to exist.
Hardnosed taxpayers want to know what they are going to get for their money. Spending billions to plant a flag on some distant point in the universe merely for prestige does not constitute a business case which shows a return on investment. They insist that the ISS better come up with something more important than videos of astronauts in zero G chasing water globules around with straws.
Space travel could just be a pipe dream. Something like believing in fairies or unicorns. Something for children which adults dismiss.
Certainly makes it hard to listen to idealistic pronouncements of ‘horizon goals’ and the inevitability of our future in space.
Ok then, shut ‘er down, put the pieces in a museum, and tell kids to study finance and marketing because that’s where the big money lies. Gordon Gekko was right after all: get filthy rich by any means necessary, win every contest by any means available. That’s what counts. That’s all that counts.
Hmm.
But you know . . .
Pessimism never improved the human condition. Cynics never accomplished anything positive. Real and lasting satisfaction only comes when heart and strength are given to something bigger than yourself.
Roddenberry showed us the future could be better than the present. Heinlein really got it right; it’s not about money. It’s about freedom, achievement, and the joy that comes from accomplishing something hard and worthwhile. There has to be meaning in life or it is not worth living.
Those who go forth into the world – into the universe – have at least the chance to succeed. Those who stay home in fear or greed inexorably fall into stagnation, into dissolution, decay, and finally destruction. Grow or die, that is the law of the universe.
So what if the timeline runs a little longer than we expected? Does that mean we stay home, let the cynics run the world, and wait for Malthus to say ‘I told you so’?
Today we are chasing our tails because the space experts debate destinations: Moon, Mars, or asteroid? O’Neill and I say do them all. The ‘horizon goal’ isn’t Mars, it is the entire solar system. When we have built colonies on every habitable niche, then maybe we will find a way to go to the stars.
I didn’t say bankrupt the treasury. Don’t squander other people’s money; figure out how to do it anyway.
Nobody said that it would be easy. But what is our choice?

 

It’s been a long road, getting from there to here.
It’s been a long time, but my time is finally near.
And I will see my dream come alive at last. I will touch the sky.
And they’re not gonna hold me down no more, no they’re not gonna change my mind.

‘Where My heart Will Take Me’ written by  Diane Warren

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Risk Tolerance

I am a big fan of the author Bill Bryson. I have enjoyed all his books and recently have been rereading “One Summer: America, 1927”. His sparkling account joyously brings that time to life. Looking back at 1927 from April to October, Bryson chronicles an amazing time: Babe Ruth and Lou Gehring, Coolidge and Harding, the first ‘talking’ pictures bringing revolution to Hollywood, and of course, Lucky Lindy. Yes, I recommend you buy Bryson’s book and read it.

Especially study the part about the Orteg prize and the competition to be the first to fly nonstop from New York to Paris. As I read about aviation in 1927, I am powerfully aware of the many folks — people who would influence space policy today — who continue to draw comparisons between aviation in the ‘golden age’ and space exploration.

Remembering the actual events of those years should give those advocates pause to consider the risks that were considered acceptable in 1927. An unbelievable number of those early aviators were ill-prepared, took risks that were outside the limits of good judgment, or let ego and the pursuit of fame blind them to the realities of what they were about to do. Stupidity seemed to be more typical than not.

Let me excerpt some passages from Bryson’s book which gives an accounting of aviation in those electric months of 1927 (with sincere apologies to the author as I do violent excision of his words):

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“America had three teams in the running . . . Columbia, America, American Legion . . . The leader of the America team was thirty-seven-year-old naval commander Richard Evelyn Byrd . . . On April 6, 1927, just before six in the evening, [Anthony] Fokker . . . copilot Floyd Bennett, navigator George Noville, and Byrd himself eagerly crowded into the cockpit . . . As America came in to land . . . it came down nose-first. The problem was that the weight was up front and there was no way for any of the four men to move to the back to redistribute the load . . . a piece of the propeller ripped through the cockpit and pierced Bennett’s chest . . . Byrd . . . failed to notice that his left arm had snapped like a twig . . . For the time being, the Byrd team was out of the running.

Clarence Chamberlin . . . a short flight above Long Island . . . the landing gear fell apart during the takeoff . . . the wing hit the ground and the damage to the plane was sufficient to set back the Columbia’s plans considerably.
Noel Davis and Stanton Wooster . . . were smart, able aviators, and their plane, a Keystone Pathfinder . . . was 1,150 lbs heavier than it was supposed to . . . On April 26 . . . they would take off with a full load of seventeen thousand pounds . . . the plane struggled to get airborne . . . not enough to clear a line of trees . . . stalled and fell to earth with a sickening crash. Davis and Wooster died instantly . . .

