Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Space Programs: Stephen Green has a worthwhile post today on the Chicoms' space program secrecy -- they won't broadcast their big launch -- and about the effects of public failure on totalitarian regimes. I've been thinking about this very subject while reading William Langwiesche's account of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board and it's report on the demise of the shuttle. (It's a pull-no-punches article, unafraid to call out a bureaucrat; sadly, it's not online yet.)

Even after what happened to Challenger, shuttle launches are still fed live -- even if none of the networks picks up the feed. Even after what happened to Columbia, shuttle landings will not be censored, secretive events. Looking at Langweische's article, and its summary of the CAIB report, it's obvious that NASA's getting a black eye over this. And you, free citizen of America, can read about it for free. You're not pestering some apparatchik; you're probably not even all that interested. But your government is publishing a report to tell you how one of its agercies f*cked up, then pubishing it on the web for you to inspect -- and, incidentally, for the Chicoms to download if they choose.

Even though the core of the story, the need for an accident report, is tragedy, it offers a certain refreshment; it hoses a bit of the mud off my civic cynicism.

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