April 2003 Archives

April 2003



30 April 2003: Live Worms Found in Shuttle Debris, AP

"Hundreds of worms from a science experiment aboard the space shuttle Columbia have been found alive in the wreckage, NASA said Wednesday."

Editor's note: A question that intrigues many astrobiologists is the theoretical ability of life to survive transportation from one planet to another - such as within a rock blasted off of Mars traveling to Earth (or vice versa). Much more remains to be understood about the conditions that these small life forms endured as they returned to Earth as Columbia broke apart. The mission of the crew of Columbia may well have left us an unexpected and potentially profound legacy - a clue as to what some life forms can endure during a violent arrival from space onto the surface of a planet.



30 April 2003: NASA mulls in-space options for shuttle repairs, MSNBC

"Throughout the investigation of the Columbia disaster, the question of why the shuttle astronauts had so little ability to inspect and repair the exterior of their own spacecraft has never gone away. So even as the independent investigation board has been narrowing down the exact cause of the Feb. 1 tragedy, NASA engineers have been working to solve the inspection and repair issues."

30 April 2003: NASA Report Says Nothing Could Have Saved Shuttle, NY Times

"According to the new analysis, the best option for returning the shuttle safely would have been to throw every nonessential object overboard, reducing the craft's weight by more than 15 tons. The effort would have required two or more spacewalks by the astronauts to unload the science experiments, the SpaceHab research module, equipment, water and more."

30 April 2003: NASA eager for foam tests, Orlando Sentinel

"A critical phase in the Columbia accident investigation begins this week when engineers start shooting chunks of foam at the tiles that protect NASA's space shuttles from the heat of re-entry."


30 April 2003: Columbia could not be saved, NASA study shows, Spaceflight Now

"The answer, according to a detailed NASA analysis obtained by CBS News, is that Columbia was doomed from the moment the wing was damaged, most likely during ascent, and that nothing could have been done to reduce the stress of re-entry enough to save the ship and its seven astronauts."


30 April 2003: Emergency crews hand off debris search to NASA, AP

"As the search for debris from space shuttle Columbia concluded today in East Texas, the Federal Emergency Management Agency handed operations over to Johnson Space Center in Houston."



30 April 2003: Suspicious pieces found in New Mexico sent to NASA, AP

"A profusion of trash kept U.S. Forest Service teams scanning a mountainside Wednesday for what could be the westernmost edge of the debris field from the space shuttle Columbia. "



29 April 2003: CAIB Press Office: Not Ready for Prime Time

Editor's note: "the least that representatives from the CAIB press office could do is have the professional courtesy to call me back or send me an email - and tell me whether or not I will be allowed to participate instead of leaving me guessing up until the last minute."

29 April 2003: NASA Culture: Oblivious to How the Media Works in the Real World?, SpaceRef

Editor's note: "Expecting people (media or the public) to pay attention to everything NASA does simply because NASA tells them it is important - and to expect this to happen the expense of things that are actually more important (or just more darned interesting) is naive in the extreme."




29 April 2003: ET on Columbia Evidence-Analysis of Key Slide, Edward Tufte

"The 3 reports concerning the possible tile damage on the Columbia prepared by the Boeing engineers have become increasingly important as the investigation has developed. The reports provided the rationale for NASA officials to curtail further research (such as photographing the Columbia with spy cameras) on the tiles during the flight. Here is a close analysis of an important slide from a Boeing report. This discussion was prepared for a chapter on the cognitive style of PowerPoint in my new book Beautiful Evidence; the comments here therefore assess both the reasoning about the evidence as well as the methodology of presentation."



29 April 2003: SRB Return to Flight Camera Activities, NASA MSFC

"Program Direction - Return to Flight Camera Activities: Program team to investigate in-flight camera coverage for STS-114.

  • Maximize use of existing assets and off-the-shelf technologies.
  • SRB and ET Projects tasked to provide cost & schedule for singleand dual camera options

28 April 2003: ISS On-orbit Status 28 Apr 2003

"During final approach, FE-2/SO Don Pettit photographed the Soyuz using the DCS 760 (digital camera system 760) with 400mm and 800mm lenses in a procedural test evaluating techniques and camera settings for future Shuttle dockings to look for signs of damage to the Orbiter's TPS (thermal protection system) tiles."





