You "Goofed"? You Fuckin' "Goofed'?

No, asshat, I think it’s a little more serious than that.

WTF were you thinking? Yeah, yeah, I know, I know, you wanted to have a “full up” mission after the loss of Columbia, but as has become more than obvious by now, you guys really didn’t have a grasp on a few crucial problems, and the best response you can give is that you “goofed”!?! No, no, no, no, dipshit. A “goof” is when you screw up a PowerPoint presentation. A “goof” is when you get your good friend’s name wrong when you introduce him or her. A “goof” is when you forget to check the batteries in your camera and you try to take pictures of your pet doing something cute and find out that the batteries are dead. A “goof” is most certainly not sending 7 people 100+ miles into space in a fragile spaceship, when you haven’t gotten all the “kinks” worked out of yet it, and they might die because of those “kinks.” What you did is what we in the real world call a “colossal fuck up of the highest order.”

I, of all people, know that spaceflight is dangerous, and that it will be some time (if ever) before it’s completely safe, and while I would dearly love to be up there in orbit on the ISS, I would not be sending folks up there if I wasn’t damn sure that we’d fixed the problem which had gotten the last crew killed. WTF is going on, guys? Are you trying to run NASA into the ground? Because it’s really starting to look that way.

Oh, and I know that there’s some folks out there who disagree with the whole idea of the manned program, and while I don’t want to rehash why I think that both are necessary, I do want to point out that if NASA’s manned program looks bad to the anti-spacers (i.e. the halfwits who hate anything aspect of the space program, manned or unmanned), then both the manned and unmanned programs are in mortal danger. This shit has got to stop and it has to stop now!

I know that any random asshole on a messageboard can smear crap on the ‘net and claim it to be the truth, but fuckin’ A, you festering floating meatsacks, I could do a better job with my head shoved up my ass than you sliderule slurpin’ dorks are managing! I wish to Og, I had the means to make it down to Florida with a clue by four so I could pound some sense into you. Gus Grissom would be kickin’ all your asses hard, if he were still alive to see this shit. You, Ogdamned, stupid sons o’ bitches have to get your shit straight and get it now or it’s over for both the manned and unmanned programs! Get it?

Aside from the fact that I like your term “clue by four”, Tuckerfan, I have to admit it’s sounding like there are very sloppy processes in NASA these days. The “goofed” comment may have been some vain attempt to dissuade anyone suing their britches off should the worst happen. I hope the crew get home safely, through all this.

Come on, they got Discovery to orbit, and it looks like they have finally excised the cover-ups and now have what looks like total openness. I find that refreshing. Farmer Carl from Nebraska can comment and theorize all he wants from the safety of his bean field, but at least NASA and their highly-paid engineers have finally learned that openness is the best way to go, regardless of what the peanut gallery throws at them.

That’s not saying that I’m disappointed they haven’t solved to foam problem, and I’m not educated enough to even know whether the shuttle is a viable space platform (I only read half of that 400 dollar book), but it’s nice to see a culture of openness these days.

The last time they ran something into the ground, wasn’t it ground on Mars?

BTW, I thought the big wigs for NASA were actually in Texas, aren’t they?

I wouldn’t say that this is an example of “openness” since they pretty much had no choice but to make coverage of the mission so visible, since they’re under so much public scrutiny at the moment. My beef is that they’re calling this a “goof.” I can’t find the link at the moment, but someone posted a link to comments by the mission commander for this flight who’s pretty steamed about the matter. I doubt that she’d call this a “goof.” Remember that NASA downplayed the gases eroding the seals on the SRBs until Challenger blew up, claiming that the erosion was part of the safety margin, when, in fact, it was a flashing neon light that something was really fucking wrong. Calling the current matter a “goof” is only slightly better than saying, “Well even though the seals were eroded, we’re still within our margin of safety.”

Look. The Space Shuttle has done over 100 missions with only two accidents. That’s a better than 98% success rate. And that’s the old, unsafe way.

These people have less than a 1 in 50 chance of dying. I’ll take those odds anyday. And if they die, well, nobody said that space travel was safe, all wishes to the contrary.

I swear, people latch on to the most irrational stuff. This foam problem has existed from day one, and then somebody dies and it’s the end of the world. Space travel is not safe and it never will be, science fiction notwithstanding.

So you don’t like “goofed”.

How about we call it an “oopsie”?

And the crew of Challenger would be alive today, if NASA had simply waited for things to warm up before launching, and the crew of Columbia might be alive today if NASA had taken the issue of falling foam as something other than a “goof” since they knew it could be fatal.

(emphasis mine)

I’m not bitching because spaceflight is dangerous, I’m bitching because NASA’s known about problems with the shuttle but continues to make the same damned mistakes over and over again and refers to them as “goofs!”

Did anyone catch the NPR interview with the shuttle commander and one other guy up there? The reporter wanted to hash over this “goof.” You could tell she wanted them to address the question of “Aren’t you guys scared you’re going to die burned to a fiery crisp?”

Of course, the reporter could never actually say that, so she danced around it in various veiled ways. She kept asking about “morale” and “the mood up there” and “concern” and “reaction to the news about the damage” and “thinking about Columbia.”

The astronauts wouldn’t fall for it; they were practical and matter-of fact. When answering about reactions/morale they talked about the disappointment of engineers who’d worked so hard on the foam adherence project and how frustrating for those people that all their work wasn’t as successful as hoped. I don’t know if it was spin or just natural tendency to not freak over what you can’t control, but it was extremely well-done and I admired them for it.

Toward the end I was ready to screech “Give it up, you ghoulish bitch!” at ol’ Meeeeeechelle Norris or whoever it was fumbling through the interview.

