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Public Pays Tab for NASA, Then is Told to Get Lost
Orlando Sentinel ^ | May 13, 2003 | Mike Thomas

Posted on 05/14/2003 11:06:22 AM PDT by anymouse

Admiral Harold Gehman, who is in charge of investigating the shuttle Columbia accident, must be having flashbacks to his secretive investigation of the USS Cole terrorist attack.

Evidently, he also doesn't think the public should be in on his investigation into the Columbia disaster.

Gehman, appointed by NASA, thinks nobody other than his panel should know all the details of the Columbia report.

We're not to worry our pretty little heads about what transpired in all those secret interviews with NASA officials. We're just to assume the panel asked the right questions of the right people, reached the right conclusions and made the right recommendations.

Gehman also put Congress on his do-not-need-to-know list.

NASA has been quietly paying the civilian board members on Gehman's panel. This allows them to be classified as government employees and conduct business in secret.

If you recall, these are the same civilian board members that were put on the panel to ensure its independence and credibility. But if you are getting up to $2,500 a week, it raises questions about your willingness to bite the hand that writes the check.

There was skepticism about Gehman's panel as soon as NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe formed it.

The criticism waned. But now comes this display of arrogance.

Not only will the public be excluded from interviews of key NASA officials, it also will be excluded from details of those interviews when the panel's report on the Columbia disaster is released.

I could understand it if there were some compelling need for secrecy, as was the case with Gehman's investigation of the USS Cole. But embarrassing mistakes by NASA managers hardly qualify as state secrets.

The public paid for the shuttle.

The public saw its seven astronauts killed when the orbiter disintegrated.

The public turned out in droves to help NASA recover debris.

The public is paying for the investigation.

The public will pay the billions this accident eventually will cost.

Given all that, I think the public has a right to know what happened. We should know the involvement of every top NASA official associated with Columbia from its launch to its demise.

We should have names and versions of events, not necessarily in the context of assigning blame but to understand what happened and create a historical record.

The idea that secrecy is the only way to guarantee NASA managers will talk openly is nonsense.

You put people under oath and you ask them questions. If they don't answer the questions, you remove them from their jobs and, if need be, you prosecute them.

That formula worked well during the investigation of Challenger.

(Excerpt) Read more at orlandosentinel.com ...


TOPICS: Editorial; Government; Technical; US: Florida
KEYWORDS: columbia; congress; goliath; nasa; shuttle; space; sts107

1 posted on 05/14/2003 11:06:22 AM PDT by anymouse
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To: *Space
Space ping
2 posted on 05/14/2003 11:06:42 AM PDT by anymouse
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To: anymouse
To be quite honest, screeds like this are precisely why NASA should keep things close to the vest.
3 posted on 05/14/2003 11:07:21 AM PDT by r9etb
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To: r9etb
That is the price of doing business with the people's money.
4 posted on 05/14/2003 11:09:16 AM PDT by anymouse
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To: anymouse
Sigh... It isn't a government coverup at all, it's a method of circumventing human nature. If you think public disclosure will get the crap beat out of you literally or figuratively, you'll be more willing to speak freely if your remarks are pledged to be kept private.

Of course, if Gehman was to reneg on his promise of privacy, he'd be accused of lying to people for that... can't win for losing.
5 posted on 05/14/2003 11:15:40 AM PDT by Frank_Discussion (It's not nice to fool Mr. Rumsfeld!)
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To: anymouse
Reason for secrecy requirement:

This mission had military aspects to it - the Chinese / Koreans / Russians / French / Germans would love to have this out in the open where ALL the data would be public domain --- THAT is the reason for this push by the left-wing and idiot parrots to make this 100% oublic.
6 posted on 05/14/2003 11:16:34 AM PDT by steplock ( http://www.spadata.com)
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To: anymouse
I would expect, at some time in the future, for a full public accounting of the events that led to the disaster.

But I don't need to know right now.

Keeping up with the minute-by-minute factoids will only lead to a circus-like atmosphere, like that which surrounded the OJ Simpson trial. A serious investigation requires that efforts be expended on real issues rather than what the public is screaming for.

Of course this REPORTER wants to know everything right now. That's his job. However the tone of his article is somewhere between pure whining and a call for a million-something-march on Washington.
7 posted on 05/14/2003 11:17:15 AM PDT by kidd
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To: Frank_Discussion
Sigh... It isn't a government coverup at all, it's a method of circumventing human nature. If you think public disclosure will get the crap beat out of you literally or figuratively, you'll be more willing to speak freely if your remarks are pledged to be kept private.