. . . Paris, where at dawn on May 8 . . . Captain Charles Nungesser and Captain Francois Coli . . . war heroes . . men at ease with danger . . . called their plane L’Oiseau Blanc (The White Bird) and painted it white so that it would be easier to find if it came down at sea. . . they could carry no more than about forty hours’ worth of fuel, which left them almost no margin for error. . . after loading supplies, their plane weighed almost eleven thousand pounds. It had never taken off with that much weight before . . . the plane slowly gathered speed . . . lifted briefly, but then came down again and bouncily proceeded another three hundred yards before finally, agonizingly, and barely getting airborne. The chief engineer, who had run along beside the plane much of the way, fell to his knees and wept. . . . One hour and twenty-seven minutes later . . . Nungesser and Coli reached the chalky sea cliffs of Normandy at Etretat. A squadron of four escort planes tipped their wings in salute and peeled away and L’Oiseau Blanc flew off alone in the direction of the British Isles and the cold Atlantic beyond. . . . Nugesser and Coli . . . missing and feared lost. . . The one thing that wasn’t found was any trace of the White Bird or its occupants.

At the same time . . . another ambitious French flight . . . got under way when three aviators, Pierre de Saint-Roman, Herve Mouneyres, and Louis Petit, took off from Senegal . . . and headed for Brazil . . . no wreckage was ever found . . . In nine months, eleven people had died in the quest to fly the Atlantic . . . nothing was going right for anyone . . .

. . . Lindbergh . . .

With the Atlantic conquered, attention turned to the Pacific – specifically the 2,400 miles . . . between California and Hawaii. . . the Dole Pacific race with $35,000 in prize money . . . from the municipal airport in Oakland, California . . . to Oahu. . . . Three competitors died in crashes before they even reached Oakland. Another plane crashed in the sea as it approached the Oakland airfield . . . another plane was not allowed to depart after it became evident that the pilot had no idea how much fuel he needed to reach Hawaii and didn’t have a fuel tank nearly big enough . . . By the day of the race, the number of planes taking part had been reduced to eight, and four of those scratched before takeoff or turned back soon after. Of the four planes that set off, two made it to Hawaii and two more were lost en route. . . . When word got back that six people were missing, a pilot named William Erwin took off from Oakland to look for them, but he disappeared, too. . . ten people died in the Dole race . . .

. . . people were suddenly announcing daring and risky flights all over the place. Paul Redfern . . . proposing to fly 4,600 miles – farther and anyone had evern flown before – over ocean and jungle, into a realm far beyond the range of reliable maps and weather reports . . . it would take him at least sixty hours to reach Rio. But before he even cleared the Caribbean he was lost . . . it was the last anyone ever saw of him . . . in 1938, at the request of Redfern’s wife . . . Redfern was declared officially dead by a court in Detroit.

In Britain an unlikely sixty-two-year old woman, Princess Anne of Lowenstein-Wertheim-Freudenberg . . . a dashing young captain named Leslie Hamilton expressed a desire to cross the Atlantic from east to west, she funded the flight on the understanding that she would accompany the fliers. With Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Minchin as copilot, they took off from an airfield near Salisbury in Wiltshire. The princess wore a stylish hat and an ocelot coat . . . They were sighted over Ireland and again from a ship about halfway across the Atlantic, but they never reached American and no trace of them was ever found.

At about the same time, a plane called Old Glory . . . took off from Old Orchard Beach in Maine . . . bound for Rome . . . piloted by Lloyd Bertaud . . . copilot was James DeWitt Hill, and along for the ride as passenger was Philip A. Payne, editor of Hearst’s Daily Mirror. Just three and a half hours after takeoff they issued an urgent, unexplained SOS. They were never seen again. A few hours later, two Canadian airmen, Captain Terrence Tully and Lieutenant James Medcalf took off from Newfoundland, bound for London in a plan called the Sir John Carling. They were never heard from again either. “

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So the question remains: how good an analogy is early aviation to the current state of space exploration?
And how much risk are we willing to take to go to space these days? A prudent amount? What does that mean? Is your standard the same as mine? And what will the lawyers say when the heirs file their lawsuits? And who will be the next Lindbergh?

2014 is not 1927: no Babe Ruth in sight. Hopefully nobody will repeat those days . . . . Sadly, nobody will repeat those days . . . .

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