Hey - You In the Blue Flight Suit: Get Back On The Bus, Now!

Editor's note: I received an interesting response to my earlier posting "You Just Can't Trust Those Former Astronauts" from former astronaut Rick Searfoss:

Hi Keith. There's lots of stories of NASA Security SNAFUS that would be very amusing, if they weren't such a sad commentary on how clueless and worthless the bureaucratic side of the agency is. Here's one about current astronauts as "security risks."

The night after we landed from STS-90 back in May 1998 the crew and I and our families were on board a NASA - very well marked - bus transiting from crew quarters to a downtown hotel. It was after about a 20 hour day from waking up on orbit, doing deorbit prep, deorbit, reentry, landing, post-landing, about 10 hours medical tests as part of the payload studies, and post-flight press conference.

As we were not to fly back to Houston until the next day I coordinated with NASA management approval that we could stay in town at the family hotel. As you might expect, we were absolutely exhausted and wanted nothing more to get to the hotel ASAP and fall into bed.

As we were riding in this NASA bus on the Cape side, one of the clueless rent-a-cops pulled the bus over. The bus driver was a little flummoxed as he hadn't been speeding and had committed no violation. After a couple minutes of just sitting there, I decided that the CDR needed to take some action so I hopped off the bus to go inquire of the security guy just what was going on.

As I was walking back towards the rent-a-cop car, he used his megaphone to shout "Get back on the bus, now!" Since I figured this might be one day in my life where I might just be bullet-proof - after all I had brought their $2 billion spacecraft home safe and sound just 12 hours earlier - I shook my head no, continued on (wearing my blue flight suit BTW) and got in this guys face with some pretty pointed questions about just what the heck he thought he was doing. He mumbled some paltry excuses about no one telling him there was to be a "vehicle movement."

So as nicely as I could manage given the rising frustration of interacting with this guy, I informed him that I had an exhausted space crew that I felt deserved at least the chance to get a little rest and that he had one minute to solve his little issues or first thing the next morning both the KSC director and 45th Space Wing commander would be getting calls from me highlighting a number of shortfalls reflecting on his competence.

As I hopped back on the bus I smiled and told the crew (five of whom were rookies and thought that they would get this great hero welcome back), "Well guys, this is the way it really is - you don't even get your 24 hours to bask in the limelight, it's back to the end of the line and back to being just another underappreciated government empoloyee!"

So glad I don't work for the government anymore. Being out in the private sector has shown me over and over again just how hopelessly mired in bureaucracy any civilian government agency is...

Rick Searfoss

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on December 15, 2006 11:46 AM.

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