North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › Bad news from Mojave

Bad news from Mojave

A former member
Post #: 35
Remember the sign somebody held up at the X Prize that said "SpaceShipOne - Government Zero"?

An accident claimed 3 lives on Thursday at Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites where they are building SpaceShipTwo for Virgin Galactic. It has long been expected that it was only a matter of time before a tragedy of this magnitude struck the infant private space industry. Though the industrialists themselves feel the risk is worth it, what will be the reaction of the nanny state?
A former member
Post #: 36
http://www.avpress.co...­

These are times that try our Valley's soul
This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press on Saturday, July 28, 2007.

Thursday's deadly Scaled Composites explosion in Mojave was a horrific, heartbreaking reminder of the dear cost that's attached to our human family's first, fragile steps across the awesome universe.

Exhilarated as we all can get by the aerospace adventures of heroic pioneers like Burt Rutan - arguably the world's premier aircraft designer - and those who labor to realize their breathtaking visions, we can forget how fraught with danger their sometimes halting progress is, every day.

Retired U.S. Air Force General Charles "Chuck" Yeager, who piloted the rocket-powered Bell X-1 aircraft past the sound barrier six decades ago this year, knows a thing or two about the risks involved in reaching out into the wild blue yonder.

He once commented, "You don't concentrate on risks. You concentrate on results. No risk is too great to prevent the necessary job from getting done."

The tragic accident in Mojave claimed three lives - two instantly, one shortly thereafter - and left three others critically injured.

We mourn Eric Blackwell of Randsburg, Charles May of Mojave and Todd Ivens of Tehachapi, who were pressure-testing the flow of nitrous oxide in a tank when it erupted.

Rutan's Scaled Composites firm employs about 300 people.

Mojave Airport General Manager Stu Witt said the test that was taking place when the blast occurred was no more dangerous than other tests done nearly every day at the airport, which is used primarily as a test facility for nongovernmental flight research.

"What we do is inherently risky," Witt said. "These are not the days we look forward to, but we deal with it."

On Friday, Witt focused on the lost loved ones as well as on the worthy, overarching purposes to which they had devoted their energies:

"Today, as we are focused on the human side of this mishap, we can't lose sight of what it is we choose to do and who we serve. Our nation enjoys the safest transportation system the world has known, largely because people like the ones who populate the companies engaged in systems research and testing at Mojave, Edwards and China Lake choose this location to practice their craft.

"I'm proud to be a member of that family and proud of the benefit we deliver to our nation and the world.

"Having said that, it is very difficult at this moment to see past the immediate. I appreciate and thank the many who support us at this time."

Rutan's foremost concern was his people.

"It is extremely important that we pay proper respect to the families," he told reporters Thursday evening. "Scaled Composites employees really are a family. I've gotta hug my people right now."

All of us here in Aerospace Valley can join in that embrace.

As one of Earth's premier regions for aerospace experimentation and testing, we've embraced through the triumphs and tragedies of decades of aircraft advancements, the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs and, in recent years, the exploits of the intrepid men and women who gave their all to advance the human cause aboard America's two lost space shuttles.

The risks are real. The rewards are incalculable. The losses are always shattering, shocking, irreplaceable.

Our hearts are with the beloved ones so cruelly affected in the Scaled Composites accident, and all those who love and honor them now, and forward.
A former member
Post #: 37
National Space Society
http://www.nss.org/...­

NSS Statement on Accident at Scaled Composites
(July 27, 2007)

America was built on the courage of those who dared to explore new frontiers. From Lewis and Clark to the Apollo astronauts, great men and women have tested themselves against the frontiers of their age.

In the course of their efforts, these heroes may pay the ultimate cost, as they did yesterday in Mojave. When that happens, it is the highest duty of all of us to care for the injured, to mourn the departed, and to care for the families. An honest investigation must be conducted to learn what went wrong, and to fix the cause so that it does not happen again.

But when the investigation finished, our duty is to carry on the work of those heroes, to redouble our efforts to scale the peaks that they were climbing. That is what we learned from Apollo 1. That is what they would want.

The frontier of space is far from tamed. The men and women of Scaled Composites are engaged in one of the great efforts of our time: opening space for all humanity. That is a noble pursuit, perhaps the most noble of all, and we must all be thankful for their work, and for their sacrifice.

Let us not shirk from what happened yesterday. Professionals will find the cause. The program will continue. The effort to open space cannot be stopped.Now is the time to honor those men by honoring the cause that they were engaged in. Those of us who are part of this great endeavor, whether as participants or as supporters, let us carry forward this message of perseverance to our own communities, to our elected leaders and to the media. Now more than ever, the nation needs to hear your voices.
Chris J.
gearjammer351
Dallas, TX
Post #: 69
This story is an inspiring example of industrious people working towards a goal while risking financial ruin and loss of life. It is true that people have sacrificed greatly in huge undertakings in the past, and this is no exception. These people are heroic and are good examples. Unfortunately, the young people of this country overwhelmingly cite athletes and entertainiers as their heroes.

Perhaps more important is that this is a private venture, which can show the world that great things are indeed accomplished witrhout government sanction or funding. Burt Rutan and Richard Branson shall go down in history as great visionaries-in the few history books which mark our age as anything but the tyrranical reign of George Bush :)
A former member
Post #: 47
We mourn Eric Blackwell of Randsburg, Charles May of Mojave and Todd Ivens of Tehachapi, who were pressure-testing the flow of nitrous oxide in a tank when it erupted.

Rutan's Scaled Composites firm employs about 300 people.

Mojave Airport General Manager Stu Witt said the test that was taking place when the blast occurred was no more dangerous than other tests done nearly every day at the airport, which is used primarily as a test facility for nongovernmental flight research.


I think this is a sad state of affairs. Being a test engineer by trade, it seems to me that opertional hazard analysis has not been done at an adequate level. If the operational risk is that the tank blows up and kills the test team then a remote activiation and sensing system is indicated. If this level of unmitigated risk is truely common place at this facillitiy then I think that is criminal. If you drive a car without brakes and you kill someone you go to jail. This is not much different.

Testing can be accomplished safely. It isn't neccessary for the test team to be sacrificed.

Isaac
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