Government adviser compares Moonshot to Challenger shuttle disaster

A Government adviser has compared Boris Johnson’s plan to test 10million people a day for coronavirus and get the results back in 20 minutes to the Challenger shuttle disaster, and Apollo 13.

Speaking on Friday the Prime Minister said his plan for getting people ‘back to normality’; was to roll out rapid testing which would allow people to go about their day to day business if they got a negative result.

Mr Johnson called the plan – which would allow workplaces, theatres and other venues to reopen almost fully – as a moonshot.

Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, who has been overseeing the Government’s antibody test programme and advising ministers told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Mr Johnson’s aim to test millions of people per day in rapid testing would come in stages.

A report in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) said the UK has drawn up plans to eventually carry out up to 10 million Covid-19 tests a day by early next year.

Sir John said: “Let’s back off the 10 million a day,” adding: “It’ll be two or three million I think, in the first instance.”

Asked whether he had advised the Prime Minister not to use the word “moonshot”, Sir John said: “Well, I I do remember the space shuttle Challenger.

“So there are several ways to do moonshot. Apollo 13 (sic) was great, Challenger was not so great.”

The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster was a fatal incident in the United States space program that occurred on January 28, 1986, when the shuttle OV-099 broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, killing all seven crew members aboard.

The disaster resulted in a 32-month hiatus in the shuttle program and a finding that NASA’s organizational culture and decision-making processes had been key contributing factors to the accident, with the agency violating its own safety rules.

Apollo 13 was the seventh crewed mission in the Apollo space program and the third meant to land on the Moon but the lunar landing was aborted after an oxygen tank in the service module failed two days into the mission.

The crew experienced great hardship caused by limited power, a chilly and wet cabin and a shortage of potable water.

An investigative review board found fault with preflight testing.

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