Editor's note: According to reporters I have spoken with on Monday afternoon, NASA PAO has received a number of interview requests for both Bryan O'Connor and Chris Scolese with regard to their "no go" stance at the recent STS-121 Flight Readiness Review. NASA PAO has turned down these interview requests saying either that O'Connor and Scolese are not available to speak or that they have both specifically declined the invitation to speak with the media. This is rather odd.
A very short statement (below) from O'Connor and Scolese, one which states the obvious, was released late Monday afternoon. A transcript from the Saturday press conference was also released (see below).
How does this short statement serve the purpose of clarifying the issue of their decisions at the Flight Readiness Review - especially since NASA has also refused to release a transcript of the actual FRR discussions?
Either NASA is not allowing two employees to speak - or the employees do not feel the need to communicate with the media ergo the public. Regardless of which turns out to be the case, this makes NASA's highly publicized communications policy look to be a pointless exercise. Clarification could be offered - and has been requested - but NASA does not want to clear things up and prefers to allow lingering doubt and confusion to persist.
"No go" used to mean exactly that i.e. "no go". Now it apparently means something else. Either O'Connor and Scolese meant what they said or they did not. If they had concerns but were OK to allow the launch to go ahead (what their position was, in effect) then why say "no go"? Why not say "we have concerns but we agree to move ahead with the launch"?
Moreover, at the heart of their "no go" stance: If the frost ramp changes are being made for future flights - to increase safety, then does this mean that STS-121 will be less safe? Of course, NASA won't say that. If STS-121 will not be any less safe than future missions (i.e. frost ramp changes won't make them any safer) then why worry about the frost ramps in the first place?
Unless we have a chance to hear from Scolese and O'Connor, we're all just going to have to speculate.NASA STS-121 Post Flight Readiness Review Briefing (Transcript)
"MR. GERSTENMAIER: ... In the end, in the poll, we had essentially two members, safety, and the chief engineer who very similar in the last ice/frost ramp discussions were both no-go or the recommendation was not to fly from their position, but they do not object to us flying, and they understand the reasons and the rationale that we laid out in the Review for Flight, and I think we are good to go with that. Again, they understand the position. They understand where they are, but from their particular disciplines, they felt that they wanted their statement to be no-go, and they put essentially a little written statement in their go criteria of what exactly they meant by being ready to go launch."
"QUESTIONER: Okay. I guess for Mike, maybe, if I had to distill this news conference down to an editor in New York who doesn't follow the Shuttle, the statement that everybody would hear is they recommended no-go, but they are okay for flight. How do you explain? I mean, just take another crack at explaining that where my next-door neighbor would possibly understand what you are saying because it doesn't come out that way if you don't have context."
"The following is a statement from NASA Chief Safety and Mission Assurance Officer Bryan O'Connor and Chief Engineer Chris Scolese on decision to launch the Space Shuttle Discovery in July, despite reservations:"