Fri, Apr 30, 2004
Says He Was "Sickened" By Columbia Tragedy
Retired USAF Brigadier
General Chuck Yeager is not known as a man to mince words.
He lived up to that reputation earlier this week in addressing
the 41st Space Congress. Speaking of the Challenger and Columbia
tragedies, Yeager told the assembly, "It just kind of makes you
sick when you look at people not paying attention to what is going
on outside the aircraft."
Of NASA, Yeager noted the recent success of the twin Mars
rovers. "Maybe they ought to stick to unmanned space exploration
because they sure as hell aren't very good at flying safely."
The venerable test pilot told the NASA and Air Force attendees
that the space agency didn't seem to have learned anything in the
17 years between the first shuttle disaster, which destroyed
Challenger shortly after its launch in February 1986, and the
Columbia accident just 14 months ago. He said NASA should have paid
more attention to the problem of foam flaking off the shuttle's
main fuel tank as the space plane blasted into orbit. "That should
have been a warning to a lot of people," he said. "The way the
hierarchy and bureaucracy at NASA works, it wasn't. Hopefully,
they've learned their lesson."
There's no word of any official reaction from NASA, which is now
reconfiguring and retesting the remaining shuttles in hopes of
returning to flight next year.
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