The NASA Murders: Space Shuttle Columbia

NASA Mission STS-107 Crew:

Rick D. Husband, Commander
William C. McCool, Pilot
Michael P. Anderson, Payload Commander
Kalpana Chawla, Mission Specialist
David M. Brown, Mission Specialist
Laurel B. Clark, Mission Specialist
Ilan Ramon, (ISA) Payload Specialist

On January 16, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia streaked into the skies above Florida. On its way up, a piece of insulating foam broke loose from the craft and struck the front of the shuttle's wing as it climbed into orbit.

On February 1, 2003, as the shuttle began its descent back into the atmosphere, the damage done by that piece of foam proved fatal. As the shuttle crossed over eastern Texas, the heat from the damaged wing caused the orbiter to disintegrate, killing all 7 crew members on board. This marked the most tragic day in NASA history yet. And it could have been completely avoided.

By now you're probably wondering why I titled this post "The NASA Murders". It's simple. As far as I and several others are concerned, the crew aboard that shuttle was sacrificed in hopes of bringing their expensive glider home. The damage done by the piece of foam was widely known by the time the decision was made to land the ship. The crew knew it. NASA knew it. Hell, the media knew it. Top scientists had days to think things over. Theories went back and forth, and then someone, somewhere, decided that they were going to bring the shuttle down despite the risks involved.

You see. We have this thing up in orbit. It cost us a whole bunch of money. The International Space Station. With all of the discussions going on, all of the risk assessment being looked at, all of the probabilities calculated, NASA ignored the one glaringly obvious option it had sitting right in front of it. Instead of landing, dock with the ISS and perform a more thorough inspection of the wing. If they had done so it would have become painfully obvious to them at the time that the damage was severe. But they knew this. The footage told them as much. They chose to ignore it and bring them down anyway.

Later examination of that very footage proved beyond doubt that the foam strike on the wing broke off several of the heat shielding tiles and left a fairly big hole that exposed the superstructure of the wing. As the shuttle descended, hot gases from the atmosphere infiltrated this area causing it to melt and eventually tear away from the side of the craft.

Had they instead docked with the ISS, the crew could have waited for an emergency rescue mission using one of the other shuttles in the fleet. There would have been enough supplies on board between the shuttle and the ISS to sustain them long enough for this to happen, and then NASA could have figured out how to go about repairing the Columbia in orbit and then bringing it home safely. Nobody needed to die that day. Not for the sake of a flying brick.

Perhaps the most telling sign that NASA knew they could have saved them was the fact that there was never any mention of the ISS as a bailout plan. The media mysteriously didn't ask them about it. We can't very well ask the crew what they thought either. If an ISS rescue was impossible, you'd think they'd go out of there way to say so just to head off possible rumors. Actions of a guilty mind.

So the next time someone at NASA mentions what a tragedy this was, be sure and remind them who pulled the trigger that killed these 7 people.
"It is pointless to resist, my son." -- Darth Vader
"Resistance is futile." -- The Borg
"Mother's coming for me in the dragon ships. I don't like these itchy clothes, but I have to wear them or it frightens the fish." -- Thurindil

Well. I guess that's that then.

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Posted on Feb 1, 2007 11:04 pm by Samson in: , | 3 comment(s) [Closed]
I really haven't kept up with the space program nearly as much as I used to.. was the ISS operational at the time?

Are you not feeling that NASA is equally responsible for the deaths of their previous astronauts who died in duty-related accidents as well? Could they not have tested further and prevented the previous shuttle that went boom during it's ascent (Challenger, wasn't it?), for example?

The first modules of the ISS were put in orbit in 1998. By the time Columbia exploded in 2003, the station was more than capable of receiving a crew of that size for a short period of time. They would also have been able to use the shuttle itself as a temporary module while it was docked there.

Even if they had consumed all of their fuel getting to the ISS, NASA could have delivered enough to them to make a safe re-entry on another shuttle flight. If the Columbia was not salvageable, then it could have been left permanently attached to the station.

As far as responsibility for the other 10 astronauts who died, I'm willing to give them some slack. On Apollo 1, they were still pretty green and didn't fully appreciate what it meant to operate in 100% oxygen. With Challenger, they probably didn't know how the O-rings would perform under extreme cold. But with Columbia, the decision was obvious and their reckless disregard cost 7 more people their lives.

I'll cut them the slack you offer for Apollo 1, but they could've easily tested those damn O-rings better. They certainly had no trouble detemining the cause of the accident afterward nor in explaining, even graphically, for the media how the O-ring failed.:(

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