Wednesday, October 23, 2013
It Is Kinda Rocket Science
Between January 15 and 17, 1969, this is what NASA was up to:
The final flight program for Apollo 9 was verified; the emergency egress test with the prime and backup crew was conducted; and the software integration test between the lunar module and Mission Control Center, MSC, was completed on January 15. On January 16 the Saturn V/Mission Control Center-Houston integration testing was conducted. Additionally, a critical design review of the Launch Complex 39 slide wire system was conducted on January 17. Launch preparations for Apollo 9 continued to proceed on schedule.
Apollo 9 was a big deal: it marked the first test of the PLSS backpack, the first firing of the Lunar Module's engines in space, the first docking and extraction of the LM, and several other firsts. But delays in development of the various spacecraft components caused scheduling shifts:
In April 1966, McDivitt, Scott, and Schweickart were selected as the backup crew to Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee for the planned first manned Earth orbital test flight of the Command/Service Module, designated AS-204 expected to fly in late 1966. This was to be followed by a second similar flight, AS-205, to be crewed by Wally Schirra, Walter Cunningham, and Donn Eisele.
However, delays in the CSM development pushed AS-204 into 1967. By December 1966, the original AS-205 mission was cancelled, Schirra's crew was named as Grissom's backup, and McDivitt's crew was promoted to prime crew for a new second mission, to fly the complete Apollo spacecraft, launching the CSM and LM on two separate Saturn IB vehicles into a low Earth orbit. They immediately began training for this flight, designated AS-205/208, expected to occur in late 1967.
On January 27, 1967, Grissom's crew were conducting a launch-pad test for their planned February 21 mission, which they named Apollo 1, when a fire broke out in the cabin, killing all three men and putting an 18-month hold on the manned program while the Command Module (CM) was redesigned for safety.
As it turned out, a 1967 launch of AS-205/208 would have been impossible even absent the Apollo 1 accident, as problems with the LM delayed its first unmanned test flight until January 1968. NASA was able to use the 18-month hiatus to catch up with development and unmanned testing of the LM and the Saturn V Moon launch vehicle.
We'd been designing spacecraft for several years by this point, sending humans into orbit many times successfully. Yet that was child's play compared to integrating multiple vehicles (the multi-stage Saturn V rocket, the Command Module, the Service Module, the LM's landing and ascent stages) built by multiple contractors. Not to mention having to work out the mechanics to not just get into Earth orbit, but time things so the astronauts would reach the Moon at the right point, get into orbit there, drop a machine onto it, get the vehicle back into orbit, rendezvous with the other ship, dock, and come back home.
It was a daunting task, and perhaps after the Apollo One fire Congress really was ready to pull the plug. In fact, NASA was always suffering setbacks--and still does--from the beginning. But we kept at it.
So about that Healthcare.gov thing:
As matter of fact, the website is one of the smaller parts. Behind the scenes you've got this new hub that the website connects to to verify income, residency and a bunch of other things. That "hub" connects to numerous government agencies to determine this. That means the hub had to be developed, then integrated with systems in DHS, Social Security, the IRS and a bunch of other agencies. Once all that was done, the website's back-end got developed to communicate with the hub and get this data. There's a lot of moving parts here and if one goes down, everything goes down.
But when you look at these 47 contractors, you see a lot of big names. Look even closer and you see all but one has a long history of government work. We're talking about companies such as IBM, Verizon, Northrop Grumman and even Booz Allen Hamilton. A lot of these companies thrive on government contracts, so they know how the game works.
As the kids say, read the whole post. It puts a great deal in perspective.
Criticism of the portal's rollout is absolutely justified. Using the problems as an excuse to delay (or kill) the exchange and mandate is not.
No human endeavor is perfect, whether it be put together by an individual, a local/state entity, a corporation, or national government. You admit mistakes, figure out how they happened, fix them, and move on. You don't get anything worthwhile by giving up.
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The head of the Rhode Island healthcare exchange was on Lawrence O'Donnell's show earlier this week. She was told by industry insiders that the attempt to set up Healthcare.gov within three years was considered impossible and a task none of them would sign up for.
Rather like the start of Social Security, where the expert hired to design a program to send checks to every working person in America examined the problems and said: "It can't be done."
Took 5 years, but they did it anyway. And without a Congress determined to block it at every step, and a majority of states determined not to cooperate in any way.
Yeah, there are problems. But considering how many people have been without healthcare at all, (and those are the people affected now, not the chattering classes or the politicians), taking a little longer to get it right is a small price to pay.
I know, I know, I repeat myself, but....dagnabbit!
Posted by: Rmj | Oct 24, 2013 8:07:09 AM