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Comments From Former NASA Astronaut Mike Mullane About Being Misquoted

Press Release From: Mike Mullane
Posted: Sunday, January 29, 2006

To the space community:

I have recently learned that a London newspaper, The Guardian, ran an article which attributed this quote to me, "The space shuttle is a deathtrap."  I suspect the article was a result of the recent media interviews surrounding the release of my new book, "Riding Rockets, The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut".  Please know that I have never interviewed with anybody from that paper and have never said those words.

When I have been asked about the Challenger, the shuttle design, etc., my replies have mimicked the current NASA Administrator's Congressional testimony.  Administrator Michael Griffin has said something along the line, "The shuttle is a flawed design.  It has no crew escape system." (As someone who is editorializing about being misquoted, I should emphasize what I have in quotes above is an approximate quote by Administrator Michael Griffin.

I don't have his exact words in front of me.)  Griffin then went on to say words to the effect that, because human perfection is unattainable, if we continue to fly the shuttle for the indefinite future we might have another tragedy and lose another crew.  This was a preamble to his decision to fly the shuttle the minimum number of times to build out the international space station and then retire it in 2010.

I support Michael Griffin's plan and I have said it in multiple interviews. In fact, I say it in the Epilogue of my book.  But somehow the "Guardian" newspaper reporter took these comments to fashion my "quote" that the shuttle is a "deathtrap", no doubt because a headline of "Astronaut Agrees with NASA" doesn't sell newspapers like "Astronaut Says Shuttle A Deathtrap".  In a Fox & Friends interview on 1/25/06, I was asked about this deathtrap statement and refuted it with the same explanation as I've given above.

I also sent a letter to the Guardian editor explaining I never made a "deathtrap" statement (fat chance that letter got published).  I also sent an email to the current astronaut corps and NASA Public Affairs saying the Guardian headline was bogus.  Finally, I have posted a rebuttal on a Space.com blog.

I have said in my interviews I would fly the shuttle today, if given the chance.  It is a marvelous machine, with incredible capability and redundancy, supported by a dedicated NASA team and I'm honored to have been given the opportunity to fly it three times."

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