Aerospace panel issues space station safety report

Friday - 2/3/2012, 10:54am EST

Retired Vice Adm. Joseph Dyer, chairman of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel

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Program management problems might be putting space station residents at risk. Independent experts on NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel say it's possible the agency will have to abandon the International Space Station early. It's one finding in the panel's latest safety report.

"The International Space Station is well managed and we think it's safe," said Retired Vice Adm. Joseph Dyer, chairman of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel. "But there are some aspects that perhaps aren't fully appreciated."

One such aspect, according to Dyer, is a "loss of mission" situation, in which the crew would have to abandon the space station.

"The odds of that happening are about one in 30 over the full life of the station, between now and 2020," he told The Federal Drive with Tom Temin on Friday. The primary risk would be collision with space junk or micro-meteorites.

"All of us, NASA, the panel and I think the Congress are struggling with the question of 'How safe is safe enough?' Great risk goes hand-in-hand with great reward, so it's always been with explorers," Dyer said. "But we don't yet have a modern answer to that question. Or, at least, we don't have one that sticks."

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