What Bryan O'Connor Did and Did Not Say

Editor's note: I guess I shouldn't rely on news reports to find out what someone actually said in a news conference - my fault, I could have participated - but I was busy. According to someone who actually participated in the telecon yesterday, O'Connor spoke very specifically about factors - flight rules etc. - which would now be put formally into place so as to guide the decision making process as to when to deorbit - and where to land - procedures which specifically take public safety into account. Up until now, landing decisions had to do with conditions at one landing site or another. As such, this would be the 'first time' that such factors would be formally incorporated into shuttle mission flight rules.

Earlier posts/rants on this topic ....

Editor's note: Looks like I owe the Washington Post and Guy Gugliotta a big apology. The first thing I read in the morning is my paper copy of the Washington Post. In checking through the other stories resulting from yesterday's telecon with NASA officials (which I did not participate in) I now see multiple quotes - all citing Bryan O'Connor who was suggesting that this was the "first time" that public safety was factored into how a shuttle mission is conducted. NASA's new plans may now have additional procedures in place to enhance public safety, but NASA has always had procedures in place with public safety in mind during launches and landings - many stretching back to the 1950's. Indeed I can recall being at the STS-2 launch when NASA issued an advisory to people near the launch site to bring sheets of plastic out of concern for small acid droplets from the SRBs. I can also recall a rather thick document when I worked at NASA which listed all of the contigency landing sites (airports) around the world and the procedures that went along with the use of these sites. Its not as if no one at NASA ever gave thought to public safety - quite the contrary. Indeed there are even plans for a contingency Soyuz landing in place!

Whatever possessed Bryan O'Connor to make such a silly statement utterly escapes me.

Again, my apologies to Guy and the Post. I guess I simply did not imagine that someone in Bryan O'Connor's position would utter such words. What amazes me. however, is the fact that none of the articles I have seen emanating from that telecon even question such a statement from O'Connor.

NASA Revamps Shuttle Landing Plan, Discovery News

"For the first time, NASA will take into account public safety when it makes a decision about where and when to land a space shuttle, program managers said Tuesday."

Public safety issues inform shuttle landing plans, New Scientist

"For the first time, public safety will now be one of those factors," says Bryan O'Connor, NASA's safety and mission assurance chief."

NASA instituting crowd control on shuttle, AP

"O'Connor said that when Discovery lifts off on the first post-Columbia flight, as early as mid-May, it will be the first shuttle mission in which public safety is factored into deciding where to bring the spacecraft home."

Public Safety During Shuttle Launches to Be Weighed, Washington Post

"For the first time in its history, NASA plans to consider the safety of the public during launches and landings of the space shuttle."

Original Editor's note: This statement is just goofy. It also flies in the face of common sense and the simplest recollection of how launches are conducted. NASA has had public safety procedures in place since the earliest launches at the Cape and other launch sites i.e. for decades. Similarly, there are long-standing restrictions in place at Edwards AFB. Did you ever wonder why you need to stay beyond a certain perimeter from a launch pad during a launch - or why there are designated public viewing areas, and airspace closures? I wonder if this reporter actually asked someone at NASA - or, for that matter, anyone from the general public who has seen a launch in person - about this topic before writing this story.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on March 23, 2005 4:06 PM.

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