Tuesday, July 04, 2006

So Far, So Good

Last Wednesday I wrote about the religious Website from London that used some sort of strange "Bible code" math to predict a nuclear terrorist attack at U.N. Plaza in NYC on or before July 4. Well so far, so good. Only today to get through. And I very likely expect nothing of the ordinary to happen in NYC or anywhere in the U.S. today. Certainly Osama Bin Laden has issued a few more tapes recently. But he is is so weakened that a few audio cassette threats is the best that he can recently organize. Even the late terrorist, Zarqawi, was able to upstage him on a near daily basis until the U.S. put an end to his murderous life.

North Korea has been voicing more threats than usual the last two days. But likely any serious July 4 "fireworks" from this wacky staunchly Stalinist state are very far fetched. Certainly this nation could cause both South Korea and Japan considerable harm from their huge conventional force. But North Korea is very unlikely to have any nuclear device small enough to mount as a warhead on their 8 or more long range missiles that could conceivably hit the U.S. West Coast. At least living in Portland, Oregon, a potential target city, it is my hope that my home town is safe. I wouldn't particularly want to end up deep fried today.

But maybe the most likely bad event today, with the closest odds are the aged and troubled Space Shuttle craft. This 1970's designed space vehicle is 100% likely to have some parts such as foam to fall off. With 115 flights into space, already 13 astronauts and one school teacher have been killed. This means a 1 out of 57 chance that this troubled space vehicle will be fatal to the crew. While there is a 56 out 57 odds that nothing bad happens, which I certainly hope, as a smooth return to space to complete the international space station is very important.

But this 1970's space vehicle is very unsafe compared to the old Russian Soyuz craft, whose old fashioned kerosine based launch engine is both reliable and very safe. Even the old Apollo program was very safe, after the fatal 1967 lauch pad test fire tragedy that killed three astronauts. For every problem that the Apollo 13 vehicle had, the crew was still brought home safely.

The Shuttle has had problems with the bad "O" rings which were fatal to the 1986 Challenger crew, and a falling piece of foam allowed hot gases to fatally end the return to earth of Columbia in February 2003. Grim pieces such as Shuttle parts and burnt body parts ended up all the way from California to Lousiana. In Texas a farmer had a burnt space helmet fall into some land that he owned.

After the 1986 disaster, terrible stories of a cash strapped Space Shuttle program emerged. Awful tales of a space vehicle even kept running from parts laying around someone's garage, purchased on Ebay, even emerged. Some of the old fashioned parts for the Shuttle have not been produced since 1978. The computer and other items are very aged.

Hopefully despite all the serious faults, and the sheer embarrassment of the Space Shuttle as not the very best example of "American know-how", today's launch will be very routine and uneventful. The Mars Rover has been such a technology success by comparison. But if a new serious problem develops, then the American Space program could be in serious problems and new delays for the next couple of years.

Here's to a fond hope and a prayer for God to make today uneventful and a happy July 4, holiday. May the the only fireworks be those at some family picnic.


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