February 2003

28 February 2003: Recovered Video Fragment Shows Crew During Reentry, Washington Post (RealVideo)

28 February 2003: Full 13-minute video (RealVideo) NASA KSC

28 February 2003: NASA Releases Columbia Crew Cabin Video, NASA HQ

"Flight-deck video, taken by members of the Space Shuttle Columbia crew on Feb. 1, will be released at 1 p.m. EST today on NASA Television. The videotape was recovered February 6 near Palestine, Texas, during search and recovery efforts after the tragedy."

27 February 2003: Space Station Crew to Downsize in Spring, Washington Post

27 February 2003: NASA feared wing burning, Chicago Sun Times

27 February 2003: Top official defends NASA's handling of internal debate on Columbia's safety, CP

27 February 2003: NASA chief defends engineers' debate on danger, AP

27 February 2003: Next space station mission approved, MSNBC

27 February 2003: Email exchange on Jan. 28-31, 2003 on assessment of potential breach in landing gear door or wheel well during the orbiter's reentry into Earth's atmosphere

27 February 2003: Email exchange within Langley Research Center regarding main gear breach concerns on Jan. 31.

27 February 2003: Email exchange between Langley Research Center and Johnson Space Center regarding the assessment of foam debris contact with Columbia during launch

27 February 2003: Orbiter Tile Impact Testing, Final Report, SwRI Project 5 Mar 1999 18-7503-005

27 February 2003: Debris Transport Assessment of Debris Impacting Orbiter Lower Surface in STS-107 Mission; STS-107 MMT 24 Jan 2003

27 February 2003: Orbiter Assessment of STS-107 ET Bipod Insulation Ramp Impact January 23, 2003

27 February 2003: Preliminary Debris Transport Assessment of Debris Impacting Orbiter Lower Surface in STS-107 Mission January 21, 2003

27 February 2003: Excerpt: STS-107 Studies Underway at MSFC (Internal memo)

27 February 2003: Shuttle Panel Close to Naming Crash Cause, Washington Post

27 February 2003: Tile Damage Was Feared - E-Mails Show NASA Safety Experts' Photo Request Rejected, Washington Post

26 February 2003: NASA Emails Show Hot Debate Over Shuttle, AFP

26 February 2003: NASA engineers warned of major problems a day before Columbia tragedy, CBC

26 February 2003: Engineers Raised Concerns on Shuttle Wing, AP

26 February 2003: Jonathan's Space Report No. 494 2003 Feb 23

26 February 2003: Email Exchange between NASA engineers regarding Columbia, NASA

26 February 2003: Jonathan's Space Report No. 494 2003 Feb 23

"Last week I praised JSC's Ron Dittemore. Now I have to chide a different part of NASA. In a fit of apparent bureaucratic insanity, GSFC's OIG (Orbital Information Group) web site that makes orbital data available to the public has removed the orbital data for STS-107, stating:

"The OIG has secured access to all STS-107 data for the duration of the investigation and review period. The OIG Web site will reinstate access to the data following official release of support by JSC. 02/03/2003"

What possible reason can there be for this? The data had *already* been made public; it doesn't interfere with the investigators' access to the data to keep it available for everyone else. It seems totally at variance with the openness of the rest of the investigation, and just begs for conspiracy theorists and UFO nuts to start thinking NASA has something to hide. I completely understand wanting not to release preliminary engineering analysis from the investigation, but this is data that was made available in a standard way while the mission was still up, and was circulated as it came out on several internet lists. Anyway, I already archived the data I have at http://hea-www.harvard.edu/~jcm/space/elements/27600/S27647 if anyone wants it."

Editor's note: I concur 100% with Jonathan. Just as NASA seems to be off on a path of full disclosure, they pull this odd stunt.

25 February 2003: Analysis hints at shuttle s last seconds, MSNBC

23 February 2003: NASA: E-Mail Shuttle Warning Typical, AP

"NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe said Sunday an independent panel will decide the significance of e-mails by a NASA research engineer warning two days before Columbia broke apart that damage to the shuttle's insulating tiles might have left it in "marginal" condition. "

23 February 2003: Columbia Marked by Delay, Faults, Washington Post

"While nobody is yet sure what caused Columbia's catastrophic ending this month, between 1996 and 1999 the orbiter had at least five "escapes" -- a NASA term for a mission that flew with a problem that only "luck or providence" prevented from causing serious damage. On another launch, a worker made what NASA calls a "diving catch," meaning his diligence caught a flaw routine checks had missed."

23 February 2003: Shuttle tile found farther west, Chicago Sun Times

"NASA officials confirmed late Friday that a piece of Columbia's tile was found near Lubbock, the farthest west debris from the space shuttle has been discovered."

21 February 2003: NASA Documents Cite Wing 'Burn-Through' Risk, Aviation Week & Space Technology Reports

"NASA documents as far back as 1988 show that wing roughness, similar to that associated with the shuttle Columbia's left wing, could result in catastrophic burn-through when combined with wing impact damage like that being investigated in the reentry accident, Aviation Week & Space Technology reports in its February 24 issue."

