Thursday, July 28, 2005
At What Price Environmentalism?
Most regular readers know I'm a huge fan of America's Space Program. I stand in awe of men and women who boldly go into space for the sake of adventure and exploration. What they do is truly phenomenal.
In order to do what they do, they place their lives in the hands of the hundreds of thousands of people who design, build, and maintain the equipment that stands between the astronauts and the vacuum of space - not mentioning the tremendously dangerous journey there and back.
The milestones of space travel are marked with the graves of heroes. Apollo I. Challenger. Columbia.
Space travel is dangerous. Everyone involved knows that. One assumes that everything possible is done to prevent accidents. One assumes the very best equipment and material is used in the process.
Mike's Noise has an interesting take on the insulation used on the Shuttle's main fuel tank. While I don't understand all the technical aspects (which he has very thoroughly documented), I do understand that a change made to the insulation in 1997 drastically increased the amount of damage suffered by the heat shield tiles that protect the shuttle on re-entry.
Why, pray tell, was this change made? Environmental regulations - specifically those banning the use of CFCs.
Go read Mike's post. Then try and figure out the marginal value of CFC laden insulation vs. the seven lives of the crew of Columbia.
I echo the sentiment of Nobel Laureate Richard P. Feynman when he said
For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.The best of intentions cannot repeal laws of nature.
Here endeth the lesson.
HT - Soxblog