Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Life hasn't been good to NASA since I last reported on their craterization of a comet (see my entry from July 6, 2005). Apparently their P.R. department has decided that instead of performing a successful mission and having a grand news conference upon completion, it's better to Harry-Pottercize the next shuttle mission into hype oblivion (In other news, NASA obtained a temporary injunction against Scaled Composites LLC , who wanted to fly up a day early and spoil the end of space for everyone patiently waiting on the Discovery).

    They are parents, as well as sons and daughters; triathletes, nature-lovers and rock 'n' rollers; pilots, scholars and engineers; seasoned space explorers and first-timers .

It was heartwarming of CNN to make sure we knew that everyone on the shuttle is going to be a son or daughter, although I'm at a loss as to what else they could be. As usual, AskJeeves was not helpful -- he told me that if parents are planning on taking custody of one kid, it will usually be the son . This is probably good advice, since it's painfully obvious that girls have cooties and never amount to anything (not even the first woman conductor of a major symphony orchestra ). The obvious reasoning behind this byline is that the original copywriter was going to open with one of those obtuse brain teasers about your mother's father's uncle's son, but was fired and replaced by a less seasoned writer.

So now that the cast of our farce has been introduced, we move to the setting, which in this case is a twenty-two year old shuttle named Discovery. Years of studies in the insurance industry have shown that twenty-two year olds crash more frequently than those who are slightly older (NASA's attempt to skew this by buying Discovery a "hands-free device" was aborted when they realized that the shuttle had neither hands, ears, or cell phones). The crash statistic's veracity was proven rather readily when Discovery's window cover "fell off of its own accord" and damaged some heatshield tiles while the craft was just sitting on the ground . NASA was quick to point out that this minor incident would not delay the launch, temporarily ignoring the fact that damaged heatshield tiles were a primary technical cause in the crash of the Columbia. A possessed window cover is just par for the course, and although I have never seen my driver's side window "open of its own accord" on my own Accord, I have seen it not open at all, usually when I've just pulled up to a Chick-Fil-a drive-through speaker. This forces me get out of the car, much like the astronauts who were sitting in the shuttle when it was finally grounded indefinitely:

    On Wednesday morning, it appeared foul weather might postpone the high-profile mission. Repairing a ground heater earlier in the morning had delayed filling the massive external fuel tank.

    On Tuesday, a cockpit window cover fell off and damaged two protective tiles near the orbiter's tail section.

    But it was the fuel sensor that stopped the launch, a little more than three hours before the scheduled 3:51 p.m. ET launch .

So in essence, self-detaching covers and damaged tiles which could cause the destruction of the space shuttle are considered minor problems while knowing how much gas you have left is a critical catastrophe. I think that if I were an astronaut in charge, I wouldn't really care about monitoring my fuel levels, because I would expect them to FILL UP THE TANK. If you somehow run out of fuel in space, you may be able to fashion an energy convertor that runs on the international space station's malfunctioning toilet and Chinese pig sperm . Your MacGuyver options diminish dramatically though, when you need to retile the wing of your craft in zero gravity.

Note: In case NASA has now reported me to the Counterterrorism Unit of the FBI, or Professor Richard Berendzen plans to "get up close and personal with me" like his ancestor, I have created this commemorative picture of me being struck by NASA with a force equivalent to five tons of dynamite. Note how I am six times brighter. Enjoy!


Sub-Note: I refactored the Comments section code last night and a few directory names have changed. If you are having trouble getting the Comments popup to appear, please clear your cache and reload the page.

Amber shows that a cat-powered space shuttle might be viable (218KB WMV)

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