29 April 2003: Recovery of key shuttle seal could refocus investigation, Orlando Sentinel

"Investigators have found pieces of a key seal from the leading edge of Columbia's left wing that could revise an emerging theory on what caused the orbiter to break up during re-entry."




25 April 2003: O'Keefe will visit Russia to meet crew, space chief, Houston Chronicle

25 April 2003: NASA Official Urges a Focus on Potential Problems, NY Times

25 April 2003: Shuttle investigators are zeroing in, MSNBC

"Even if the debris impact is identified as the precipitating cause of the wing breach, just how it did so remains unclear. MSNBC.com has learned that some NASA analysts still insist the white spray seen departing the impact point is not pulverized insulation at all, but scraped-off tile fragments from severe damage behind the leading-edge impact."

26 April 2003: NASA to add safety enforcer, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA has asked Apollo-era astronaut Tom Stafford to lead an independent group that will oversee how the agency carries out recommendations from the board investigating the shuttle Columbia tragedy."

26 April 2003: O'Keefe Rejects Idea That NASA Has Grown Complacent, Washington Post

"O'Keefe and other agency officials bristled over testimony this week by sociologist Diane Vaughn of Boston College, author of a 1996 book on factors that led to the Challenger accident, who asserted that NASA never fixed many of those problems despite extensive resources and efforts to do so."

Editor's note: What the Post's Eric Pianin has omitted (a habit of his) is that O'Keefe said in the same afternoon session with reporters that Pianin (and a number of us) attended that he had directed NASA's Michael Greenfield to contact Vaughan and that she had yet to return that phone call. O'Keefe expressed interest in hearing what she had to say. Pianin would have you think, by the tone of his article, that NASA is not interested in what she has to say. More sloppy (and in this case misleading) reporting from the Washington Post.




25 April 2003: Retooling NASA's culture, Christian Science Monitor

"In a space agency where safety is typically gauged by statistics and flight experience, can managers make sufficient room for an engineer's hunch or intuition?"

25 April 2003: NASA Culture, Shuttle Losses May Be Linked, Discovery.com

"The problems that existed at the time of Challenger have not been fixed," said Vaughn, testifying at the end of a day-long public hearing in Houston.

25 April 2003: Board to revamp NASA management organization, SpaceflightNow

Editor's note: Culture, culture, culture. NASA culture is broke. Yea, I use that term too when I describe problems - pre- and post- Columbia and I don't disagree in a generic sense. Yet the media seems to be using the word as generic buzzword for a specific issue they just don't seem to be able to describe. One exception: Bill Harwood at SpaceflightNow has taken the time to parse the topic - not just with short quotes, but with long quotes - and some thinking.



24 April 2003: Fallout won't hit Marshall, Cramer says , Huntsville Times

"[Rep.] Cramer said there hasn't been a call in Washington for NASA to do anything but return the shuttle to flight. NASA managers say they want the shuttle to launch early next year."

24 April 2003: NASA Employee Chargerd with Stealing Columbia Debris, The Smoking Gun

"NASA employee was arrested today and charged with stealing debris from the Columbia space shuttle. Michael Pankiewicz, who worked as a quality assurance specialist at Florida's Kennedy Space Center, was one of many NASA employees entrusted with searching for and collecting pieces that fell to earth following the Columbia's February 1 explosion."



23 April 2003: NASA Mistakes Will Repeat Without Changes, Board Told, Washington Post

"During the all-day proceedings, NASA "took a pounding," as one investigator put it, not only from outside experts in risk management, but also to some extent from longtime insiders who shaped the early space program and designed the space shuttle. The focus was on the limits of perfectability in an inherently risky operation."

23 April 2003: NASA still has blind spots, expert tells panel, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA never learned from the mistakes that led to the Challenger disaster 17 years ago and its structure still allows some dangers to escape notice, an expert told investigators in the shuttle Columbia accident on Wednesday."


23 April 2003: NASA Says Shuttles Could Fly Again Within a Year, Reuters

"Do I think flying within a year is possible? Yes, I think it's possible," Kostelnik said. "Will it be likely or not? We'll have to wait and see."

