Ask AP: Shuttle complexity, credit union agency

AP News
Posted: Nov 20, 2009 2:46 PM

A space shuttle is no tinker toy. But is it the most complex machine ever built?

Curiosity about the complexity of the reusable spacecraft inspired one of the questions in this edition of "Ask AP," a weekly Q&A column where AP journalists respond to readers' questions about the news. And that particular question led NASA to rethink the way it describes the shuttle program.

If you have your own news-related question that you'd like to see answered by an AP reporter or editor, send it to, with "Ask AP" in the subject line. And please include your full name and hometown so they can be published with your question.

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We've read that the FDIC, which insures depositors' bank accounts, is currently out of money and operating in the red. What is the status of the finances of the National Credit Union Administration, which insures credit unions?

Fred Clark

Albuquerque, N.M.


The National Credit Union Administration, like the FDIC, has an insurance fund financed by fees paid by the institutions. A new fee was assessed this year, and the fund stands at around $8 billion. As is the case with banks, regular deposit accounts in the 7,800 or so federally insured credit unions are covered up to $250,000.

Credit unions are cooperatives that are owned by their members. Twenty-three credit unions have failed so far this year, compared with 18 in 2008, and failures are expected to increase again next year. In March, the NCUA seized control of two large corporate credit unions in Kansas and California that provide wholesale financing for "regular" credit unions _ a move the agency said was needed to stabilize the credit union system.

The NCUA last December made more than $40 billion available to support several corporate credit unions with new borrowing from the Treasury Department and provided another $2 billion to help struggling homeowners. The NCUA says most credit unions are vibrant despite the deep recession and its financial condition is strong.

Some experts, though, are more skeptical. A taxpayer bailout of the agency probably won't be needed, says Bert Ely, a banking industry consultant based in Alexandria, Va., but "I wouldn't want to swear to it."

Marcy Gordon

AP Business Writer



NASA claims, on its Web site and its iPhone app, that the space shuttle is the most complex machine ever built. Is that really true, even though it was designed over 30 years ago? What about newer machines like the Large Hadron Collider _ the world's largest atom smasher?

Jokton Strealy

Los Angeles


Thanks to your query, NASA is backing off its claim that the space shuttle is the most complex machine ever built.

NASA spokesman Mike Curie said a more accurate statement is that the space shuttle is one of the most complex machines ever built, right up there with the International Space Station and the Saturn V rocket that carried men to the moon in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Curie assured AP that the NASA web site will be updated, at some point, to reflect this change in wording.

"It would be hard to compare it (the shuttle) to a collider," Curie said from the Kennedy Space Center.

As for other space marvels, Curie said, "Certainly, the station is one of the most amazing engineering achievements ever _ to assemble something as long as a football field with the capacity to generate its own power, recycle water and to be an environment for people to live and work 365 days a year, it's an amazing accomplishment."

But he noted: "It doesn't generate 7 million pounds of thrust."

Trying to ascertain which is the most complex _ the shuttle, station or Saturn V _ would entail "a really good discussion with experts for about an hour," Curie said.

Marcia Dunn

AP Aerospace Writer

Cape Canaveral, Fla.


I have a question about the priest sex abuse lawsuits against the Bridgeport Diocese. A Connecticut court was supposed to decide Nov. 9 how to release trial records related to the case to the press. What happened?

V. Reil

Queens, N.Y.


On Nov. 10, Waterbury Superior Court Judge Barry Stevens ordered the release of thousands of documents connected to sexual abuse lawsuits involving Bridgeport's Roman Catholic Diocese. Stevens ruled that the diocese should release the sealed documents by Dec. 1.

The files consist of more than 12,000 pages from 23 lawsuits against six priests settled by the diocese in 2001. The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month refused to hear the diocese's appeal of a Connecticut Supreme Court decision ordering release of the documents.

The records, which include depositions, affidavits and motions, have been under seal since the diocese settled the cases in 2001. They could shed light on how recently retired New York Cardinal Edward Egan handled the allegations when he was Bridgeport bishop.

John Christoffersen

Associated Press Writer

New Haven, Conn.


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