In 1986, seven brave astronauts went to their death (R.I.P.) when STS Challenger crashed into the Atlantic just after take off. Many Americans want to believe it was a painful yet unavoidable accident. Others, like Nobel Prize in Physics awardee and Cal Tech Professor Richard Feynman (who sat on the first and last NASA civilian investigative commission) uncovered the crisis in NASA post-Apollo.
Fatalities In Space and at Burning Man 1986-2017, the basic numbers.
- In-flight fatalities at NASA: 14
- On-Playa fatalities at Burning Man: ~ 11
- In-flight fatalities launched from Russia: 0
1986: The year of the first Burning Man. It was also the first very public fatalities of STS Challenger. From 1986-2017, the numbers stop you in your tracks.
[Please listen to the Feynman interviews here > Dr Richard Feynman interview . You are free to listen to the static in the first couple minutes, but it is the last interview in which Dr Feynman dissects the issues with NASA bureaucracy.]
Of course, that was 1986. Nothing fundamental had changed at NASA, except they finally ended the Space Shuttle program in the years following the Discovery disaster (R.I.P.). A disaster which Prof. Dr. Feynman said would undoubtably be predictable.
Nevertheless, NASA attempted to enlist scientists for two study teams who would work on a voluntary basis – yet take responsibility – for a public relations team and a follow-on scientific team on the ESA/NASA LISA project to place a gravitational observatory in Earth’s orbit about the Sun at a one of the LaGrange points. The term “voluntary” should be emphasized. As in, “for free”.
Selection for the teams was supposed to occur at NASA/ESA by mid-September, 2017. When mid-September came and went, no selection had been made. Not a few scientists used the opportunity to review their positions vis-a-vis NASA and withdrew their applications. Reminded of the Feynman report to the Investigative commission, they surmised that no required “shake-up” had occurred at NASA post-Challenger and post-Discovery. A cautionary tale.