MY INTENT HERE IS NOT TO MAKE LIGHT OF ALCOHOL ABUSE.
Except I can't but laugh over the huge furor rocking NASA and the media about a report suggesting some astronauts might have been drinking right before they lifted off.
REMEMBER THESE PEOPLE AND THIS ABORTED SPACE SHUTTLE MISSION?
Those seven astronauts at the top died when the space shuttle Columbia exploded during re-entry to Earth's atmosphere in 2003. They were obliterated. Disintegrated.
The same thing happened to Challenger in 1986, but that explosion happened shortly after lift-off.
And neither disaster happened because the astronauts were all looped.
It was technical issues.
And if I understand correctly, during lift-off the space shuttle crew doesn't really have a lot to do except strap themselves in and just survive the launch itself until they get into space.
People administer drugs to their pets just before they're shuffled off to the under-belly of a plane during a domestic flight, just to try to calm them and numb their terror.
OK, so maybe astronauts are something close to human, just like the rest of us. They have fears and problems, as evidenced by Lisa Nowak (below) who got caught in that astronaut love triangle.
And so how are they different from the top politicians, entertainers, athletes and others, who we already know have done far worse things and still get our undivided attention?
Alcohol abuse is virtually a worldwide problem. In the West, it's not just legal, the sale of it is controlled -- and massive revenues derived from its sale -- by governments.
At least in Canada it is.
The same governments that spend millions on advertising campaigns warning people not to abuse alcohol benefit from its sale by populations that consume it to numb the pain of their lives that governments help create.
And the media gets billions of dollars from the liquor companies that advertise with them. Sports stadiums are named after beer brands. Alcohol is deeply ensonced in our culture.
If I was an astronaut and I was about to get on a spacecraft like Discovery or Challenger or Columbia and put my life in the hands of scientists and technology, I wouldn't mind a few toots either.
NASA astronauts tanked up on liquid courage before flights: report
We shouldn't make too much of this news, that astronauts flew into space while marginally blotto, because the report that it comes from queried members across all 40 years of NASA flight teams.
Nevertheless, as Reuters summarizes, it's kind of kooky:
NASA astronauts at least twice were permitted to fly in spacecraft despite signs they were drunk, according to a report released Friday by the U.S. space agency. NASA said it intends to investigate the allegations.
“Interviews with both flight surgeons and astronauts identified some episodes of heavy use of alcohol by astronauts in the immediate preflight period, which has led to flight safety concerns,” said the report from a panel assessing astronaut health matters.
“Alcohol is freely used in crew quarters. Two specific instances were described where astronauts had been so intoxicated prior to flight that flight surgeons and/or fellow astronauts raised concerns to local on-scene leadership regarding flight safety.
"However, the individuals were still permitted to fly. The medical certification of astronauts for flight duty is not structured to detect such episodes, nor is any medical surveillance program by itself likely to detect them or change the pattern of alcohol use"
NASA Administrator Michael Griffin ordered the report as well as another also released Friday after February’s arrest of then-astronaut Lisa Nowak. She is scheduled to be tried on Sept. 24 on charges of attempted kidnapping, battery and burglary.
Well, an alleged thousand-mile trip in a diaper to confront a 'love rival' seems pretty tame compared to flying $20-billion of U.S. tax dollars while over the legal limit. I wonder what it looks like to vomit in space?