I’m Going To Fix The Space Shuttle Myself

That is the most arrogant statement you’ll ever hear me make, especially when you consider that I am no longer on the space shuttle program and I haven’t been for the last ten years.

The foam issue on the Columbia mission has always been on my mind. Despite the doubts of some of the NASA Crimes Against Humanity officials I spoke to, I still believe that a sprayable polymer shrink wrap would keep the foam intact and prevent debris from causing another tragic disaster.

I wrote a one-page proposal outlining my idea and sent the document to several senior NASA managers. One of them said, “Well, I was on both the Challenger and the Columbia investigating committees. I’m sure we thought about this, but I don’t remember the details or what happened to that plan.”

Having worked on the program, I suspected that an idea like this might have got lost in the lower levels of the review process and got killed before it could be thoroughly evaluated.

Not one to give up easily, I sent my proposal to another top NASA official. She suggested that I turn in a proposal for SBIR Funding – Small Business Innovation Research. SBIR funding is designed to encourage collaboration between the public and private sectors and stimulate technological innovation opportunities for small business owners. So I submitted my proposal and had a couple months to wait before they awarded contracts. So during this time I wanted to find a cheap way to start testing my idea. I wanted to “Try It” and get ahead of the game.

In order to test the feasibility of my shrink-wrap plan, I needed samples of the foam used on the Columbia shuttle. I called a friend of mine at Kennedy Space Center and asked for the specification for the foam. He gave me the NASA spec number, which wasn’t very much help. I needed to know who actually manufactured the foam; NASA wasn’t just going to send some to me if I didn’t have a contract. My friend went back did some more research, and then he called and said the foam was manufactured by Pratt &Whitney.

I knew that was unlikely, since Pratt & Whitney doesn’t make chemicals like that, at least that I know of. After several days of research, I discovered that Dow Chemical made the foam. I visited their Web site, started doing some research, and discovered that the foam used on the space shuttle Challenger is the same stuff sold in a can at Ace Hardware by the name of Great Stuff. I called Dow and spoke to an engineer who confirmed this. Great Stuff is a sealant for doors, windows, and cracks, and can be bought for less than $10 a can.

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