23 April 2003: Shuttle chief to stay till successor found, Orlando Sentinel

"At the news conference, Dittemore refused to answer detailed questions about whether his team made the right choices during Columbia's 16-day mission."

23 April 2003: Transcript of 23 April 2003 Press Teleconference with Ron Dittemore and Mike Kostelnik, NASA HQ

"QUESTIONER: Do you still subscribe to the notion that there really wasn't anything that could have been done?

MR. DITTEMORE: I think at the time, if you are asking me about that particular response, it was directed toward did I have a tile repair capability, and the answer is I don't have a tile repair capability on orbit, but that is one activity that we have extended an opportunity for our teams to reevaluate and we are pursuing the addition of a tile inspection repair capability for future flights. That is being evaluated at this time, and we will determine whether or not that is a capability that will be implemented in the future."


23 April 2003: Space Shuttle Program Manager Decides to Leave Post, NASA HQ

23 April 2003: Special Message from Ron Dittemore to Space Shuttle Program Employees, NASA JSC

"It has been a tremendous honor and a pleasure to serve with such a talented and dedicated team. However, after 4 years as Program Manager and after much thought and reflection, I have determined that the time is right to move on to other opportunities and allow new leadership time to prepare, execute a successful return to flight, and continue assembly and servicing of the International Space Station."



22 April 2003: Columbia Accident Investigation Board Hosts Safety Seminar, CAIB

"The Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) will host a safety seminar with nationally recognized safety professionals from industry and academia, April 27-28, at the CAIB headquarters to raise their awareness of industry and organizational safety standards and practices.

The event is closed to the media and public."

Editor's note: Why is this event closed to the media and public? Will classified or proprietary information be discussed? If not, then why go through the effort of telling people via a press release - and then tell them that they won't be allowed to know what transpires. In addition, shouldn't everyone know what sort of safety metrics the CAIB is going to be using as it formulates its findings and recommendations - especially given the microscope under which NASA's processes are being scrutinized by the CAIB?

Update: I just asked Adm. Gehman this same question during the CAIB press conference. He said "We are going to cover much of the safety and risk assessment issues in public hearings." He described this 2 day event - and the need for it to be closed as being done so that there could be "a good, rich conversation" between the experts and the CAIB panelists. "A lot of this [seminar] is educational." Gehman said. While noting that there is "no reason why the press could not be there" Gehman expressed a concern that the event should be closed such that "if a member of the board wants to demonstrate their ignorance I don't want them to be intimidated. I want [CAIB panelists] to be able to ask anything that he wants." Gehman said that he was "trying to strike a balance between things" (open vs. closed), that he was "getting it right 95% of the time" and that he was "not going to please everyone."

Editor's note: It is somewhat curious that Adm. Gehman can state that the lack of knowledge on the part of a panel member needs to be protected from public scrutiny while the panel itself makes a systematic review of NASA's performance (and technical competence) on technical issues. It is also somewhat hypocritical that it is permissible for some CAIB matters to be handled behind closed doors while huge piles of internal NASA email are being offered up for public consumption and NASA's way of doing business is held up for detailed scrutiny.




22 April 2003: Astronauts to honor Columbia crew at Shea Stadium, NY Mets

"Astronauts Mike Massimino and Mark Polansky are coming to Shea Stadium to honor the Space Shuttle Columbia crew. The astronauts will be in New York Thursday to kick off a multi-city tour with the Houston Astros to continue the crew's mission of telling the world about the importance of space research, development and exploration."


22 April 2003: Chart Released Showing Ten Possible Columbia Failure Scenarios

22 April 2003: Columbia Investigators Consider Wing Seal, AP

"Columbia investigators said Tuesday they are growing more certain of what brought down the shuttle: A seal on the left wing was struck by foam during liftoff and fell off the next day, creating a gap that let in enough scorching gases during re-entry to rip the ship apart."



22 April 2003: Twin of Columbia's tank shows foam flaws, UPI

"NASA investigators probing the fatal shuttle Columbia accident have discovered widespread defects in foam insulation on an external fuel tank that is a virtual twin to the tank flown on Columbia's last mission, officials said Tuesday."


