I am not sure when space started calling to me, but I do remember watching Xenon, Girl of the 21st century at 12 and thinking, I can make that happen. Fast forward 21 years and I still have that fascination with exploration, just now I am looking more at innerspace. I remember Andy Torbett’s 2019 Go Dive talk; to non-divers, we are all incredible aquanauts, we bring the underwater world to those that cannot see it themselves. That sits with me to this day reminding me why I teach.
Last night, the first private rocket was to take astronauts to the International Space Station. The first time US astronauts would be leaving from US soil since the last shuttle launched in 2011, something I was fortunate enough to watch. But this launch was called due to weather.
The thing is, when you are launching rockets with that acceleration and want to hit a certain position or target, you have a small launch window to make it work. It is partly why the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope has been moved so many times, not just in date, but in launch site. Each launch has an optimal window, and weather does not always cooperate. Yesterday’s launch was an instantaneous launch, meaning they had to leave on time or they would not hit the space station.
If you watched the live stream last night, the weatherman said that they should be clear 12 minutes after T-0:00, but they chose to scrub the mission. It was less because of the cloud cover, but there was also a concern that an abort down range would mean recovery teams would need to go out and collect the capsule and astronauts, all while a tropical storm is brewing off the coast.
Why does this matter? Think about our own risk assessments in diving. In the UK, we have our own instantaneous launch, ropes off is ropes off because of tide considerations. In the last four years, I have had more boat trips in the UK be called off for weather than I think I have actually attended, but I respect the decision of the boat crew.
The truth is, we should be risk assessing every dive, should have our own countdown sequence and systems check. We build kit and test it, we look broadly at the weather and decide to leave the dock. As we are kitting up, doing buddy checks, and even taking that step off of the boat, we should be constantly evaluating our readiness. I have two memorable aborted dives in the same four years. In one case I chose to abort as me and my buddy were on the swim line, I still am not sure what it was, but I just was not happy and decided that dive was not for me that day. We were in Egypt, on a liveaboard that I paid a substantial amount of money for, but it was not worth it if my head was not in the game.
The other, Tracey and I were in Scapa Flow for the centenary, TWO YEARS of waiting and countless money spent on the trip and the preparations.
Due to a series of events, there were two dives where one of us just was not happy, and about twenty minutes into the dive decided it was not worth it to be there anymore.
My challenge to many of you, forget the price tag of a dive. NASA lost about $1.2 million for every scrubbed shuttle mission, there is no data yet on what the cost to scrub last night’s mission was. But there were two human lives immediately affected by the launch, and in a downrange abort, numerous rescuers would be at risk.
If you are not up to a dive for whatever reason, call it. Remember ANY diver for ANY reason can call ANY dive. There is always another day.
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