The First Electronic Church of America

S A I N T S   &   B I R T H D A Y   P A G E

April 30, 1997

Saint Of The Day:

Michael J. Smith

Michael J. Smith was born on this day, 1945. He was the 40-year-old pilot on the space shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986. It was to have been his first space flight. It turned out to be his last. The Challenger blew up in the skies over Florida, and all aboard perished. NASA issued a report on the Challenger accident, but the late Richard P. Feynman, genius physicist from CalTech, issued his own minority report, which can be found on the Web at "http://www.astro.nwu/lentz/space/
feynman-report.html". Among Feynman's startling conclusions: "If a reasonable launch schedule is to be maintained, engineering often cannot be done fast enough to keep up with the expectations of originally conservative certification criteria designed to guarantee a very safe vehicle. In these situations, subtly, and often with apparently logical arguments, the criteria are altered so that flights may still be certified in time. They therefore fly in a relatively unsafe condition, with a chance of failure of the order of a percent (it is difficult to be more accurate). Official management, on the other hand, claims to believe the probability of failure is a thousand times less. One reason for this may be an attempt to assure the government of NASA perfection and success in order to ensure the supply of funds. The other may be that they sincerely believed it to be true, demonstrating an almost incredible lack of communication between themselves and their working engineers. In any event this has had very unfortunate consequences, the most serious of which is to encourage ordinary citizens to fly in such a dangerous machine, as if it had attained the safety of an ordinary airliner. The astronauts, like test pilots, should know their risks, and we honor them for their courage. Who can doubt that McAuliffe was equally a person of great courage, who was closer to an awareness of the true risk than NASA management would have us believe? Let us make recommendations to ensure that NASA officials deal in a world of reality in understanding technological weaknesses and imperfections well enough to be actively trying to eliminate them. They must live in reality in comparing the costs and utility of the Shuttle to other methods of entering space. And they must be realistic in making contracts, in estimating costs, and the difficulty of the projects. Only realistic flight schedules should be proposed, schedules that have a reasonable chance of being met. If in this way the government would not support them, then so be it. NASA owes it to the citizens from whom it asks support to be frank, honest, and informative, so that these citizens can make the wisest decisions for the use of their limited resources. For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled."

MODEL: Smith and all the others who perished on the Challenger certainly deserve the respect of the nation for giving their lives to an enterprise that is, presumably, in the national interest. But Feynman is the man we can best imitate. He took pains to learn the truth. Then he had the guts to tell the world.

Your Birthday Today:

April 30
Day of Weary Leadership

Protective Expert

Self-indulgent Exacting Extremist

Tough cookie. If you were born on April 30, you are a leader but often have the desire to give it all up for an easier life. You do things by the book, rarely bending the rules or showing compassion for others unless it is for the greater good. You are a tough boss, but hold yourself to the same standards. Ruled by the number 3 and the planet Jupiter, you get frustrated when your independence is tied up.

Blind faith. You are a good soldier and a hard worker but lack the ability to question the motives of your superiors and often stumble into dark moral jungles. If you have the self-possession to recognize this tendency, you will be more successful in the long run.

Comrades. As an authority figure, you require not only the respect but also the friendship of those who serve under you. You enjoy the warmth and camaraderie, and tend to be highly protective of your underlings as long as they share your views on certain issues. Those that do not must face your scorn.

Getting around your defenses. You need warmth and affection from your family and friends, but also want to be left alone and free from hassles. Those that understand this get around your grumpy, stubborn exterior and learn to manipulate you. You're a sucker for cute and clever children that subtly push your buttons.

Some advice: Listen to your colleagues and friends before making big decisions . Also listen to your inner voice. Be more tolerant when others don't see things your way. Different strokes for different folks.

Also born on this day: Robert Shaw (conductor) Corinne Calvert (actress) Peter Ahrends (British architect) Herbert Ferber (abstract painter) John Crowe Ransom (poet, critic) Alice B. Toklas (Gertrude Stein's partner) Katherine Towle (US Marine Corps Head) Frederick Chiluba (Zambian president) Don Schollander (gold medal, swimming) Isiah Thomas (Detroit Pistons guard) Percy Heath (jazz bassist) Jill Clayburgh (actress)