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Moon landing: How NASA employee revealed odds of ‘total destruction’ given to astronauts | Science | News

It has been more than 50 years since NASA successfully completed their Apollo 11 mission, putting the first two men – Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin – on the Moon. Despite the success of the operation, there were moments when Mission Control Houston worried for the safety of the crew. In the history of the space agency, there have been several fatal accidents, including Apollo 1, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and the Space Shuttle Columbia catastrophe.

Former astronaut Mike Massimino was asked by Neil deGrasse Tyson on his StarTalk podcast in July whether the space agency makes its employees aware of these risks.

Dr Tyson asked: “Did they level with you on what your level of risk for not coming back was?

“Because they made a point of this in the First Man film, that these risks are real.”

Mr Massimino revealed a shocking statistic.

He said: “Yes, I think they tried to be as accurate as they could about it.

“I remember it because I flew on Columbia, the mission right before we lost Columbia, and then I flew again after on Atlantis, both shuttle flights.

“There wasn’t as much talk beforehand, I guess it wasn’t as much on our minds as it was after the accident, and we lived through that.

“But the number I remember being told was about one out of 75 chance.”

Mr Massimino explained what the odds meant.

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He added: “And they weren’t saying ‘we want you to know this number,’ it was more like ‘this is our new calculated probabilities’.

“It was one out of 75 and that meant total destruction, that’s loss of crew and vehicle.

“Everyone’s dead and the vehicle can’t be used again.

“There are other odds that may have been calculated, I hate to put it this way, but when we lost Columbia, we didn’t just lose our seven friends.”

However, Mr Massimino went on to detail why the loss of crew and technology was the ultimate disaster for NASA.

He finalised: “We also lost a spaceship. 

“What happens to the programme? There’s a loss of crew and vehicle. It really isn’t crass, I don’t think, because you can lose the vehicle but save the crew.

“So if you have an abort with the shuttle and it ends up in the water, hopefully, the crew gets out alive.

“But this was a combination of loss of crew and vehicle and it turned out we had two accidents out of 135 flights.”

In 2009, Mr Massimino made his own claim to space fame after becoming the first man to tweet from the cosmos.

He revealed during the same episode how he took inspiration from Armstrong.

He continued: “So, for my tweet, I did the same approach, I said ‘I’m not going to worry about this first tweet, we have to launch into space, we have to get there alive and successfully’.

“This was a mistake. So I get there and it’s alright, we’re alive, the computers are up and running on day one, so I need to come up with something.

“So what I tweeted was: ‘Launch was awesome, the adventure of a lifetime has begun, I’m feeling great and enjoying the view.’”

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