Some Stories are too Good to Check Out…
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — WESH 2 News struck a nerve with an exclusive report as NASA actively works to prevent shuttle sabotage from within its ranks.
While there is no indication that sabotage has ever or will ever happen, officials said it is on the space agency’s radar as the shuttle program winds down.
While the deputy manager of the space shuttle program has said publicly that NASA has had many discussions about the possibility of intentional damage to the shuttle, officials emphasized on Thursday that there is no evidence it has happened.
It’s getting pretty ugly out there, Space Cadet Nation.
We all know every reporter worth his notebook wants to score a scoop – a big “exclusive” that will make him a newsroom hero – but sometimes the pressure to produce will lead a good scribe down a dark alley.
This item from WESH-TV in Orlando is a good example of how a rumor mixed with a hunch leads to some pointed, loaded questions, which in turn prompts some unclear, easily-misconstrued answers. Voila – an Action News Sensation! Too bad it is not “sweeps” month…
But sometimes the facts get in the way of a good story. I suppose the “exclusive” has a little truthiness to it: a program in its autumn years, thousands of jobs about to disappear…surely the workers are desperate to do anything to keep the paychecks coming. Surely.
But I am not talking about the workers who make the shuttle fly (men and women who proudly call themselves “Pad Rats”) – I am referring to the local TV reporters who are facing the imminent demise of their business. Might they be tempted to engage in a little sabotage of the truth to keep their jobs? Perhaps we should ask their managers about this?
Here is what I know to be a fact: The Pad Rats – and all the other shuttle workers at the Kennedy Space Center - are the most committed, conscientious, diligent people on the planet. They take their risky business very personally – and are constantly focused on the safety of the men and women who strap themselves to the rockets they prepare for launch. It is inconceivable to me that they would do anything that would put them – or their fellow workers – in (greater) harm’s way.
And then there are a few practical things to consider:
First, the shuttle is set to retire at the end of 2010 – no matter how many flights are in the history books. Even if workers were adding delays by busting valves, crossing wires or siccing a woodpecker on the fuel tank foam, they would not be changing the date of that last paycheck one iota.
And no one does anything at or near a space shuttle alone. Ever. It takes a village to tighten a bolt on a booster. Every step is considered and approved by a safety guy. The work is watched by a quality control expert to insure it is done to spec. And the customer is present as well: a NASA civil servant is there to add his/her imprimatur and “buy the paper” documenting the work (remember, the wrench-turners who work on the shuttle are employed by the United Space Alliance and its subcontractors).
And finally, there are the people actually doing the work. They also don’t do much of anything alone. So it is quite a gaggle at the site of every piece of important work aimed at getting a shuttle ready to fly. Might there be an unhappy camper in the bunch? No doubt. These days the mood is pretty sour in the Space Cadet Nation – especially in the Province of Shuttledom. It is never fun when the party is over. But any sabotage campaign would require a fairly large conspiracy by some people who are not wired to think that way at all.
Of course reporters are wired just the opposite way.