Exactly -- people speak more openly and freely, especially about admissions of mistakes, or accusations of mistakes/incompetence against others, if they know their remarks aren't going to be on the evening news.

8 posted on 05/14/2003 11:22:33 AM PDT by Ichneumon
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To: anymouse
I don't think there are any great secrets to be revealed. It is amazing to me that NASA which is comprised of lots of bright engineers would ignore the truth of failure. The fact of the matter is that insulation pealing off the ET and impacting the Shuttle is not part of the protocol which those same engineers would deem safe. Yet, it happened over and over again. Nobody of authority rose up and said, "Hey, this is not something we should tolerate. Let's stop shuttle launches until we find a surefire way to stop these impacts with the launched birds. It is dangerous. It is very reminiscent of the Challenger accident. No, I don't think that these "government" employees are hiding any great secrets. Rather they are just perpetrating the fraudelent idea that NASA will learn from their past mistakes and change their future behavior.
9 posted on 05/14/2003 11:39:57 AM PDT by Movemout
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To: Movemout
Oooops, pealing=peeling
10 posted on 05/14/2003 11:41:26 AM PDT by Movemout
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To: anymouse
Let mw let you all in on a little misnomer. It is true that it is the public's money that is being used, BUT, Nasa funding has gotten to such an all time low from the federal government that Nasa seeks a HUGE portion of their funding from private industry and donors. This used to NEVER be the case way back when the government funded it totally. Since the government scaled back GRAETLY on the space program funding avenue Nasa has had to struggle to find funding elsewhere while most of their equipment to include the Space Shuttle has far went past its time. IMO Nasa should be back under the envelope of the DOD. DOD funding id so HUGE and enormous that it could fund many of Nasa's current ills. It used to be and now I do not know why it is no longer. Maybe if this writer would point to this I would not laugh so much at this article.
11 posted on 05/14/2003 11:48:37 AM PDT by AbsoluteJustice (Kiss me I'm an INFIDEL!!!!)
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To: Movemout; All
Let me let you all in on a little misnomer. It is true that it is the public's money that is being used, BUT, Nasa funding has gotten to such an all time low from the federal government that Nasa seeks a HUGE portion of their funding from private industry and donors. This used to NEVER be the case way back when the government funded it totally. Since the government scaled back GRAETLY on the space program funding avenue Nasa has had to struggle to find funding elsewhere while most of their equipment to include the Space Shuttle has far went past its time. IMO Nasa should be back under the envelope of the DOD. DOD funding id so HUGE and enormous that it could fund many of Nasa's current ills. It used to be and now I do not know why it is no longer. Maybe if this writer would point to this I would not laugh so much at this article.
12 posted on 05/14/2003 11:49:13 AM PDT by AbsoluteJustice (Kiss me I'm an INFIDEL!!!!)
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To: AbsoluteJustice
"It is true that it is the public's money that is being used, BUT, Nasa funding has gotten to such an all time low from the federal government that Nasa seeks a HUGE portion of their funding from private industry and donors.

The "misnomer" is yours and not NASA's. They experimented with industry contributions in the 1990s. It didn't work out too well. I know because I was there and a participant in a failed policy. $15B a year is not peanuts. The estimate on returning to the Moon and a mission to Mars was about $110B ten years ago. This is eminently doable with the current budget. The problem is that it takes a resolve that doesn't exist. You must be willing to jettison things that do not need to be done, e.g. centers that have no reason to exist, science that doesn't need to be accomplished, firing employees who aren't needed, etc. NASA is just another monster that must be fed.

13 posted on 05/14/2003 12:09:18 PM PDT by Movemout
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To: Movemout
I agree with the monster bit but you must admit looking at these shuttles I see some are still operating on the technology of Pong. It is a wonder that more accidents have not happened. So yes the current funding that would require for replacement shuttles are much larger than the current budgets.
14 posted on 05/14/2003 12:13:54 PM PDT by AbsoluteJustice (Kiss me I'm an INFIDEL!!!!)
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To: AbsoluteJustice
Von Braun would agree if he were still alive. Mad Max agrees because he is still alive. Exploration is an expensive business. It can only be done at the behest of governments. The cost of R&D can only be borne by a tax on the people. There are no companies that can raise that kind of cash. Go read your history books. The opening of America was not profitable for a long time. It is still the same. Often, companies that take the first risks in building an infrastructure fail. The guys that make money are the second or third organiztions that buy the first companies at fire sale prices.
15 posted on 05/14/2003 12:28:48 PM PDT by Movemout
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To: Movemout
Agree.
16 posted on 05/14/2003 12:36:13 PM PDT by AbsoluteJustice (Kiss me I'm an INFIDEL!!!!)
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To: anymouse
The primary question should be why are we still saddled with this overpriced, fragile vehicle to begin with. we were promised a versatile, reuseable 100 launch craft with a low Earth-to-orbit cost per payload pound (all right, kilo.) We were told to expect weekly launches with commercial loads, and a dramatic opening for new zero G industrial applications.

