Analysis is under way to consider the possibility of losing multiple
tiles near the door; a failure of the seal between the door and the body
of the orbiter; or perhaps the loss of a crucial piece of heat
protection at the leading edge of the wing, where the temperature is
highest on re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.
Engineer Robert Daugherty outlined several scenarios in his e-mail to
David Lechner, who worked with the shuttle's mechanical systems. They
were based on possible outcomes of tile damage the orbiter may have
suffered only 80 seconds after it lifted off from Kennedy Space Center
"I am admittedly erring way on the side of absolute worst-case scenarios
and I don't really believe things are as bad as I'm getting ready to
make them out," Daugherty wrote in his January 30 e-mail. "But I
certainly believe that to not be ready for a gut-wrenching decision
after seeing instrumentation in the wheel well not be there after entry
Like I said. Any other time, space flight for NASA has
become like commercial air travel. A routine thing.
And American's generally ignore shuttle flights anymore.
Space flight is not interesting to them.
And you get enough people thinking in one direction that
the shuttle is mundane and space flight is ordinary such
as with commercial air travel and they all begin to treat it
So everybody is polarized this way. And we forget it's extremely
What's unforgivable here is when a castrophic failure occurs,
we hear the space flight is an extremely dangerous line out of NASA.
Well, it is. And there are some people who are going thru the motions
of concern. They know something went wrong and they've been talking
about it. We see (1) E-mail here from one concerned human being.
And you can bet there are probably a hundred or more still floating
around in NASA which were generated on Columbia's 2-3 day in space.
We had an entire Saturday of people on T.V. and an entire week of
NASA individuals on T.V. before management clamped down and stopped it.
And I told you all then about what the NASA guy on CSPAN said on that
Saturday afternoon. And this is validation for all of that.
Yes. They knew about it. So that debates over. They've just
come out with it.
So now I'm left with the cold feeling of the comments of Jim Richardson,
a person I will not attack or defend but feel Jim Richardson is a
typical American. And Jim is not alone. There were at least a
dozen more of you who said the same thing Jim did right here on
C.O.L.A. And as I drove around town the 2 weeks after the incident,
I ran into 30+ more people who said the same thing Jim said.
What they all said was that space flight is a dangerous thing
and our astronauts knew the dangers of mission before they took
it. That this shouldn't stop space flight. That space is important
Perhaps space is important to us. But I still say that human life
is more important. And I have a belief that you can have life and
exploration together. That exploration need not be that dangerous
anymore. That we are a democracy. That we have deemed shuttle
flights as mundane as commercial air travel and therefore we should
abide by the will of the people in that reguard to make space
travel as safe as possible for our astronauts.
Now what we need to know is, was the commander of the shuttle
informed of this - then - possible danger to his ship?
That's point #1.
It's an important point because we need to know.
And further we need to know why they didn't have alternatives
for the crew, should such a conversation have taken place.
"There was nothing they could do, what did you want them to do"
is a comment I heard from a dozen people here on C.O.L.A. and
it disgusted me. When you all made those comments, you seemingly
addressed this issue as if it was okay to have them kill themselves
on re-entry. There are always alternatives.
How many times do you see stories about the coal miners?
How many times do you just see a bunch of people standing around
saying, "What do you want us to do about it" Their not saying
that, their diggin. Their diggen to get those miners free'd.
This brings us to Point #2 which needs to be addressed to the
Point #2. What was your backup plan for these people.
From the news reports released lately, there didn't seem to be
one. You were polishing the people into understanding why you
didn't do anything for the crew of Columbia. Why nothing could
be done. You must have a backup plan in the future.
You know we have a coast guard for sailers in distress. We just
don't let them drown then say "Well, what did you want us to do about
it" We have highway patrol for our citizens and ambulences.
They have to have a backup plan from here or Russia which would
allow a shuttle crew to escape and return to earth safely should
this kind of incident happen again.
I have mentioned a cheap thing they could do to start with.
Build a photo taking Xray robot which they leave at ISS and
have it look over every shuttle before departure. If something
is wrong, have the crew wait for the next shuttle and have the
damange shuttle either repaired or sent back to earth on auto-pilot.
They shuttles have been landing themselves since day #1. The pilot's
just along for the ride.
Point #3. Congress has been having hearings on those tiles and the glue
for those tiles and just generally revolving around a bunch of sillyness
which is leading them now-where in resolving this issue.
They need to committe to replacing our fleet with 2 more shuttles and
get them all equipped with bailout pods for the crews to ride in during
liftoff and landing.
They could just go ahead and finish their committement to the people
for a national aerospace plane. We abandonded the orient express and
I think they should start that program back up again and get some
competitive bidding going. Start building smaller vehicles to go
into space which don't use 70's era tiles.
Being a believer in life after death, Columbia if you can hear
me, I've held your hand and I think the nation hears your cry's
for justice and that day is coming. I'd also like to appologize
for the opinions of all the people I've met in treating your
deaths as if it were just another mundane thing as we are only
human and we don't really understand what life is all about until
we've lost it.
Even before 9-11 happened, we had this.
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