Roamy here. Today is the Day of Remembrance at NASA, where we honor the crews of Apollo 1, STS-51L Challenger, and STS-107 Columbia.
Over the next few days, I’m going to post about these accidents and also the plane crashes that claimed astronauts’ lives and hopefully give some insight that you haven’t read before.
I wonder at the coincidence of having three accidents so close on the calendar, but each points out that this isn’t an easy business. Swamp Heathen #1 sent me the words to the parachute rigger’s pledge, and some of that resonates here. “I will never resort to guesswork, as I know that chance is a fool’s gold and that I cannot depend on it. I will never pass over any defect, nor neglect any repair, no matter how small, as I know that omissions and mistakes…may cost a life. I will never let the idea that a piece of work is ‘good enough’ make me a potential murderer through a careless mistake or oversight, for I know there can be no compromise with perfection.”
Every material to be used inside a manned spacecraft is tested for flammability, because of Apollo 1. In the test, a 2.5″ x 12″ (nope, no metric here) strip of material is held vertically over a ignition source, usually a wire coil. I can’t tell you how frustrating it was to have what looked like a fantastic material for a spacesuit not only catch on fire, burn the entire 12″ length, but also drip flaming bits of debris onto the catch paper. FAIL. But…better to fail in the lab than on the launchpad.