21 February 2003: Obituary: David A. Rossi Jr. / Aerospace executive and Pitt benefactor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"David A. Rossi Jr. was an unusual man who gave his alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh, an unusual gift: a place aboard the space shuttle to perform experiments."

21 February 2003: NASA Had Planned Changes on Shuttle Foam, NY Times

21 February 2003: Disagreement Emerges Over Foam on Shuttle Tank, NY Times

"Contrary to what NASA officials have said, the foam insulation on the space shuttle's external fuel tank is not waterproof and so can absorb moisture, especially if the dense outer layer of the foam is cut or removed, foam experts say."

21 February 2003: NASA knew of insulation threat before Columbia, Houston Chronicle

"NASA recognized last year that insulation flying off the space shuttle's external fuel tank could pose a hazard, but improvements developed by engineers were not made before Columbia went on its doomed mission."

20 February 2003: Columbia's final readings deciphered, MSNBC

"The final seconds of flight data from the space shuttle Columbia, transmitted even after contact was lost with Mission Control, indicate that the crew members were likely aware they were in serious trouble, NBC News reported Thursday."

20 February 2003: NASA chief rallies his troops in field, CNN

"[O'Keefe] recalled the breakup of the craft, and the fact that none of the pieces that rained down on East Texas and Louisiana hurt anyone. "No one was touched. Nothing short of divine intervention made that possible," O'Keefe said. And he applauded armies of volunteers and workers from 20 federal agencies for their efforts in finding the scattered debris. "So many people in West Louisiana and Texas committed themselves to having nothing to do other than care about what we asked them to do," he said."

20 February 2003: NASA Langley Using Wind Tunnel To Study Columbia's Fate, WAVY

20 February 2003: NASA Searches Nev. for Columbia Debris, AP

20 February 2003: Navy Goes High Tech in Debris Search, AP

20 February 2003: Columbia Inquiry Focusing on Tank Foam, AP

20 February 2003: Object seen falling near shuttle in orbit, Houston Chronicle

18 February 2003: Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) Charter, NASA HQ

18 February 2003: Shuttle Probe Will Ask About NASA's Budget, Reuters

"The independent probe of the shuttle Columbia disaster will ask pointed questions about NASA's budget and whether the space agency let too many safety workers go, the head of the inquiry said on Tuesday."

18 February 2003: Shuttle accident investigation board breaks up into three teams to determine what destroyed Columbia, AP

"The board investigating the Columbia disaster will hold a public hearing next week to listen to non-NASA experts who have theories about why the shuttle disintegrated over Texas, the panel's chairman said Tuesday."

19 February 2003: Crews Find Shuttle's Front Landing Gear, AP

19 February 2003: Parts flew off shuttle while over California, Orlando Sentinel

"Investigators are becoming more convinced that shuttle Columbia started losing pieces over California, though officials said Tuesday that it's unlikely they will find the telltale debris."

19 February 2003: NASA Assessment of Science Data Gained During Columbia's MIssion

"NASA scientists are continuing to assess the status of the data received by the experiments onboard Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-107) during its final mission. Columbia carried more than 80 experiments, science, commercial and student, on a 16-day mission devoted to research, entrepreneurship and education."

18 February 2003: Down to Earth, Op Ed, The New Yorker

"... there is only one federal program that, at its best, reaches for the grandeur and the wonder that in ages past built great cathedrals and launched wooden ships into unknown waters where dragons lurked."

18 February 2003: Who should explore space, man or machine?, CNN

"Robots have dug in the dirt on Mars, flown in the atmosphere of Jupiter, driven by the moons of Neptune and plopped down on an asteroid. A few are even flirting with the boundary of the solar system. Humans, on the other hand, have been relegated mostly to going in circles, barely above the surface of the planet."

2 February 2003: The Space Shuttle Must Be Stopped, Op Ed, Gregg Easterbrook, Time

"Any new space system that reduced costs would be, to the contractors, killing the goose that lays the golden egg. Just a few weeks ago, NASA canceled a program called the Space Launch Initiative, whose goal was to design a much cheaper and more reliable replacement for the shuttle."

18 February 2003: Not So Fast ...
Correcting some misrepresentations
, Jon Berndt

"I am told that Gregg Easterbrook is a talented sports writer. He also has written about space, and is an outspoken critic of the shuttle program. Some of his observations are on target. It is proper to debate the concerns now being raised and to examine the lessons learned in the space shuttle program as we determine where to go from here. Unfortunately, Mr. Easterbrook's diatribes about the space shuttle have been peppered with inaccuracies and false statements, and they attempt to convey a sense of balance that is ultimately found to be superficial.

18 February 2003: Columbia lost, but not a nation, OpEd, S. Alan Stern

"When Americans are asked how they picture the future, the reply very often includes a vision of routine spaceflight and distant exploration. This is not surprising. We are a nation bred from generations of explorers from every walk in life, who immigrated to and settled a raw continent, then built a society brimming with success and innovation on the fruits of those explorations. It is also no surprise that flight of all kinds became a metaphor in the 20th century for the American spirit of exploration. Flight, like continental exploration, closely parallels American notions of freedom, economic expansion, and spiritual inspiration."

