Time to Launch NASA?

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After more than a decade of embarrassing and fatal failures, we may have reached the time to kiss NASA good-bye and turn America’s space program over to private companies.

(CNN) — A small piece of insulating foam that came off the space shuttle Discovery’s external fuel tank may have struck the wing of its orbiter during liftoff. But NASA experts do not believe the foam caused any damage, a NASA official said late Thursday.

After a piece of foam struck the Columbia’s wing, causing its disintegration during re-entry in 2003, NASA has had two and a half years to fix the insulating foam problem. They didn’t. In addition to the two-foot long chunk that hit the wing, a much larger chunk also broke conspicuously loose during Discovery’s launch.

Remember during the Columbia investigation that NASA expert who scoffed at us idiot, non-engineers who thought that the foam that hit Columbia might have been the reason it burned up? And that was only the most obvious example of NASA’s problems.

I am reluctant to beat up on engineers . . . wait, no I’m not. The problems with NASA’s manage uncovered during the Challenger investigation were indicative of several engineering companies I’ve worked for. Somewhere between high school and a corner office, engineers convince themselves that their discipline is universal. They believe that literature is engineering, painting is engineering, and sex is engineering. And engineer with the biggest office is the only engineer who really gets it.

This thinking is horribly wrong–like chunks of foam falling off of a fuel tank during a space shuttle launch. It results in ideas like Bob Ferguson’s social engineering plan to regulate the Catholic church in Canada, applying to it all of that socialist country’s laws for employment and homosexual marriage. In a telling admission, Ferguson would run our Holy Mother Church like some geek club:

I am an engineer so the model I am thinking about is rather like the provincial acts regulating the practice of engineering.

It’s this kind of thinking that gave us a television that you have to reboot. It’s the kind of thinking that makes non-engineers want to say, “go oil your slide rule.”

Most of the people I work with are engineers. My dad’s a retired engineer by certification, not education. They are, like most mixes of people, sometimes wonderful, sometimes irritating, all works of divine creation. But many, many engineers need to understand that life is not just calculations. At some point, one must trust in things that can’t be measured or predicted: subordinates, partners, friends, God. Without these leaps of faith, we are destined to do only small things, poorly.