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Spaceflight is inherently hazardous, and Phase 1 had its share of dangerous situations. In his Oral History, U.S. Mir astronaut David Wolf discusses the issue of safety.
Wolf says that before he launched to Mir, "I had studied the systems for quite a long time. I had discussed all the failures with the people that experienced them and [who] knew most about them. I had a good plan of action should such similar problems occur again . . . And I was extremely comfortable with the mission, as a result of the training and the closeness to the issues, and I think it took a while for the rest of our public an d government to learn enough about it to also become comfortable.
"There's always some inherent risk, so it put our leadership -- and I do mean leaders -- Mr. [George W. S.] Abbey [JSC Center Director], Dan [Daniel S.] Goldin [NASA Administrator], and Frank Culbertson [Phase 1 Program Manager] particularly -- in a tough spot, because here they had to say [that] something which is inherently never fully safe [is] safe enough... I applaud their leadership in this. I also applaud the good questions that people like [U.S. Representative] Mr. [F. James] Sensenbrenner [Jr.] . . . brought forward, because if we couldn't accurately . . . address those questions . . . then we really didn't have any business flying . . ."
Wolf continues. "So technically, I felt it was safe enough, particularly with the great benefit [when, later,] history showed we did gain by the next two increments [his own and Andy Thomas'] -- eight more months of flying, [and] some of our scientifically most productive missions on Mir . . . History showed that it was the right decision. . . .
"Personally," Wolf says, "I was sure I was going the whole time, and I never had one moment of second thought whatsoever. ... In fact, I became more convinced that we should continue, the more familiar I became with the details of the issues."
Profile: David Wolf
David Wolf Oral History (PDF)
Risk and Safety
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