Two snips of news from NASA today. First there's a problem with a sabotaged computer and then there's also a report that claims some astronauts were drunk before flying:
Aviation Week & Space Technology reported on its Web site that a special panel studying astronaut health found that on two occasions, astronauts were allowed to fly after flight surgeons and other astronauts warned they were so drunk they posed a safety risk.
The independent panel also found "heavy use of alcohol" before launch, the magazine reported, although that drinking was within the standard 12-hour "bottle-to-throttle" rule.
A NASA official confirmed the report contains such details, but said they were from anonymous interviews and not substantiated. The official asked that his name not be used because NASA will discuss the health report on Friday.
The Aviation Week story did not say how long ago the alleged incidents took place, nor did it say whether it involved pilots or other crew members.
At a news conference to discuss the upcoming space shuttle launch set for Aug. 7, NASA's space operations chief was asked repeatedly about the drunken astronaut report.
The manager, Bill Gerstenmaier, would only say that he had never seen an intoxicated astronaut before flight or been involved in any disciplinary action related to that.
But Gerstenmaier had more news. He revealed that an employee for a NASA subcontractor had cut the wires in a computer that was about to be loaded into the shuttle Endeavour for launch.
The subcontractor, which he wouldn't name, contacted NASA 1 1/2 weeks ago, as soon as it learned that another computer had been damaged deliberately, Gerstenmaier said. Had the contractor not discovered the problem, NASA would have uncovered it by testing the computer before launch, Gerstenmaier said. Safety was not an issue, he added.
He refused to speculate on the worker's motive. He also wouldn't say where the sabotage occurred. He said it did not happen in Florida and had nothing to do with an ongoing strike at the Kennedy Space Center by a machinists' union.
NASA hopes to fix the computer in time for launch next month. It's intended to be installed inside the space station to collect data from strain gauges on a major outside beam.