LABELLE, FLORIDA -- With the second scrubbing of the Space Shuttle STS-121 launch this weekend, we wonder what's going on at NASA, and who's in charge. Who in their right mind would schedule three launches in a row for summer afternoons in Florida? Anyone who has spent only a few summers in Central Florida would know that afternoon showers and thunderstorms are almost a certainty in July. But maybe there's more than safety and efficiency involved in NASA's Shuttle schedules.
Why schedule launches on weekends and holidays when highly skilled technicians are paid overtime? Each cancellation of a Shuttle launch is said to cost taxpayers about $1.5 million. We can only guess that part of the decision making to schedule flights on weekends and holidays is a public relations policy. Get as much news coverage as you can for NASA, and get as much money per launch as possible, just schedule launches, on weekends and holidays. Brilliant PR!
Not only is this policy costing millions of extra taxpayer dollars, but launches are being scheduled at times of day when NASA's own studies show personnel are most fatigued and at their least effective. According to the NASA Ames Fatigue Counter Measures Group ( http://human-factors.arc.nasa.gov ) an Ames research report for pilots said:
"Night or late afternoon flying can increase fatigue because your body is programmed to be sleepy during the window of circadian low (3-5 am) and the afternoon dip (3-5 pm)." In particular, the "circadian low" at 3-5 a.m. and the "afternoon dip" at 3-5 p.m. are times of concern according to the Ames recommendations, affecting not only flight personnel but support personnel as well. Launches scheduled at those times would be a flight danger as well as not the best time to use flight and support personnel's talent to the highest efficiency.
Get smart NASA. Stop trying to launch Shuttle flights during Florida's summer afternoons and pay attention to your own research and not force Shuttle crew and support personnel to perform highly critical work during times in the day or night when fatigue is most likely.