18 February 2003: Panel Says Shuttle Began to Break Up Over California, NY Times

18 February 2003: NASA Is Held Down by Its Own Bureaucracy, NY Times (Reg Req'd)

"The implications are painful, say experts who point to an erosion of NASA's technical skills. For instance, the Institute for Scientific Information, a Philadelphia company that tracks scientific publications and trends, recently did a study that showed NASA's world share of research papers had been declining for a decade. In recent years, the raw number of papers produced by the agency's scientists has also dropped. "If you're producing fewer papers, and your world share is going down, you might want to pause and ask yourself why," said David A. Pendlebury, a senior analyst at the institute."

18 February 2003: Some at Shuttle Fuel Tank Plant See Quality Control Problems, NY Times

"Mark Hernandez said it took him just a couple of weeks to learn to cut corners in his new job at the NASA plant here. His task was to apply insulating foam to the 15-story external fuel tanks built by Lockheed Martin that help power NASA's space shuttles. An older worker soon showed him how to mix the foam's base chemicals in a cup and brush the mixture over scratches or gouges in the insulation without reporting the repair, Mr. Hernandez said."

17 February 2003: After Liftoff, Uncertainty and Guesswork, NY Times

"While still standing by their initial conclusions that the debris posed no threat to the shuttle, Mr. Cain and other senior NASA managers have been humbled enough to acknowledge that some of NASA's best and brightest might have gotten it wrong."

17 February 2003: Exclusive: Did rough wing break Columbia?, UPI

"At least twice before, as Columbia returned to Earth from missions, its left wing experienced a critical aerodynamic shift too early -- prematurely increasing heating and drag on that wing, former shuttle commander Navy Capt. Robert (Hoot) Gibson, now retired, told UPI. NASA knew about the early aerodynamic shifts at the time and was told by Gibson about a particular roughness he had discovered on the surface of Columbia's left wing. Experts confirmed to UPI that the roughness might have caused the premature aerodynamic shift."

17 February 2003: Exclusive: Did rough wing break Columbia?, UPI

"At least twice before, as Columbia returned to Earth from missions, its left wing experienced a critical aerodynamic shift too early -- prematurely increasing heating and drag on that wing, former shuttle commander Navy Capt. Robert (Hoot) Gibson, now retired, told UPI. NASA knew about the early aerodynamic shifts at the time and was told by Gibson about a particular roughness he had discovered on the surface of Columbia's left wing. Experts confirmed to UPI that the roughness might have caused the premature aerodynamic shift."

17 February 2003: Guess Who's Watching

Editor's note: Just after the Columbia accident, sources in and around Capitol Hill who are familiar with intelligence gathering systems said privately that analysis of Space Shuttle flights was being done at some point in the past by various intelligence entities. This was not being done at the request of NASA - nor was this done in response to any specific threat. Rather, this was being done more as a "target of opportunity" to exercise various systems against a known and easy to observe target i.e. a Space Shuttle orbiter. NASA often did not even know this was going on - nor did NASA make specific requests that "national technical means" (satellites) be used to observe a Shuttle. It is important to note the observations under discussion do not include previously acknowledged imagery taken of Shuttles using ground-based telescopes. At this time it is not certain if there is indeed any satellite data taken during the STS-107 mission.

16 February 2003: NASA fighting to get top-secret shuttle info, KSTP

"For the first time, investigators are searching for debris west of Texas. This week, NASA said problems on board Columbia began long before it disintegrated over Texas. And tonight, there is a fight brewing between about the investigators and the military over top secret--and potentially crucial information about the shuttle's final minutes."

16 February 2003: Finding on Breach Rules Out Computer or Navigation Glitch, Washington Post

16 February 2003: Data Shed New Light On Shuttle Maneuvers, Washington Post

16 February 2003: NASA wastes opportunities for good publicity, The Times - Picayune

15 February 2003: Falling to Earth, Newsweek

15 February 2003: Data Trail Details Burn-Through, Washington Post

15 February 2003: Shuttle Probe to Gain 3 New Members, Washington Post

15 February 2003: Satellite Views of Shuttle Unsought, Washington Post

15 February 2003: NASA Official Says He Held on to Hope in Shuttle's Final Moments, NY Times

15 February 2003: NASA tried to eliminate office that focused on space junk dangers, Knight Ridder

15 February 2003: Shuttle probe may reveal pattern of miscalculations, Miami Herald

15 February 2003: Shuttle's Flight Director Wept, Prayed at the End, Reuters

13 February 2003: Columbia Accident Investigation Board Visits Marshall

13 February 2003: Statement by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board

13 February 2003: STS-107 Accident Investigation Ground Track and Events Summary

"STS-107 Accident Investigation Ground Track and Events Summary Based on the Rev 12.1 Master Time Line (Baselined, 02/12/03, 09:00 a.m.) February 12, 2003"