What we have is 14 dead astronauts, a risk factor higher than combat F15 pilots by TWO orders of magnitude, and no discernable commercial application in sight.

Putting all our very costly eggs in one basket makes no sense. We could and should have a stable full of different vehicles to perform different tasks. If NASA controlled highway travel, there would be one size truck on the road, whether one was carrying interstate freight or commuting intracity.

Thank God they had nothing to do with aircraft design. Aside from the military, the biggest kick in the ass the Feds gave aircraft design was the early airmail contracts. They did not do the design work, they specified what was required, dangled the huge cotracts out there, and awarded same to whichever company delivered the goods. Had we had the equivalent of NASA in charge, we might now be anxiously awaiting the rollout of the new Ford Trimotor!
17 posted on 05/14/2003 12:49:13 PM PDT by barkeep
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To: r9etb
How can you say that!?!
If they can't hold public hearings, under oath if neccessary, just as they did for Challenger, then they don't deserve OUR tax money!

What on earth are they trying to hide??? Why is this different than Challenger?

I don't trust them to 'issue' a 'report'! I want to know exactly how they screwed up, and how they are going to prevent it from happening again.
I've spent scores of hours, days even, reading the threads on this since 2-1-03, trying to understand even the technical parts, with the help of our FReepers.
I have always loved NASA and our space programs, but I sincerely don't trust them anymore...if they get away with this. It breaks my heart.
18 posted on 05/14/2003 1:00:37 PM PDT by meema
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To: meema
"What on earth are they trying to hide???"

Hiding two things (to avoid retribution):

1. Their personal F***-ups.
2. Their involvment in ratting out others' F***-ups.

Kind of like witness protection, and it allows the interviewees to speak more freely. If you don't understand the simplicity of that, I can't help you. The testimony still exists, it just doesn't have a name on it.

"Why is this different than Challenger?"

Well, their is "priveledged" or at least hidden testimony to be sure there, too. So that's NOT different.

However, the level of detail to investigate and the ability to investigate it is much greater than Challenger. The fiddly details of investigation is not for public consumption, merely on the basis of volume alone.

Whenever the government relents and feeds the public data like water from a firehose, they get accused of trying bury data in a sea of information. You can't please everybody.
19 posted on 05/14/2003 1:34:52 PM PDT by Frank_Discussion (It's not nice to fool Mr. Rumsfeld!)
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To: anymouse; *Space
NASA.

Never has so much of the confiscated wealth of
America's [Of the world's, that is!] most creative, innovative, productive and industrious men been
Squandered on so few to
Achieve so little!

20 posted on 05/14/2003 3:10:45 PM PDT by Brian Allen ( Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God - Thomas Jefferson)
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To: Brian Allen
Or Never A Straight Answer. :)

Or worse, Need Another Seven Astronauts. :(
21 posted on 05/14/2003 3:36:31 PM PDT by anymouse
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To: Movemout
The opening of America was not profitable for a long time. It is still the same.

What opened the West was the railroads. Private industry. But wait! How about the 200-mile wide rights-of-way the government granted to the railroads, think that had something to do with the willingness of the railroad barons to undertake the building of railroads in the West?

It worked once, it has worked more than once in history. The Thirteen Colonies were government grants. Hugh success. Maybe it will work once more, in opening Outer Space. Cost = nothing. Just a gov't assertion of sovereignty and a permit. A couple pieces of paper. Should be easy.

22 posted on 05/14/2003 3:45:39 PM PDT by RightWhale (Post no Bills)
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To: Frank_Discussion
Then they will just have to shut nasa down if they won't have a real honest independent investigation.

Congress AND President Bush had better make them start all over, because this is nothing but a cover-up.

