Risk In Human Spaceflight

I didn’t make it to the conference in time to hear him, but I was told a couple weeks ago that Bill Gerstenmeier would be talking about many of the themes of my book. He apparently did. I would note though, that “loss of crew” isn’t just probability of killing crew; it also includes causing a career-ending injury.

[Update a few minutes later]

Related: With new types of launch systems, we’re discovering new causes of launch failure, even after almost sixty years of orbital spaceflight.

2 thoughts on “Risk In Human Spaceflight”

  1. Had an interesting one on facebook recently on this subject.. I was ripped on by BOTH the left and right … cold, callous, unfeeling, uncaring, only interested in money, joy rides for the rich .. man you name it .. they were all over me because I said we should expect more deaths if we want to open a new frontier.

  2. I would note though, that “loss of crew” isn’t just probability of killing crew; it also includes causing a career-ending injury.

    The article touches on this a little bit.

    One metric that long has been used by NASA is known simply as “loss of crew”: the odds a vehicle will suffer an accident that results in the deaths of those on board. But, Gerstenmaier argued in his speech, it may be too simple.

    “Risk cannot be boiled down to a simple statistic,” he said. “Some people also talk about these things as if they were simple. But, designing human space transportation systems, and the risk associated with operating them, is not simple.”

    It is important to differentiate between risks and to frame the discussion around accepting different risks with this in mind. Too much focus on people accepting people dieing in relation to launch failures rather than accepting the more subtle risks of quality of life degradation through the cumulative effects of being off Earth for long periods of time or the unknowns we won’t discover until we do something.

    No one would accept the loss of life from a launch failure because these are usually chronic problems that must be fixed. That is the most critical phase of getting people into space and it’s an activity bottleneck. Accepting the risks of driving a moon buggy or developing mining suits would probably be viewed a little differently by most people. Accepting the health risks is a little more subtle because there is so much we don’t know and wont be able to create counters until we experience the problems.

    In other words, the discussion should be framed in accepting a wide range of risks that are not necessarily life ending.

    An entrepreneurial mindset should be used with small calculated risks to experiment with the outcomes and to learn through doing.

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