14 February 2003: Space Shuttle:
After Columbia, a New NASA?
, Science

14 February 2003: Space Shuttle:
Disaster Sets Off Science Scramble
, Science

14 February 2003: Space Shuttle:
Columbia Disaster Underscores the Risky Nature of Risk Analysis
, Science

14 February 2003: Wreckage tells its tale to trained 'tin kickers', USA Today

14 February 2003: Debris at KSC attracts panel, Orlando Sentinel

14 February 2003: Legislator Seeks Inquiry Panel Not Influenced by NASA, NY Times

12 February 2003: NASA Engineer Warned of 'Catastrophic' Risk, Washington Post

12 February 2003: Email between NASA LaRC and NASA JSC regarding STS-107 Shuttle tire issue (PDF)

12 February 2003: Agency Contingency Action Plan (CAP) for Space Flight Operations (SFO) [Full Text]

"This document supersedes the Agency Contingency Action Plan for Space Flight Operations Dated November 2002"

12 February 2003: Gordon Insists Shuttle Investigation Board Be Independent

"U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon today (Wednesday, February 12) again called upon the NASA administrator to make the space agency's investigation into the Columbia shuttle's disaster more independent and credible."

Editor's note: this press release was both emailed and faxed to me from Rep. Gordon's office a number of hours after the hearing comcluded (6:52 pm EST to be precise). At the end of today's hearing (approx. 1:30 PM EST) Sean O'Keefe clearly agreed to amend the charter according to the wishes expressed by Rep. Gordon and others. Curiously, Bart Gordon did not see fit to make mention of that fact in his post-press conference release. The impression anyone who did not hear this hearing would get from this release is that Gordon asked again and O'Keefe said 'no'. You got what you asked for Bart. Given all of the press releases you have issued on this specific topic, it would be nice for you acknowledge NASA's action (mentioned below). Then everyone can move on.

12 February 2003: Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) Org Chart

12 February 2003: Joint Congressional Hearing Results in Second Charter Amendment for Gehman Board, NASA HQ

"Based on the recommendations from congressional leaders at today's joint hearing into the Space Shuttle Columbia accident, NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe today issued a second amendment to the charter of the Space Shuttle Accident Investigation Board. The independent panel is led by Admiral Hal Gehman and is known as the Gehman Board."

12 February 2003: Rep. Dave Weldon: Lawmakers Should Act After CAIB Work Is Completed

"I have the utmost faith in the ability of Admiral Gehman and his panel to be successful in their investigative work and be independent."

13 February 2003: Excerpts From Joint Congressional Hearing on Loss of Shuttle Columbia, NY Times

13 February 2003: More Excerpts From the Joint Congressional Hearing on Loss of Shuttle Columbia, NY Times

12 February 2003: Statement of NASA Administrator O'Keefe at Hearings on the Columbia Accident

"We welcome the committee's interest in working with NASA to help determine how we can learn from this tragic accident so that we may continue advancing the Nation's research and exploration objectives in space while at the same time striving to ensure we make manned spaceflight as safe as humanly possible."

12 February 2003: Opening Statement at Joint Hearing on Space Shuttle Columbia by House Science Committee Boehlert

"Despite the best of intentions, NASA has, at times, already put out misleading information because it didn't check the facts. For example, information indicating that environmental rules could have contributed to the accident has so far turned out to be entirely spurious. But it's taken NASA a long time to clarify its statements. Today is a chance to put facts into the record - facts that will help chart NASA's future."

12 February 2003: McCain Comments on Today's hearings

Editor's note: Sen. John McCain was interviewed on CNN this morning about a variety of topics - including today's hearings on the Columbia accident.

When asked if budget cuts at NASA had anything to do with the Columbia accident McCain said that this is a "legitimate question - one of the first things to be asked of Sean O'Keefe. We have a two phase inquiry. The first is what caused the tragedy. The second is a long overdue policy debate: What is role of shuttle"? Will there be a follow on?, Will we be doing exploration?, What is the use of the ISS? What are the budgetary considerations? These policy decisions need to be made as soon as possible.

With regard to the independence of the CAIB, McCain said "I think they have some outstanding people, and they have made the right moves. Sean O'Keefe has great credibility, as do the members. I don't think that they should make the mistake of the previous panel (Challenger) and withhold information. There was an email sent over heating. They are not revealing that. If they do not come forth and share information then there will be a lot of skepticism."

12 February 2003: Congress set to launch a NASA overhaul, Christian Science Monitor

"Such scrutiny "is long overdue," says Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona, who cochairs the joint Congressional panel that will convene Wednesday's hearings with NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe. "The tragedy demands finding out what happened ... and a thorough reexamination of policy.""

12 February 2003: Sensor said wheel was down, Orlando Sentinel

"A sensor indicated shuttle Columbia's left landing gear was down and locked 26 seconds before radio contact with the orbiter was lost, according to internal NASA documents obtained by the Orlando Sentinel."

12 February 2003: 'Hi-tech' shuttle pic really low-tech, AP

"The shadowy, closely analyzed photo of space shuttle Columbia's underside was not snapped with cutting-edge military equipment, but by three researchers playing around with an old computer and a home telescope in their free time, officials said Wednesday."

