Thursday, October 18, 2018

Great FEMA Trailer In The Sky

by GreatMinds (writer), Huntsville, Alabama, June 15, 2007

A prefabricated structure exposing its unwary occupants to hidden, potentially lethal dangers, concluded various studies on the internal air of so-called "FEMA trailers" offered by the Federal government to house the displaced residents of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In the face of tests which found the level of formaldehyde exposure in the FEMA trailers to exceed by 50 times the levels deemed safe by the Environmental Protection Agency, FEMA spokesman Aaron Walker recommended in July, 2006, "We encourage families living in the trailers, if they're worried, to take steps to air out their trailers." The Sierra Club's Mississippi representative was not moved by FEMA's remedy for what it she called "toxic tin cans." Now, the "toxic tin can" has gone extraterrestrial.

This week, the Space Shuttle Atlantis parked its nose into its custom-fitted garage aboard the International Space Station. Think of it as parking a 1985 Volvo in front of a FEMA trailer. Since Atlantis arrived, the Russian computers on board the ISS have crashed and that great FEMA trailer in the sky is dreadfully close to losing its orbit. The Russian crew is working frantically to correct the problem, but as of this writing, the outlook is unpromising. Gyroscopes on the American side of the structure are helping maintain the ISS orbit, but cannot do so for very long. The shuttle's thrusters may be needed to aid in that effort. The problem may have been caused by new solar arrays that the Atlantis crew installed earlier this week. In any event, the Russian computers also control the oxygen supply and, if they are not repaired quickly, the shuttle may have to give the ISS crew a lift home. If that happens, the ISS will be stranded as so much other floating debris and FEMA trailers. For now, the approach is a high-altitude/low-tech version of airing out the trailer: power is being turned off and back on in hopes that a "poor connection" in the new power supply may be the cause of the failure.

Popular southern comedian James Gregory has a well-worn joke that "they've come out with a two-story trailer for people with money." The ISS has been a noble and successful, if perilous, project; its value as a laboratory has been undeniable. The scale of its size and support, however, beg the question of its ultimate worth. Certainly, it is as far removed from sustainable, permanent relocation of life beyond our planet as a FEMA trailer is from being a suitable permanent dwelling. As the rotation of available shuttles yields to attrition (Atlantis, the oldest working craft in the fleet is scheduled for decommission in 2008; the entire fleet of three shuttles is set for permanent park in 2010), it is worth considering whether we should spend billions of dollars on a more ambitious or "two-story" version of the the same thing.

About the Writer

GreatMinds is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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