NASA’s headquarters is in D.C.

Well, what else are they supposed to say? If they say “yeah, we’re scared shitless, and the engineers screwed up”, they not only lose their jobs, which with astronauts is their lifeblood, but damage a program already in heat.

I’m always a little bemused by comments like this. What is it about people that makes so many of you think that you personally could step into a situation and do better than teams of people with years of experience? We have every reason to believe that NASA had all possible motivation to get this right, and it is beyond dispute that they have the best qualifications in terms of experience and skill. If the mission still wasn’t completed without a hitch, than the rational conclusion is that (surprise!) perfection is not humanly possible.

So far, the most indignant whining I hear is over language. The OP complains because they used the word “goof”. A couple days ago, someone in the Pit was upset because they called this a “test flight”. It is ridiculous to get bent out of shape over such things. People are so spoiled by politicians and marketers, who make a science of placing appearance over reality, that they are shocked when someone’s language is not carefully and artfully chosen to portray the reality they expect. Fortunately, the engineers at NASA are somewhat more practically minded, and we can be grateful that they will devote their energy to solving problems rather than reporting the problems to us in focus-group-tested language.

I’ve worked for a number of large corporations, where many of the problems could be traced to people simply not wanting to step on somebody else’s toes, even though this meant that a serious problem would be allowed to grow much worse. Sometimes to the point where the very future of the company was at stake. Quite often, the best thing is for someone to show up and start busting heads, because if you keep doing things the same way you always have, you’re going to keep getting the same results.

And if someone decides to call something “ethnic cleansing” that’s not bad, because they’re not committing genocide, even though they’re accomplishing the “cleansing” by the use of mass-murder? If they’re calling this a “goof,” then there’s a good possibility that they’re not taking this seriously. This isn’t simply a matter of a minor warning light going off due to an electrical short, this is a case of them fucking up, and trying to downplay the matter. This is, if you’ve studied the history of events that led up to the Challenger and Columbia accidents, exactly the kind of thing that led to the deaths of 14 people! Indeed, every mission is going to have it’s “glitch,” but getting safety issues wrong in an area which, in the past, has led to the death of a flight crew, is not simply a “glitch” or a “goof” it’s a sign that, at the core, there’s some fundamental flaws, which haven’t been properly addressed. This, has also been a recurring problem at NASA (see Richard Feynmen’s Surely, You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman or the CAIB report for more details).

What do you expect from the masters of understatement? They called the Challenger explosion a “major malfunction”!

Engineers use language like they use numbers - words have specific, fixed definitions. That is why the “test flight” comment is so worrisome. If NASA really thinks this is a test flight, they should change their name to NESA - the National Extreme Sports Association - because that is what human spaceflight amounts to under such conditions.

I can tell you from firsthand experience that not all the engineers at NASA are “practically minded.” In fact, the workday of many NASA engineers consists of a period of wishful thinking followed by creative chartsmithing to make it look reasonable. I can’t go into the details, but when the tombstone is finally engraved on the STS-114 foam loss, you are going to see NASA again take several flaming pokers up the keister, just like they did for Challenger and Columbia, because they were warned by knowledgeable people that they hadn’t solved the “large debris” problem but chose to grit their teeth and launch anyway.

But that can’t be the motivation for your criticisms because, as you admit in your OP, you are powerless to bust any heads. Therefore, I am left to conclude that, dispite all evidence to the contrary, you honestly believe that you personally could do a better job.

Precisely the opposite of my point, which was that you should be focusing on the reality and that the reality is what it is regardless of the language used to describe it. Getting hung up on the language in and of itself is silly.

That simply doesn’t follow. My point is that it is misguided to attempt to read vast institutional structural flaws into a poor choice of words. Conversely, the slickest, least offensive presentation does nothing to show that things aren’t sick underneath. Time devoted to choosing words that will hurt the fewest feelings is time that would be better spent actually addressing the problem. Your own example about “ethic cleansing” vs. “genocide” goes to show that we should ignore the specific words people use to present what their doing. Instead, we should be looking at what they are actually doing. Save your outrage for that, should they deserve it.

Are you seriously suggesting that the word “goof” has a precise, widely-agreed-upon definition in the engineer’s lexicon?

Fine, so long as the poker insertion is based on wrong action, rather than infelicitous wording.

Obviously, you have no idea of how outspoken at work I can be. I don’t care about who’s toes I step on, I’m more concerned with getting the job done right. (Which is one of the reasons why I reported my previous employer to the Feds for selling defective parts to the military.)

I am focused on the reality of the situation, which is why the choice of words bothers me, because it indicates that the head of NASA isn’t focused on reality.

See Hyperelastic’s post. If you still think I’m offbase, reread his post again.

I wasn’t beiing critical of their responses (or, that is, I didn’t mean to be–perhaps it’s how I wrote about it). I thought they were exceptionally well done. There were other responses they could have given, such as “We’re not worried,” or “We’ve got options” and I doubt those comments would lead to their firing or PR damage. They simply didn’t deal with the issue at all, and (either artfully or not, I don’t know) interpreted her vague questions in a way that let them answer diplomatically and concretely, dealing with issues that didn’t relate to their personal risk (or sense of it).

What was amusing to me was the reporter’s seeming frustration and repetition of the same general question, each time asked in a new but equally ineffective way.

I’m glad to see that, but why is this relevant? Are you under the impression that I think you “care about who’s toes [you] step on”? Why?

Well, now we’re just repeating ourselves, but my point is that, no, the words alone don’t indicate that.

Hyperelastic’s testimony, evidently based on firsthand experience, is evidence (though not proof) that NASA deserves criticism. Your linguistic analysis is not.