13 February 2003: NASA: Tiles seemed normal, Chicago Sun-Times

13 February 2003: NASA told lift-off damage could be 'catastrophic', SF Chronicle

13 February 2003: NASA chief backs board, Houston Chronicle

13 February 2003: 'Hatchet man' may now be NASA's savior, Orlando Sentinel

12 February 2003: Tapes show NASA actions when Columbia was lost, USA Today

10 February 2003: Panel member linked to O'Keefe, Orlando Sentinel

11 February 2003: Democrats Seek Independence in Shuttle Probe, Washington Post

"House and Senate appropriations negotiators agreed yesterday to boost spending for NASA operations this year to $15.4 billion, or $414 million more than President Bush requested, and $513 million over last year's total. The lawmakers also agreed to provide NASA with $50 million to investigate the shuttle accident."

11 February 2003: Space Station Crew Ready to Soldier On Despite Clarified Risks, Washington Post

12 February 2003: First pieces of shuttle Columbia arrive in Florida, Reuters

12 February 2003: Tire risk studied; NASA defends shuttle, CNN

12 February 2003: Lawmakers question independence of shuttle probe, Government Executive

12 February 2003: New NASA focus unlikely given pull of space station, shuttle programs, Government Executive

12 February 2003: Shuttle searchers find more human remains, CBC News

12 February 2003: NASA to Probe Shuttle Disaster at Hangar, Washington Post

12 February 2003: Aggressive Shuttle Probe Is Planned, Washington Post

11 February 2003: Democrats Seek Independence in Shuttle Probe, Washington Post

"Right now, I'm concerned that the credibility of this so-called investigation can be challenged," Rep. Bart Gordon (Tenn.), the senior Democrat on the House space and aeronautics subcommittee, said in an interview. "And I think that will be a problem if we have to start all over again later because there isn't confidence this is an independent investigation."

Editor's note: Gee Bart, with regard to "this so-called investigation" as you put it, NASA has managed to accumulate a rather impressive amount of data and debris considering the time frame involved. They hit the ground running within hours and had their investigative panel in place within a day. It may not be perfect to everyone's liking, but it is rather astonishing none the less. Your concern on this issue is noted, but your persistence is beginning to smack of obstructionist, partisan politics - something no one needs to be engaging in right now. Lighten up.

11 February 2003: NASA likely to weather political scrutiny, CNN

"I think there's strong support, strong bipartisan support, to continue, aggressively, manned space flight," said Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Space, Science and Technology. "Now we need to look at how we're going to do that and how we make safety the premiere issue."

11 February 2003: Audio tapes recount Columbia drama, MSNBC

11 February 2003: Men on space station try to move away from tragedy, AP

11 February 2003: Volunteer: left wing piece lost for days, CNN

11 February 2003: NASA says wing fragment came from Columbia's left side, AP

11 February 2003: NASA finds unmanned operation of ISS extremely undesirable, Interfax

11 February 2003: Space Station Crew Willing to Spend a Year in Orbit, Washington Post

11 February 2003: NASA Questioned Columbia Landing Ability, AP

11 February 2003: NASA: Nothing Hinted at Columbia Risk, AP

11 February 2003: NASA's candor drying up quickly, AP

"And O'Keefe, in a morale-boosting speech, told engineers and other employees at the Johnson Space Center on Friday that they "shouldn't have to deal" with calls from journalists. "If you get that sort of stuff, we can help you turn that off," the administrator told the space center executives. He said the agency would tell persistent journalist "if you can't act civil, we'll try to find a way to help you be civil."

11 February 2003: Hearing Charter: Joint Hearing on the Space Shuttle Columbia Accident

"There is some concern that the Gehman Board is not sufficiently independent from NASA and that the President should create a commission similar to the Rogers Commission. Others believe that these are not fundamental problems as long as the membership is expanded with outside experts."

11 February 2003: Columbia Accident Congressional Hearing Carried on NASA Television

"A joint congressional hearing into the Space Shuttle Columbia accident will be carried live on NASA Television tomorrow, Feb. 12, beginning at 9:30 a.m. EST. The hearing is in the Russell Caucus Room (SR-325), Russell Senate Office Building, Washington."

11 February 2003: NASA chief due for questioning at joint hearing, SF Chronicle

"Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., plans to ask O'Keefe about repeated government reports over the past few years, from the General Accounting Office and NASA's own inspector general, that warned of safety problems with the shuttle and broad management problems with the agency. She may also ask why five members of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel were dropped after they raised safety concerns."


10 February 2003: Texas officer accused of looting, Marshall News Messenger via CollectSpace

"Harrison County Pct. 3 Constable Robert Hagan was arrested by federal officals Monday, accused of stealing debris from the Columbia shuttle disaster, and of lying to officials about the theft, according to U.S. Attorney Matthew Orwig."

10 February 2003: Douglas Brown Releases Statement About Emails

"Dave sent several personal emails during the mission, but at no time did he write about any concerns with damage to the left wing of the orbiter or any other safety issues. As they reached orbit, Dave took his planned photos of the external tank separation, which is standard procedure. These are the photos I discussed with Senator Allen."

