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Former Astronaut Says NASA Problems Not New

Former Astronaut Says NASA Problems Not New

Posted - Aug. 26, 2003 at 5:08 p.m.



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Jed Boal ReportingThe report on the shuttle Columbia's disaster points to physical and cultural reasons for the break-up. Unless these issues are tackled, investigators believe it could happen again.

News Specialist Jed Boal spoke today with a former astronaut who witnessed some of those problems at NASA more than 15 years ago.

When the Space shuttle Columbia broke up in the sky over the Western US February 1st, it stirred deep emotions for Utahn Don Lind. He was a blink of an eye from a similar fate and witnessed similar operational flaws at NASA.

He's an outsider now, but before the Challenger exploded in 1986 Lind's flight on board the same aircraft nine months earlier nearly had the same catastrophic ending.

Don Lind, Scientist, Former Astronaut: “During the investigation we found out we came within three-tenths of a second of the same explosion."

Lind's own painting, Three-tenths of a Second, is a reminder of his near miss and his feelings of loss for the Challenger crew. Lind also remembers the flawed NASA culture characterized in today's report.

Don Lind, Scientist, Former Astronaut: “The agency that took us to the moon isn't here any more. Changing a bureaucracy is a big problem."

But according to the report, that's exactly what has to happen. NASA was tagged an organization in which managers routinely ignored the warnings of engineers. That communication gap contributed to the Challenger and Columbia break-ups and nearly killed Don Lind's crew.

Don Lind, Scientist, Former Astronaut: “There has to be a system where everything of significance is reviewed by the right number of people."

The space program always entails calculated risks, risks that according to the report can be reduced.

Lind considers himself very privileged to have participated in what he calls the golden age of the space program and believes the risks are reasonable. He calls the people at NASA very dedicated and he believes they will make an honest effort to fix whatever can be fixed. The space program he says will never die.

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