Pickled . . . in Spaaace!

Report Uncovers Astronauts’ Heavy Alcohol Use.

Oh my.  Here’s what I read between the lines of the linked article: NASA, in the wake of the Lisa Nowak incident, has been busy hunting witches in the astronaut program.  Astronaut pilots, astronaut mission specialists, and astronaut flight surgeons are turning on each other.  It must be a horrible time to be an astronaut.

I was an Air Force pilot for 24 years.  For 20 of those years I was an Air Force fighter pilot.  Pilots are a hard-drinkin’ bunch, but fighter pilots drink the rest of ’em under the table.

In all that time, I flew twice when I shouldn’t have, not because I was drunk but because I still felt a little crappy after a hangover.  I never flew within 12 hours of drinking and never would have considered doing so.  I never knew of any other fighter pilot flying drunk.  Never.  In my time as chief of flight safety for Pacific Air Forces, when I oversaw investigations of major aircraft accidents involving fighter, helicopter, transport, and tanker pilots, alcohol was never a factor.

So at the risk of seeming naive, I don’t believe NASA astronauts fly drunk.  I think personal animosities within the astronaut program are behind the allegations.  That, and an eagerness a willingness to believe the worst of astronauts on the part of NASA administrators, who are under the gun from congress and the executive branch as a result of Lisa Nowak losing her grip.

How did this get out to the media in the first place?  And damn, aren’t those whores having a grand time with it?  Christ, listening to National Public Radio’s coverage today, you’d have thought space cops had busted an entire shuttle crew for weaving on orbital insertion or something.  Funny how they didn’t bother to mention that NASA’s investigation has unearthed hearsay but no actual evidence.

There’s bad juju at NASA, all right, but I don’t think the astronauts’ drinking habits are the cause of it.  I think internal resentments and an organizational witch hunt are the root of the problem.  And when there’s a witch hunt going on, hearsay allegations are more than sufficient to prosecute and convict.

Damn, I wish I hadn’t given up drinking.  I’d like to lift a glass to astronauts who drink!

© 2007, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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