10 February 2003: Columbia probe to accelerate, Gehman pledges, Pilot Online

"The speed of the investigation is going to triple," promised Gehman, 60, of Virginia Beach. He said the 10-member board he heads will split into three panels, each focused on a key area in the search for answers. He promised an unrestricted probe, seeking the cause -- every cause -- of the Columbia disaster. "Our investigation will be a mile wide,'' Gehman said, "but now, it's only an inch deep."

10 February 2003: An Open Letter to Congress Regarding the Columbia Accident, OpEd, Keith Cowing, NASA Watch

"If the net result of Wednesday's joint hearing is political bickering, partisan grandstanding, finger pointing, and delaying tactics we will all have done the greatest collective misdeed to Columbia's crew we could possibly imagine."

10 February 2003: NASA Finds Shuttle Computer Among Debris, AP

10 February 2003: New crew for space station still in limbo, Houston Chronicle

10 February 2003: NASA Identifies a Portion of Shuttle's Left Wing, Washington Post

10 February 2003: NASA won't influence us, Columbia panel members say, Orlando Sentinel

10 February 2003: NASA should focus more on vision, less on budget, critics say, Orlando Sentinel

9 February 2003: Larry King Weekend: Interview With Bill Clinton, transcript, CNN

"CLINTON: And on the day that he went up, former Prime Minister Barak called and thanked me and reminded me that he and I had done this deal to allow this remarkable human being to go into space. And I fought for the space program when I was president. Dan Golden, who was the director of NASA a did a great job of economizing. He cut some expenses when we had to cut the budget deficit. But we increased manned spaceflight funding by $150 million. I believe in it. I think we learn a lot about it. What I'm doing tonight to talk about global warming at the Rolling Stones concert -- a lot of what we know about the Earth's environment we know because of space exploration and what we know about the planet from outer space. We need to know what black holes in outer space are like."

Editor's note: $150 Million. Wow. What he neglects to mention is that he cut NASA's budget 7 out of 8 years.

9 February 2003: Cultural Divide Plagues NASA, Washington Post

"Feynman suggested that the managers' role in selling space exploration to Congress, the White House and the public might have clouded their own perceptions about how risky the technology was. "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled," he wrote in a report to President Ronald Reagan."

9 February 2003: Seachers Find Charred Shuttle Hatch Door, AP

"Searchers trudging through the East Texas woods Sunday found a charred hatch door with a hydraulic opening mechanism believed to have been part of the space shuttle Columbia."

9 February 2003: Investigators Weighing Chance Ice Formed on Shuttle Vents; Radar Spotted Object Near Columbia, AP

"Adm. Hal Gehman, head of a board investigating the Columbia accident, said Sunday that the object detected near the shuttle could have come from the spacecraft itself and could be ice."

9 February 2003: At NASA, a Retreat From Initial Openness, NY Times

"It seems to me quite clearly on the day of horror they came out as forthright as they possibly could," Mr. Cronkite said in a telephone interview. But his view changed a few days later.I've been a little less confident since they started weaseling on the possible cause, going back and forth on this matter of the damaged tile," he said. "My first newsman's hunch was that they decided they'd been so candid that they were beginning to look culpable and started climbing back on their story."

Editor's note: With all due respect Walter, you are somewhat out of the loop. Ron Dittemore initially cautioned reporters that in being so open, some of the material put forth might seem contradictory at times. That is what has happened. I would not describe what is going on as "weasling" - a word which implies deliberate deceit. They just don't have all the answers. The alternative would have been to say nothing whatsoever until the cause was known for certain. That would be unacceptable. I vote for saying what you know - when you know it - and enduring some confusion in the process.

9 February 2003: Shuttle Testing Suggested Wings Were Vulnerable, NY Times

"Studies conducted by NASA over the last four years concluded that damage to the brittle, heat-shedding material on the leading edge of the space shuttle Columbia's wings posed one of the highest risks of a catastrophic accident."

9 February 2003: Corrosion suggested in shuttle crash, MSNBC

"In a two-page memo sent to the NASA space engineering office in Houston, obtained exclusively by MSNBC.com, veteran space shuttle engineer Ray Erikson offers "one possible explanation": "corrosion of the leading edge spars" on the left wing had already so weakened that structure that the small additional damage from the debris was then enough to cause the later failure."

10 February 2003: NASA's future: cutbacks or trips to Mars?, Christian Science Monitor

"But with a change in administrations, a new head at NASA, and last week's tragedy, "there's some latitude now for NASA to be a little bolder, to garner financial support for a focused program" that includes a broader human presence in space, says Ray Williamson, a professor at the George Washington University's Space Policy Institute."

6 February 2003: Imagination creating destiny, OpEd, Washington Times

"The seven astronauts who died on Saturday marked their place on the continuum of "high and noble purpose." The manned flights will go on because they drive us toward new frontiers, enabling little boys and girls to dream of testing their mettle on flights to the stars."

9 February 2003: Columbia probe hopes no replay, Huntsville Times

"Candor may also help the agency. The Washington Times ran a prominent headline Thursday: "NASA's openness in stark contrast to 1986 explosion." A photo with the story showed an earnest Ron Dittemore, shuttle program manager, holding a piece of the tank foam. Steven Aftergood, a NASA critic, was quoted as saying NASA officials "are going out of their way to be forthcoming and transparent."

