WTF Is Going On At NASA?

from the I-mean,-seriously... dept

NASA isn’t exactly having a good few months. Following the love triangle/murder attempt/diaper driving astronaut scandal that captured the nation’s attention, two reports have just come out that have people scratching their heads over what is going on at the agency formally known for taking people only with “the right stuff.” First there was the report that astronauts have been drinking alcohol before flying and possibly even being drunk during launch. There’s not really much of a technology angle to that, but that news was quickly followed up by a story of sabotage on a space station computer. The details aren’t entirely clear, but someone at a subcontractor deliberately cut internal wires in a computer that was supposed to be sent up to the space station on the space shuttles’ next mission. Apparently it wouldn’t have been life-threatening — but it would have been a nuisance. It must not be very fun to be in PR at NASA these days, but it really does make you wonder what’s going on there. It didn’t take the agency very long to go from a position of respect to a series of punchlines on late night talk shows.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: nasa

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “WTF Is Going On At NASA?”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Matt Bennett says:

I have to say I don’t really believe the drunk at launch thing either. It just seems really, really implausible.

The sabotage thing? Sure I believe that. It was an emplyer of a contractor. Coulda been an anti-tech whack-job, unabomber style, coulda been a guy pissed at his boss, coulda been a Muslim Extremist. WHo knows? The comp was going to go through testing before being deplyed, anyway. Actually don’t consider that that big a deal, just cuz there’s so many random reasons it could’ve happened.

Peet McKimmie (profile) says:

UK News coverage

A NASA official was just interviewed on More4 news, and the gist was that if one astronaut turns up smelling of alcohol it’s probably simpler to get the others to cover for him through the launch until he’s finished sobering up than to spend the (literally) millions of dollars canceling and rescheduling the launch. Of course she didn’t admit that this had actually happened, she was just speculating what might have happened.

P. Logo says:

Re: Re:

Nothing Awesome Since Apollo
Maybe the guy was just bored with the s.o.s. the last 30 or so years

You must be living in a cave. The shuttle and ISS are very respectable achievements, despite many difficulties. Maybe Apollo was “awesome” but it was also a colossally ineffective use of funds. The remarkable unmanned missions since Apollo have been very successful. I consider two remote control rovers on Mars to be truly awesome, not to mention the voyagers, pathfinder, galileo, cassini, mars orbiters, ulysses, hubble, and a dozen others. Try achieving something instead of complaining.

Kevin says:

Two thoughts...

Firstly, on the sabotage: Do they always catch these sorts of thing before liftoff, or are they part of the reason that things keep “breaking” in space?

Secondly, on the being drunk: I don’t buy it. Most of the other news stories I’ve read about it have phrased it like “they had used alcohol less than 12 hours before liftoff (a violation of policy) and may have not been safe to fly.” So I’m not seeing drunk astronauts on the launchpad here, I’m seeing, at worst, astronauts with a hangover. But it’s much more likely that they went out and had a few drinks the night before takeoff, and while that may be a violation of policy it’s a far cry from “astronauts flying drunk.”

But keep in mind that there’s a certain section of American population that is anti-NASA. There are some who think it’s a waste of money. For example, my wife would prefer the money went to homeless shelters or education. But she doesn’t understand the scientific advances that have come from the space program that have resulted in new technology that keeps me employed.

Then there are others who want it moved under the control of the military. Maybe they want to militarize space. Maybe they want more money in their Defense budget. Who knows, but there are definitely high ranking DoD types who chafe at the notion that NASA is under civilian control.

Then there are the people who are just pissed off because a lot of the scientific research that they have done contradicts the current administration’s stance on global climate change.

I’m curious where the report came from and who was involved in writing it, and more importantly, what their agenda is.

Daniel (profile) says:

Let them drink!

I think the whole thing is overblown.

Honestly, this is not similar to airplane pilots or even automobile drivers getting behind the wheel drunk. Astronauts take off only when there is no chance of collision from other aircraft and they quickly get past commercial airspace to a place where there is literally NOTHING to crash into. Don’t get me wrong, I know that astronauts have complicated tasks requiring the utmost in physical and mental readiness during their time in space, but not on takeoff. The first part of any astronauts mission has successfully been performed by MONKEYS in the 1960’s – how sober do you REALLY have to be?

I say let them have their drinks. Considering the bureacracy they are working for, they need them.

trollificus says:

derrr...nicely retarded.

For somebody who likes to think he “sees past the surface of things”, that’s a pretty lame take, and it doesn’t really take Steven Leavitt to explain it.

Let’s see…one recently divorced astronaut went all emotional. NASA’s fault that women are women. Check.

So asstard at a contractor’s production facility tried the undetectable, devious and subtle sabotage method OF CUTTING WIRES ON A COMPUTER. Very clever. No only does NASA actually CHECK such equipment, but this brilliant subterfuge was detected BY THE CONTRACTOR. Big story there.

