NASA UPDATE….Four years ago, a pair of Air Force safety officials tried to hold up a shuttle launch because of a malfunction in the backup link that’s responsible for destroying rockets in case of mishap. However, despite the downcheck from the safety team, the launch was allowed to proceed after a phone conversation between Donald Pettit, commander of the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing, and Roy Bridges, director of the Kennedy Space Center. Because they kept this conversation offline and private, nobody on the shuttle launch team at KSC knew that the Air Force safety officers had responded “no go” during the final pre-liftoff poll.

NASA’s Office of the Inspector General concluded that the conversation and subsequent overrule of the safety officers was unprecedented, and a draft report concluded that “Entire Florida Central Coast [was] placed at UNKNOWN but INCREASED risk.” So what happened next?

Despite those findings, NASA Inspector General Robert “Moose” Cobb derailed the inquiry and declared the issue an Air Force matter last year, according to investigators familiar with the case. Sources in Cobb’s office said they were forbidden from interviewing Bridges and Pettit or requesting crucial information from the Air Force.

“It was obvious to me that he didn’t want to make the agency [NASA] look bad,” said a former investigator in the office, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “He wouldn’t do his job.”

Cobb, a White House political appointee, is under investigation by an administration integrity committee after being accused of repeatedly quashing cases and retaliating against those who resisted.

Sounds like this fellow Cobb fits the Bush administration’s mold for NASA political appointees perfectly. I wonder how long it will be before they give him a medal?

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