9 February 2003: NASA's Next Step, OpEd, Bruce Murray, San Jose Mercury News

"Accidental death is not unknown in science. In 1973, microbiologist Wolf Vishniac fell to his death investigating hardy microbes in Mars-like environments in remote Antarctica while preparing for his role with the Viking robotic search for life on Mars. And the close-up study of dangerous volcanoes on Earth, for example, has led to scientific casualties. Scientists and societies have viewed such individual tragedies as an acceptable cost of important scientific exploration. Did the 80 or so experiments on Columbia -- which ranged from growing miniature plants to studying the effect of weightlessness on heart rate -- justify putting those seven astronauts at risk? Certainly in their minds it must have. But at least some in the broad scientific community probably would debate whether those experiments offered adequate potential breakthroughs in unique new knowledge to risk lives."

> 9 February 2003: It is rocket science, SF Chronicle

"A generation ago we beat stratospheric odds, shooting daring men to the moon. Today, our attitude toward space is: "Been there, done that, got the T- shirt." From miraculous to mundane in fewer than 40 years."

9 February 2003: NASA facing a test crisis of trust, Houston Chronicle

"NASA had a problem after Challenger," [Donald Kutyna, a retired Air Force major general who also served on the Rogers Commission] said. "This time NASA does not have a problem. They are doing it so much better. It took us two weeks to get a timeline out of NASA on the Challenger; this time it was done in one day."

4 February 2003: Shuttle Dilemma, NRO ONline

"It is absurd to speculate in advance of the facts, as some political grandstanders have done, that management structure and/or budget decisions made in the current administration, or its predecessor, may have contributed to Columbia's loss. We don't know what caused the loss. When we know, if we ever know, we may or may not know whether some set of procedures, or some proposed upgrade, might have prevented the loss. If we ever know that, we may (or may not) be able to point to a political decision regarding management or funding that could be said to have contributed to such a failure. At this point, to try to fix blame on either Bush or Clinton is a form of political ambulance chasing."

7 February 2003: We are called to open up the heavens, op Ed, Houston Chronicle

"There should be no months-long orgy of self-doubt and recrimination. For one thing, the need to sustain our presence on board the international space station will not permit a grounding of the shuttle fleet for longer than a few months without horrific disruption to that program. The inevitable voices will use this tragedy as an excuse to end human space flight. They should not be heeded. Find the problem, fix it and then push on."

8 February 2003: Despite a Decades-Long Quest, a Safe Shuttle Remains Elusive, NY Times [editor's note: Worth a careful read]

"But with the election of Bill Clinton, NASA faced an era of ever tighter budgets. Greg Simon, who advised Vice President Al Gore (news - web sites) on science issues, including the space program, said the Clinton administration cared far more about cutting the deficit and financing favored domestic initiatives than paying for space exploration. "It was all we could do to keep the NASA budget at a flat rate," Mr. Simon said of the internal battles at the Clinton White House. "We were trying to get rid of $300 billion-a-year deficits. None of the Clinton people really cared about the shuttle program."

7 February 2003: Bonuses for A Safe Return, Fees for Loss Of Mission, Washington Post

"But the move toward privatizing the shuttle program has not been without critics. Contractors overall now receive more than 90 percent of space shuttle funds, and the program's private workforce of roughly 17,000 is overseen by about 1,700 government employees. Some members of Congress, academics, and space analysts and enthusiasts have expressed concern about whether job and budget cuts at the agency have compromised oversight."

6 February 2003: Former members of NASA safety panel question reasons for their dismissal two years ago, The Advocate

"I don't have any direct knowledge that we were kicked off because of our views or positions, but I do know that we annoyed some people," said John B. Stewart, a former aerospace consultant who served 21 years on the board and now lives in Knoxville."

8 February 2003: Independence of Shuttle Probe Questioned, AP

"Despite those moves, "I'm still concerned that the credibility and the independence of the commission can be challenged," Tennessee Rep. Bart Gordon, ranking Democrat on the House Science space and aeronautics subcommittee, said Saturday. Some members of Congress want a presidential commission to investigate Feb. 1 shuttle Columbia disaster, much like the one President Reagan sent to look into the Challenger's explosion 17 years ago. Only a few days into that investigation, NASA was accused of secrecy and cover-ups."

< 7 February 2003: Waste in Space, OpEd, Washington Post

"Regardless of the findings of the Columbia investigation, the manned space program will survive. The space establishment -- comprising industry, academia and NASA -- is unified behind maintaining the program, while the doubters are scattered. Abandonment of the program would propel squadrons of aggrieved astronauts and former astronauts to the public stage, a prospect not to be relished by legislators who pulled the plug on their dreams."

Editor's note: Sigh, yet another cynical editorial by someone who has clearly spent far too much time inside the Beltway.

6 February 2003: And then there were three, The Economist

"In fact, Andrew Coates, from the Mullard Space Science Laboratory at University College London, argues that microgravity research on the space station is a positively bad idea. The station is a big throbbing structure with human occupants rattling around in it, and this distorts any results."

