The audacious rescue plan that might have saved space shuttle Columbia
By Lee Hutchinson | ARS Technica
If we die, we want people to accept it. We are in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us, it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life.
—Astronaut Gus Grissom, 1965
It is important to note at the outset that Columbia broke up during a phase of flight that, given the current design of the Orbiter, offered no possibility of crew survival.
—Columbia Accident Investigation Board Report
At 10:39 Eastern Standard Time on January 16, 2003, space shuttle Columbia lifted off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A mere 81.7 seconds later, a chunk of insulating foam tore free from the orange external tank and smashed into the leading edge of the orbiter’s left wing at a relative velocity of at least 400 miles per hour (640 kph), but Columbia continued to climb toward orbit.
The foam strike was not observed live. Only after the shuttle was orbiting Earth did NASA’s launch imagery review reveal that the wing had been hit. Foam strikes during launch were not uncommon events, and shuttle program managers elected not to take on-orbit images of Columbia to visually assess any potential damage. Instead, NASA’s Debris Assessment Team mathematically modeled the foam strike but could not reach any definitive conclusions about the state of the shuttle’s wing. The mission continued.
In reality, the impact shattered at least one of the crucial reinforced carbon-carbon heat shield panels that lined the edge of the wing, leaving a large hole in the brittle ceramic material. Sixteen days later, as Columbia re-entered the atmosphere, superheated plasma entered the orbiter’s structure through the hole in the wing and the shuttle began to disintegrate.
At Mission Control in Houston, the flight controllers monitoring Columbia’s descent began to notice erratic telemetry readings coming from the shuttle, and then all voice and data contact with the orbiter was lost. Controllers continued to hope that they were merely looking at instrumentation failures, even as evidence mounted that a catastrophic event had taken place. Finally, at 9:12 Eastern Time, re-entry Flight Director LeRoy Cain gave the terrible order that had only been uttered once before, 17 years earlier when Challenger broke apart at launch: "Lock the doors."
It was an acknowledgement that the worst had happened; the mission was now in "contingency" mode. Mission Control was sealed off, and each flight controller began carefully preserving his or her console’s data.
Columbia was gone, and all seven of its crew had been killed. NASA refers to this most rare and catastrophic of events as an LOCV—"Loss of Crew and Vehicle."
Columbia is lost. There are no survivors.
—President George W. Bush in a national address, 14:04 EST, February 1, 2003
The world of human space flight paused—first to mourn, then to discover what had happened. Congress laid that responsibility on the combined shoulders of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (referred to, in typical NASA acronym-dependent style, as "the CAIB" or just "CAIB," which rhymes with "Gabe"). In the months after Columbia, the CAIB stretched its investigative fingers all through NASA and its supporting contractors.
My own memories of the time immediately following the accident are dominated by images of somber meetings and frantic work. I was a junior system administrator at Boeing in Houston, and because we supported the shuttle program, we had to locate and send cases and cases of backup tapes—containing everything that happened on every server in our data center during the mission—over to NASA for analysis.
In August 2003, the CAIB issued its final report. Behind the direct cause of the foam strike, the report leveled damning critiques at NASA’s pre- and post-launch decision-making, painting a picture of an agency dominated by milestone-obsessed middle management. That focus on narrow, group-specific work and reporting, without a complementary focus on cross-department integration and communication, contributed at least as much to the loss of the shuttle as did the foam impact. Those accusations held a faint echo of familiarity—many of them had been raised 17 years earlier by the Rogers Commission investigating Challenger’s destruction.
Read the full article at: arstechnica.com
Carl Sagan warned of space shuttle Columbia disaster? The truth is in The Vault
NASA sells shuttle PCs without wiping secret data
U.S. astronaut John Glenn: Keep space shuttles flying
NASA Investigates Remote Possibility of Shuttle Sabotage
NASA’s moon landing remembered today as a promise of a ‘future which never happened’
U-2: The NASA Coverup
NASA Hid Aldrin’s Moon Communion
Latest News from our Front Page
Vikings Were Pioneers of Craft and International Trade
The connections between technology, urban trading, and international economics which have come to define modern living are nothing new. Back in the first millennium AD, the Vikings were expert at exploring these very issues.
While the Vikings are "gone" their legacy is remembered, such as at the annual Jorvik Viking Festival in York. The Norsemen's military prowess and exploration are more ...
Just Based on DNA, Scientists Can Construct an Image of Your Face
Putting pencil to paper has been the tried-and-true method to illustrate the faces of wanted criminals, but new technology is changing this traditional approach. DNA, rather than an artist’s skill, is an emerging tool to recreate the face behind a crime.
The new forensic technique is called DNA phenotyping. It relies on DNA, found for instance in a drop of blood, ...
FCC Votes In Favor Of Obama's Net Neutrality - Has The Slippery Slope To Web Censorship Begun?
"An open Internet is essential to the American economy, and increasingly to our very way of life," according to President Obama and it appears his perspective on the heavy hand of government regulation inserting itself into the last bastion of freedom and dynamism in the US economy, is how best to achieve "openness." Having pressured FCC's Tom Wheeler, the vote ...
The Endgame: White Genocide
Made by youtube.com/ThisisEuropa
“There is no place in modern Europe for ethnically pure states. That’s a 19th century idea and we are trying to transition into the 21st century, and we are going to do it with multi-ethnic states.”
– Wesley Clark, U.S. general, ex-NATO Supreme Commander, talking about the NATO bombing of Serbia, 1999.
What is White Genocide?
▪ Moving millions of ...
Former German Lawyer Sylvia Stolz has been jailed again
Sylvia Stolz, the former defence attorney for Ernst Zundel has been convicted today in a Munich court, once again under the tyrannical BRD laws concerning so-called “holocaust denial” and thereby “inciting racial hatred”. She was sentenced to 20 months in prison with no possibility of parole.
The case stems from her presentation at the AZK in Switzerland in 2012 where ...
|More News » |