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Columbia Lost

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  • Columbia Lost

    I think that we all pray for the families of the seven NASA astronauts lost over North-East Texas earlier today. As I watch the coverage on CNN this afternoon I'm struck by the remarkable honesty and candor on the part of the NASA program director.
    Forty plus years and I still have ten toes, ten fingers and both eyes. I must be doing something right.

  • #2
    Amen, Brother! I plan on lighting acandle at Mass tomorrow morning!

    John B
    John B


    • #3
      My sympathy to the families of the American and Isreali astronauts. At least they died in a noble pursuit - Human kinds baby steps into space. It takes special people to take the extreme risks they do as pioneers in the final frontier - Requiem In Pace.

      "To Engineer is Human" - we are not perfect, none of us. We all make mistakes. What is important is we learn to try avoid a second such occurance.


      • #4
        I second dave's post. I wish all the families well.


        • #5
          The candor was evident. I know they all did their best. However I think all of the analysis of the foam piece that probably impacted the wing at launch was given too optimistic an analysis. Also, the first impression that the sensor readings and sensor failures were simply "sensor failures" is also a sign of complacence. The sensor reading of the tire pressure going “off the scaleâ€‌ was probably an indication that the tires exploded. In any case there was no capacity to repair any damaged shield-tiles, and no capacity to examine the underside of the craft in an EVA (I thought they had a device to fly around with?) I witnessed the destruction of the Challenger from Daytona Beach when I was studying Aeronautical Engineering. I remember what a cold day it was. The engineer that resolved that problem, the one that placed the blame on the gasket, didn’t have an easy time with the politics of the time. I hope things are different now. Many things should change. I will start the list and maybe others can add on.
          (1) Telemetry does not replace the need for an on-board recorder. All space-vehicles should have a “black boxâ€‌
          (2) The only method of examining and recording the condition of the booster after launch now, is with film cameras. The film of course is not likely to be recovered. The use of film for this purpose should be stopped and digital cameras should be used so the information can be transmitted and preserved.
          (3) A method of repairing tiles in flight must be developed. I thought they were just “gluedâ€‌ on. My brother thinks that maybe the glue doesn’t work in space. I think the glue is a catalyzed reaction like epoxy where all the reagents are contained in the mix. I don’t know why it wouldn’t work in space.
          (4) There is no method to examine the underside of the ship. I don’t understand this problem. I thought an EVA was possible. I don’t see why robotic cameras can’t be used to examine every inch of the ship after launch. It seems critical to me, for the crew to know, fully well, the condition of the ship before attempting re-entry. If an examination was done, and damage was evident, the crew could have remained in space, docked at the space station, and waited for another ride. Some method for repairs must be made. This is a perfect mission for the space station.

          Just a few thoughts and I will leave it to the experts. I know they will do their best. The Shuttle is quite outdated technologically and getting new technology on board is too difficult because of the system. This is (5) for them to fix.


          [This message has been edited by SJorgensen (edited 02-02-2003).]


          • #6
            The Columbia is (was) not equiped to "dock" with the station. (The only one of the four that was not modified) Other than that I agree. There should be some means of checking the heat tiles up there. Why couldn't they install TV cameras on the wing tips to view the bottom. Cameras are like $30 now. So what if they have to be replaced on each re-entry.
            PS. I thought the tiles were siliconed on. ???


            • #7
              Thanks for your reply CCWKen, I know this was the first Shuttle and also it was the heaviest. It was retrofitted recently though. However I heard that it was too heavy to carry the big robotic arm that assisted in EVA's. Of course there were probably other considerations and the experiments didn't require it. In the future I hope the crew has the ability to do an EVA and at the very least to determine the status of their ship. Our best and our brighted individuals, have to have this information in order to make their decisions. To leave this to the people on the ground is wrong and it is prone to political manipulation. I have no reason to doubt them, but their level of security is different from someone that is actually in the aircraft. It is a common difference between pilots and controllers. Controllers think that they control the safety of the flight. Pilots think that they control the safety of the flight. There is bound to be a difference of opinion. As a pilot, I know that no one on the ground can help me, other that to give me information. Engineers think that there is no good in giving a pilot information if it is dire information. Well, if I am going to fly into the Sun, tell me.
              I want to steer.


              • #8

                Yesterday was somber day--The breakup of the Columbia hit close to
                home--both in my heart and literally.
                We were shooting grades for a building on a bare red clay hill yesterday
                morning, when we looked up to see the space shuttle break up. The
                visual effect was as if 5 jet airplanes were flying very close and then
                flared out. There was a slight delay and then a long rumble like
                airplanes breaking the sound barrier--only longer in duration and with a
                growl. We were not sure it was the shuttle until we turned on the truck
                radio. There was a large 3 x4' piece of the debris in the county road
                near where we were working (Sandflat) and several pieces near my house
                (Troup) The piece at Sandflat looked to be SS and had two tripple rows of rivits. One piece at Troup looked as if some pattern (tiles) had been attached. Several hundred pieces were found on and near a County road
                close to my old farm at LaRue.
                We mourn for the lost crew and grieve for their families. But this is a
                loss to the US and the world. The scientific knowledge gained by these
                technological pioneers has benefited us all and will continue to do so.


                • #9
                  I couldn't turn on CNN or any other TV station to see what happened. I couldn't do it. I remember watching the video of Challenger breaking up on takeoff and what a sad event it was. I hope the families will be OK and the NASA family will over come this tragic event.

                  Thrud is right, I believe his quote is from Henry Petrosky, "To Engineer is Human". Nobody wishes these things to happen, but they can become valuable learning experinces for our Enginneers and Scientists as well as our children. Hopefully they will have a team of scientists, engineers, and others like in the aftermath of the Challenger disaster, that will figure this thing out, and make the next generation of shuttles even better.

