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Frictions arise over space station

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It was just four high-energy batteries, the kind that are found in a lot of military equipment such as walkie-talkie sets and night vision equipment. Similar batteries already were being used on the international space station. But when NASA officials discovered last year that Russian space officials were allowing the four batteries on board the space station without the proper testing, they objected strenuously. The batteries could be toxic and had a small potential to explode. The Russians went ahead anyway.

NOTHING EVER happened. But the friction caused by the batteries underscores the divide between the now hyper-safety-conscious Americans and what the Russians describe as their “more flexible” approach.

It’s a different philosophy, explains Shirley McCarty, former head of NASA’s safety advisory board: In the U.S. program you must prove it is safe. The Russian approach is “prove it’s not safe.”

After the Columbia space shuttle disaster, safety is getting even more attention by the U.S. space program.


Tensions over the two countries’ approaches are being played out in Houston and Moscow as both programs debate whether to allow a spacewalk by the current space station crew of just two men — astronaut Michael Foale and cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri. A spacewalk would leave the space station temporarily empty. Previous spacewalks at the international space station have depended on a third crew member inside.

The Russians, however, are comfortable with the risk and carried out spacewalks on their Mir space station with just a two-man crew. They are pushing for a spacewalk in late February to do minor work involving payloads and preparatory work for a new type of cargo ship.

The Russians consider themselves less rigid and more inventive than the Americans, who tend to follow every letter in the technical manuals, said Sergei Gorbunov, a spokesman for the Russian Space Agency.

“Here in Russia, we are more flexible in our approach to technical problems,” Gorbunov said. “The Americans are more conservative in dealing with technical problems, but this isn’t a fault.”

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Given all the money that goes into this kind of program, would honestly think that safety, and making sure than nothing gets screwed up, would need to be a priority...

It's only cheaper to cut corners until someone screws up, and you have to start all over again, having to pay for new equipment, research into what went wrong, and perhaps even compensation to the families of astronaughts injured or killed because someone didn't look before they leapt.

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I totally agree with you Seraphina. Your response made me think of this quote:

"How is it that we never have time to do a job right, but we always have time to do it over?"


I don't know who said it, but it makes so much sense. thumbsup.gif

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