Are the orbiters (space shuttles) insured?


Not really. The US government “self-insures”.

The astronauts are insured, however.

No, they are not.

Source: NASA press release, not available online.

Taking a WAG, I’m surprised that the astronauts would be able to get life insurance.
If I were an insurer, I wouldn’t take that risk.

I would assume that the Federal Government does have some sort of plan in place to take care of the astronauts’ families however.

Sure you would. You just wouldn’t offer them insurance for $15 a month. If you guess that 1 in 100 shuttle flights has an accident, and if each shuttle carries on average 7 astronauts, then you know that for every 700 policies you write, you will have to pay off 7 of them. Say each policy is $1M. So, you know you will need to pay off $7M and you will collect 700 premiums, throw in a little profit here and there…

Sadly, with just over 100 missions, the accident rate is a little better than 1 in 50.


ok, 1 in 50. :frowning:

I’m not trying to minimize the tragedy here, the point is that everything is/can be insured, it just may be expensive to do it.

All the military astronauts on Columbia (five I think) were eligible for and probably had SGLI - Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance: $20/month for a $200,000 policy. I don’t know what NASA does for the civilian astronauts but I’m there is some sort of provision.

Doh! Slow down! :smack:

I should have said “All US military astronauts”. That leaves one Israeli military member and one civilian.

And “I’m sure” there is some sort of provision (for them).

Actually, we have no idea what the accident rate. 2 accidents in 100 is much too small a sample to be able to make accurate estimates. So there were would be a premium on top of the premium, because the insurance company’s risk is higher.

The only way to really know the true risk of flying the shuttle is to either A) fly enough missions to have a better statistical sample, or B) through other means of assessing risk, such as engineering studies (which is not really possible, because the shuttle is still officially ‘experimental’ and collecting data about itself), or meta-analysis of similarly complex systems (except that there aren’t any).

I’m sure you could find an insurance company willing to write a policy for the astronauts. It’s just that the premium will be huge.

The other thing is, WHY? The notion of the government insuring its own assets through a private company kind of suggests a misunderstaning of what you use insurance for. Insurance is not intended to be ‘pay back’ for a loss. It is intended to allow you to replace an asset that you cannot otherwise afford to replace, but which is more valuable to you than the cost of replacing it plus the premium of an insurance policy. But the government has the capacity to replace anything it thinks it needs because it has the power to tax. There is no need for the government to insure anything.

Loyd’s of London has been insuring things that other companies cannot insure, I am certain that they would insure an astronaut though, like Rhum said, it would be expensive.