                  I teach a section of Engineering ethics each year in my class and we analize case studies such as the Challenger, and others. I am saddened that there is yet another case to look at, but glad that we will be learning from the valuable information obtained by Nasa and the brave Astronauts that gave their lives to try to make ours a little better.

                  Thank you


                  • #10
                    There are a handful of people who pledge their lives to a higher ideal, sometimes they give up of their lives for that ideal.
                    These are the noblest of mankind.



                    • #11
                      Thank you all for your heart felt comments and prayers for the families of the crew. For once I'd like to see the group of individuals that in many ways are responsible IMHO for both the loss of Challenger and Columbia. That is the professional Politians in DC that would not approve the vehicle that NASA wanted but forced them into compromises that led to design faults that both NASA and DOD were forced to live with. The things that really stands out are the elimination of the air breathing engines for landing and the requirement that NASA go with the low bidder in the SRB design. Morton Thiokel was not only the cheapest it was also the worst.
                      Forty plus years and I still have ten toes, ten fingers and both eyes. I must be doing something right.


                      • #12
                        That was a truly tragic event yesterday.
                        We also lost 8 pilots and crewmen in 2 helicopter accidents in the last week, one in Texas and one in Afghanistan.
                        My anger is with the fact that the astonauts are forced to use shuttles that are 20 years old. Production should never have been stopped on them. The politicians bitched about the cost of new shuttles while at the same time giving away billions of dollars to other countries around the world. If we are going to continue with the space program, which we should, then the equipment should be the best available with our current technology.
                        The brave men and women astronauts deserve nothing less than the best.


                        • #13
                          Yes it was a bad day for us all yesterday.We pray for the lost and their families,and try to change the conditions that lead to trajedy.I have noticed a continuing problem in NASA, it was said yesterday that this had been the fourth launch where foam had come loose from the external tank.Just like with Challenger where they knew the o-rings were being damaged by combustion gases in previous launches,just like they knew about pure oxygen atmosphere problems during the early stages of the Appollo program.These things come up and most of the time they keep on rolling the dice till something horrible like yesterday happens.They canceled the shuttles replacement by taking the risk that the shuttle fleet they have would last another 15 years,I believe that at this point it would be asking a lot to expect the remaining three to pick up the extra work load of Columbia.I also believe that some of the problem lies with us the American public where much like the days of Appllo 13 we have gotten to used to the news networks"oh-ya the space shuttle went up today"attitude.I can remember when it was televised can you?I think when we get complacet things go to hell quick!So yes I do pray for the families of the victims but I will pray even more for the crews in the future
                          I just need one more tool,just one!


                          • #14
                            Yes, we "keep rolling the dice", but not "till something horrible like yesterday happens". We roll them because we have to take chances to develop new technologies. That's what it takes to make discoveries. That's what Columbus did. That's the Wright brothers did. That's what Chuck Yeager did. (Just to name a few). They just happened to be some of the ones that "survived" the "roll". There were many before them (and after) that didn't survive, but mankind didn't stop "rolling" because of the casualties. We adapted and persevered and eventually overcame (to an extent, and so far).

                            What we need to remember (IMHO) is that we can't let special interest groups prevent us from rolling the dice. Sure, it's fine to remind us of the dangers, just don't prevent us from taking the chances.

                            There aren't any "hard, clear answers" to space travel. If it were easy, anyone could do it. It took almost 5000 years to go from building pyramids to manned flight. We cannot expect to go from manned flight to space travel in 100 years. No doubt, a bunch of liberal types will try to work the whole event into some "legal responsibility" by someone. They are great at "forcing" legal responsibility, but fall very short on "taking" responsibility for their own actions or many of the types that they represent. Only in America can we sue organizations for our own stupidity. I (for one) don't have to be reminded that putting "hot coffee" in my lap is not a good thing to do. I am not an overly religious person (more of an agnostic, don't know what I believe in), but I (for one) don't think that it should be a crime for a school to have the word "GOD" in their motto or pledge. I think that an organization has the right to limit membership to anyone they want, just make the membership public knowledge. I don't think that any organization has the right be tax exempt. These and many others are my opinions, but I don't try to force them down people throats. Everyone has opinions. Sometimes we agree, sometimes not. The ability to reason between the good one's and the bad is what makes us human.

                            God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
                            Reinhold Niebuhr (1892 - 1971)





                            • #15
                              From a coffee break vantage point, I watched in horror as the Challenger exploded before my eyes on TV in '86. I feel like I just watched the same thing again and unfortunately, the reasons may be frighteningly similar ... bureaucracy.

                              Just finished watching NASA on Fox news about an hour ago. This poor crew could not conduct an EVA to go out and inspect the wing. If they could, they had no way to repair or replace broken or missing tiles. After years of attempts to develop repair methods, NASA concluded that repairs could not be done in space. The Columbia was not outfitted to dock with the space station ... nor with the Soyuz shuttle. What a ridiculous state of affairs !

                              Of course, my thoughts and prayers are with the families of these seven brave men and women. They died reaching for their dream and we who are still here need to make sure that our future space travelers are provided a ride which is a safe as technology affords.

                              O.T. slightly, but we're not making chips here anyway ... I'd like to see the media give similar, major attention to the brave crew members of the Blackhawks and other aircraft which have gone down recently during training and other missions. "Training mission" related deaths have received the same ho-hum, 30 second spots and attention similar to that mentioned above in regards to shuttle missions. Let's put faces and names on these brave young men and women and give them a moment of silence in the middle of all the other crap which is on tv today.