“Once you get into space, you check to see if any tiles are damaged. If enough are, you have a choice between Plan A and Plan B. Plan A is hope they can get a rescue shuttle up in time. Plan B is burn up coming back. | But let’s not worry about the tiles. The tiles should be okay. They’re certainly spending enough time on them. So once you get back into the atmosphere, the mad joyride begins. You have no power now, the engines are spent and switched out. You get one shot at a landing. Originally the plans called for a couple of regular jet engines to give you enough power to maneuver, or maybe go around for a second approach if the first one doesn’t line upright. But jet engines got killed in the cost-cutting. A billion-dollar ship, and this is how they were cutting costs …. ” Gregg Easterbrook
—Beam Me out of This Deathtrap, Scotty: 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 … Goodbye, ColumbiaWashington Monthly; from 1980)
A haunting essay, written over 20 years ago, that criticizes the NASA shuttle program. This was extremely painful to read, since the tone is somewhat flippant and “in-your-face,” and thus seems insensitive. But the author, writing over 20 years ago, was trying to point out flaws in the system. Any grand human endeavor will attract naysayers, who will jump up and down and shout “I told you so” when given the chance. Easterbrook’s recent article, “Environmental Doomsday,” shows he is still publishing unpopular views: he claims that ecological journalism silences good news about the environment and focuses only on bad news.