Editor's note: Were the good doctor to actually talk with someone who actually does this research he'd quickly learn that this issue has been more than adequately dealt with. Alas, yet another example of unsubstatiated 'expert opinion' cited by the UK press.

8 February 2003: Radar Shows Material Coming Off Columbia, Washington Post

8 February 2003: NASA studies telemetry for signs of orbital impact, SpaceflightNow

"A military radar system shows indications that an object might have separated from the shuttle Columbia in orbit, prompting a review of telemetry by NASA flight controllers to look for signs of anything - including impact by high-velocity space debris - that might have contributed to the shuttle's breakup Feb. 1 during re-entry."

7 February 2003: ISS On-Orbit Status 7 Feb 2003

"Due to the potential water limitation on board, one of numerous options being studied by MCC-H and MCC-M mission planners assumes a two-man crew for the next Soyuz launch at end-April, to limit the station crew to two persons for a while. This eventuality, among else, requires prior feasibility evaluation of conducting a U.S. contingency EVA with two crewmembers without a third crewmember assisting in EMU (extravehicular mobility unit) donning/doffing, or other IV (intravehicular) support operations. Thus, a test of this option is being planned for next week for the ISS crew. We also need to study, with the crew, how station systems must be configured during a two-man spacewalk. [Moscow has much experience with two-man EVAs from space station Mir, in Russian Orlan suits. Similar experience for EMUs is lacking on the U.S. side.]"

7 February 2003: ISS On-Orbit Status 5 Feb 2003

As part of the intense ISS replanning efforts underway at MCC-M due to the current Shuttle stand-down contingency, the crew had an hour scheduled today for taking a careful audit of all onboard consumables (food, water, personal hygiene, etc.). The data will be assessed against actual usage rates to determine precisely what we need to fly up on Progress 11P in June (6/8). [This effort is similar to what was done for 10P last Saturday, 2/1.]

8 February 2003: Officials pleased by debris amnesty response, Houston Chronicle

8 February 2003: O'Keefe urges close cooperation with investigation panel, Houston Chronicle

7 February 2003: Revisiting shuttle's last overhaul part of current probe, Houston Chronicle

7 February 2003: Questions Abound in NASA Shuttle Probe, AP

7 February 2003: Records Show Atlantis Adjusted Return Path After Suspected Tile Damage in 2000, Fox News

8 February 2003: Debris-Hit Finding Is Disputed, Washington Post

7 February 2003: Wing Piece Examined for Clues, Washington Post

8 February 2003: NASA to Retest Insulating Material , Washington Post

8 February 2003: NASA Finds Large Piece of Shuttle Columbia's Wing, Reuters

8 February 2003: NASA Judgement Said Possibly Clouded, CBS News

8 February 2003: Space travel worth risk: NASA official, AP

6 February 2003: USAF Imagery Confirms Columbia Wing Damaged, Aviation Week & Space Technology

"High-resolution images taken from a ground-based Air Force tracking camera show serious structural damage to the inboard leading edge of Columbia's left wing, as the crippled orbiter flew overhead about 60 sec. before the vehicle broke up."

7 February 2003: Space Shuttle Columbia: Goodbye to A Good Old Girl, Homer Hickam

"But let's also state forthrightly if a part of the spaceflight program needs to be improved. After all, to paraphrase my dad, how can we get good if we don't know where we've been bad? Then we should follow another of his guidelines. Let's not blame somebody else for our problems. Let's fix what's wrong and get on with business."

3 February 2003: NASA Request for Information relating to Columbia

OSF AA Bill Readdy: "We urge any nasa or contractor employee with any documented concern to make that available to the Mishap Investigation Team, the external, independent Columbia Accident Investigation Board, the confidential NASA Safety Reporting System or the IG. We must have access to ALL the evidence in order to run this to ground. We will leave no lead unfollowed to its logical conclusion."

Editor's note: NASA Watch is NOT the appropriate place to send this information.


"Anyone who believes they have found debris related to Columbia should call the Johnson Space Center Emergency Operations Center, (281)-483-3388. Be aware that hazardous chemicals may be present; do not disturb or move any debris. All debris is United States Government property and is critical to the investigation of the shuttle accident. Any and all debris from the accident is to be left alone and reported to Government authorities. Unauthorized persons found in possession of accident debris will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

2 February 2003: NASA Announces Procedure for Filing Damage Claims, NASA

2 February 2003: Handle Space Shuttle Debris with Caution

1 February 2003: Instructions for Uploading Images and Video Related to the Columbia Accident, NASA JSC

7 February 2003: Shuttle Disaster Puts NASA Plans in Tailspin, Science

"The calamity's timing is bitterly ironic. After a year in charge, NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe had just set a new agenda for the agency and won the White House stamp of approval. The 2004 budget request, released 48 hours after Columbia's destruction, envisions a small, winged vehicle to serve as an alternative to the aging shuttle fleet. A host of technology programs would lay the foundation for more aggressive exploration of the solar system --by robots as well as humans. Now the space agency's focus is far less visionary and far more immediate."

7 February 2003: Gordon Says Columbia Commission Changes Short of Goal

7 February 2003: NASA Updates Columbia Investigation

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on February 28, 2003 12:15 AM.

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