And astronauts still had some level of blood alcohol 12 hours after a “going away party”?? Well, let’s throw our hands up in the air and run around screaming, shall we? It’s not like they’re driving the f*ing thing through traffic after launch.

As I said, derrr. To answer your (assuredly rhetorical) question: Nothing, except three unrelated stories, on six months ago, two of them close together. OMG, how suspicious!

Stupidest “story” ever on techdirt.

Joe says:

Example of society downward spiral

Ever notice the younger generation mostly has no motivation to excel at anything? Life goal seems to get drunk/stoned and party. Work ethic seems to elude them.
As for the sabotage, I would first suspect a pissed off employee from the above group.
NASA under civilian control? I don’t think so. Navy or Air Force probably. Navy seems to have hands in a lot of things. They still have stuff we don’t see in civilian use yet so can’t let the common person get hold of that.

Petréa Mitchell says:

Too much spare time

First: NASA had way more astronauts than crew slots, and was having to find other things for them to do, even before Columbia was destroyed and the vastly reduced current launch schedule was put in place. Astronauts have to have advanced degrees and go through essentially test pilot training before they ever have a hope of being on a shuttle. If you sacrifice half your life just getting the entry-level qualifications for your dream and then have to spend years in a make-work position, wouldn’t that start to dull your morale a bit?

Second: drunken astronauts being allowed to fly? That’s small compared to other things that were routinely ignored. Challenger‘s accident happened even though a group of engineers sent a strongly worded plea to NASA not to launch, because there was enormous pressure to launch on time, no matter what. The Columbia investigation found that that culture hadn’t changed.

If there is a hopeful note to find in here, it’s that you don’t necessarily have to be ultra-super-fit to survive a trip into space. Good news for the space tourism industry.

Witty Nickname says:

Drunk at liftoff, I buy it, they say it happened twice. I don’t think there is much for the asternauts to do at liftoff (space-nerds/NASA employees please tell me if I am wrong) but I think most of that stuff is being controlled from the ground crew in Florida/Houston or by computers. Most of the real work is experiments and repairs once they reach orbit.

You never know says:

Aaaaa, the kidnapping psycho case was over a year ago. The sabotage thing was a third party contractor issue, and this Drinking space Cowboy just cropped up out of nowhere, right? Is it me or is some one trying to give NASA bad press? If things were really that bad do you think NASA would have released this information with out having some kind of investigative answer already? It sounds like a disgruntled employee somewhere is having a hay day releasing stories to the “Doom and Gloom Squad” of the press.

chris (profile) says:

doesn't surprise me

i’ll bet NASA is full of cowboys, just like law enforcement and just like the military. when it comes to partying, military guys make frat boys look like boy scouts. the elites are even worse.

in the military, when you head out on a mission, it will be a while before you get to party again, so the night before you usually have a big blowout.

i can’t tell you how many times we shipped out on maneuvers hung over or still drunk, and i would imagine launching in to space is just a more expensive version of rolling out.

i never did anything dangerous while drunk like operate machinery, handle explosives, or participate in live fire exercises, but i spent several trips out to the woods sleeping it off in the back of a truck or an APC… or driving said vehicle while someone else slept.

Sanguine Dream says:

Slow news at NASA?

This sounds like an attempt to get NASA back into the news again.

One thing I’ve always wondered is why the physical requirement on astonauts? If the hope is for regualr people to go into space one day then NASA has to realize that not everyone on Earth can complete a 4 mile run (or whatever requirements) period much less in a time limit. Perhaps its so the space suits can all be made in one size?

:( (user link) says:

One of the STS missions last year took a tether to space that snapped. The tether was supposed to turn electro-magnetic frequencies into electricity for future satellites.

When they deployed the tether, it became overloaded with energy. The power surge snapped the cable and the whole contraption when drifting off into space…

Shortly thereafter, a ton of “debris” began to swarm around the now coiling tether. The “debris” looked uniform in shape, they change direction in space, and they seemed to grow denser in number around the tether.. Not to mention how they all appeared into what was previously empty space to surround the tether. You have to see it yourself, it just looks too coincidental.

Thanks to freedom of information, NASA’s footage of this flight is available for your personal criticism on youtube etc. Simply look for “tether incident” and see for yourself. Or check this link out:

NASA is trying to reorganize their space strategy and change the shuttle program, meanwhile there’s questionable phenomenon happening in space with increasing frequency. The tether incident isn’t the only STS video with odd occurances in it. Maybe NASA’s clueless about it too and trying to figure out what course of action to take next.

HMAN says:

Drunks and would be murderer's

Some of the strangest things have happened in our society. I would not put in doubt not even for moment, the possibility that an astronaut would’ve, could’ve been drunk (or at least buzzed) during a mission. We found out recently that air line pilots were drunk, while flying, so why would it be impossible for an astronaut? He have a diaper wearing astronaut who was on her way to kill, right? Anythings possible.

As for the Tether incident, I saw the videos and the close ups and have to say, there is something definately going on in space other than the people that are being sent up there.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...