They have lost me.
23 posted on 05/14/2003 8:19:23 PM PDT by meema
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To: Frank_Discussion
I wasn't going to bring this up, but your comments to me are condescending.
24 posted on 05/14/2003 8:21:09 PM PDT by meema
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To: meema
"If you don't understand the simplicity of that, I can't help you."

If this is what you're referring to, I'm sorry. Truly and without any sarcasm. Condescension was not the goal.

I pride myself on civil discourse and with as little flaming as possible - I mean no offense to anyone save trolls. And I don't think you're a troll.

However, let me try to restate what I meant:

The anonymous testimony isn't meant to hide data from the public, rather it allow more unadulturated data to come forth by protecting the source. Witness protection is the term I like to think of in this case.

I think that the concept of "need-to-know" and "privacy" are very important. The tone of my comments got a little nutty because there are a lot of people who would demand to know anything about anybody if it satisfies their curiousity and gives them a target to hit when the fit hits the shan. This has been particularly out of control in regards to the Columbia investigation.

Under the guise of privacy in particular, without the anonymous testimony, a whole bunch of folks would be pleading the fifth right now, whether they were guilty of anything or not.
25 posted on 05/15/2003 7:53:03 AM PDT by Frank_Discussion (It's not nice to fool Mr. Rumsfeld!)
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To: steplock
No. That is not the reason. It is your guess. Be honest.
26 posted on 05/15/2003 7:56:10 AM PDT by bvw
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To: r9etb
Is this your creed: " That a government for the government, by the government and of the government shall not perish from this Earth."?
27 posted on 05/15/2003 7:59:13 AM PDT by bvw
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To: bvw
Is this your creed: " That a government for the government, by the government and of the government shall not perish from this Earth."?

Oh, please. I'm really disappointed to see you resorting to this sort of response.

My comment is based on the same reasoning that the NTSB keeps its investigations close to the vest: simply because the investigation would most likely be hindered by an unfiltered and completely transparent data dump containing any number of unfiltered "what-if" theories, not to mention volumes of hard-to-interpret data.

28 posted on 05/15/2003 8:41:24 AM PDT by r9etb
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To: r9etb
This is NOT an NTSB investigation. And chances are after the dozen solid years of emphasis on diversity excellence over technical excellence in promotion and management, chances are the NTSB could use some fully public juried investigations rather than the closed "expert" clique they now have.
29 posted on 05/15/2003 9:54:07 AM PDT by bvw
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To: bvw
This is NOT an NTSB investigation.

It's fully equivalent to an NTSB investigation. A quick look at the various airliner-crash related conspiracy theories that abound will tell you why "fully public juried investigations" are in practice inferior to a closed system.

30 posted on 05/15/2003 10:09:09 AM PDT by r9etb
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To: r9etb
Righto. The public can't be trusted. The rabble needs their betters to do the important stuff for them behind closed doors.
31 posted on 05/15/2003 4:01:06 PM PDT by bvw
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To: Frank_Discussion
OK. Your apology is gratefully accepted. I have loved NASA all my life. My 3 generation family flew from Chgo to FL about 7 years ago for the sole purpose of watching the Endeaver blast off. Are you old enough to have watched and listened to ALL the Challenger Investigation? I still have all my (self)edited tapes beginning with the LIVE tapes of that tragedy as it happened.
I am not interested in embarrassing anyone. But Columbia seems to be much the same management problem as Challenger.
That scares me. If they don't bring it out in the open, they won't change.
If they don't change, as in, improve, they don't deserve to send brave souls up anymore.
I truly don't trust them now.

I'm sorry I took so long to get back to you, and I do thank you for understanding why I was upset with you. And you're right. I'm not a troll. See you around the boards.
32 posted on 05/15/2003 9:06:19 PM PDT by meema
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To: meema
Yes, I'm old enough to have audited the Challenger, though I have not throroughly done so. However, I remember watching the news at the time, and the coverage at the time was of meetings VERY close to the vest.

Right now, Columbia's investigation is a pretty open process, more data immediately, and easily accessable. They've merely allowed names to be omitted in some cases, while the system data flows on.

I agree with you on one point: Management is a beast that devours a lot of good work at NASA.
33 posted on 05/16/2003 6:58:39 AM PDT by Frank_Discussion (It's not nice to fool Mr. Rumsfeld!)
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To: Frank_Discussion
Challenger's investigation was carried on c-span, and it was totally independent and very, very little was/is kept from us.
For me, that is the benchmark Columbia should strive for.
34 posted on 05/16/2003 9:02:49 AM PDT by meema
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