22 April 2003: Shuttle Search Legacy - Lessons Learned in Unprecedented Effort to Pick Up Pieces, Washington Post

"Tragedy though it was, it's also a huge opportunity for us to do some learning," said Amy Donahue, a public policy professor at the University of Connecticut who is on leave to advise NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe on homeland security matters. "Before they become too rigid to accept new ideas in the new [Homeland Security] department, now is the time to inject these lessons into that organizational and policy decision-making process so that they can gain the benefits of this as a sort of trial run," said Donahue, who once worked as a firefighter in Alaska.

22 April 2003: NASA needs a culture change, not new people, Op Ed, Orlando Sentinel

Call it the NASA culture. It is a mind-set that infects the entire agency. Managers become comfortable with risks. A glitch surfaces, and rather than fix it they delude themselves that they understand it. That allows them to ignore their own rules, such as the one that says no launch debris shall hit the orbiter. Somehow, NASA officials found a shade of gray there.


22 April 2003: Space station trip reflects new reality - After Columbia, Russian Soyuz mission takes different course, MSNBC

If the Columbia tragedy hadn't occurred on Feb. 1, Malenchenko, Lu and a third crewmate would have been delivered to the station aboard a shuttle mission in early March, and by now the trio would have been nearly halfway through their Expedition 7 mission. But for now, the Soyuz TMA spacecraft represents the only way station astronauts can get back and forth.



21 April 2003: 3,000 Amateurs Offer NASA Photos of Columbia's Demise, NY Times

"For weeks, researchers combed through the photographs and videos, going to great lengths to verify that each was what its donor claimed that it was. Some turned out to be hoaxes, and a few were not even pictures of the shuttle. The researchers then culled the best and stitched together a video narrative of the flight."




19 April 2003: Shuttle changes may spur delays, up costs, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA is considering major changes to future shuttle missions that range from launching only in daylight to inspecting and possibly repairing the orbiter while in space."



19 April 2003: Dittemore to resign as shuttle manager, Orlando Sentinel

"Ron Dittemore is expected to announce his resignation as NASA's space-shuttle program manager next week, agency sources told the Orlando Sentinel on Friday."

19 April 2003: NASA's Top Shuttle Official Is Said to Be Leaving His Post, NY Times

"Ron D. Dittemore, the NASA shuttle program manager whose briefings in the days after the breakup of the shuttle Columbia drew praise for their straightforward professionalism, will be leaving the space agency for a job in private industry, colleagues at the Johnson Space Center said today."



18 April 2003: Shuttle Doomed at Takeoff - Telltale Heat Spike Was Recorded After Debris Strike, ABC

"The evidence comes from an old magnetic tape recorder that is part of the Orbiter Experiment Support System, sources said. It shows an unusual temperature increase in a key sensor just behind the leading edge of the left wing near the spot where foam that fell from the shuttle's external fuel tank is suspected of striking the shuttle, just 81 seconds into the flight."




17 April 2003: Columbia Accident Investigation Board Issues Preliminary Recommendations to Improve Inspection and Testing of RCC Components, Shuttle Imaging on Orbit, CAIB

"The Columbia Accident Investigation Board today issued two preliminary recommendations to NASA. Additionally, the Board issued several facts regarding the shuttle program."


17 April 2003: Accident board makes first recommendations to NASA, CNN

17 April 2003: Investigators Propose Changes Before the Next Shuttle Flight

17 April 2003: Board Tells NASA: Inspect Shuttle Wings, Discovery.com

17 April 2003: Panel hopes NASA can get head start on fixes, Orlando Sentinel

"Although the board, led by retired Adm. Harold Gehman Jr., does not expect to issue a report until the summer, the two recommendations were released early so NASA can get a head start. That's likely to continue, Gehman said earlier this week."



17 April 2003: NASA chief sees no cuts in shuttle work force, Reuters

"NASA expects no immediate cuts in its contractor work force while its shuttle fleet is idled during the search for the cause of the Columbia accident, the space agency administrator said on Thursday."



16 April 2003: Trees pay tribute to Columbia's crew, Houston Chronicle

"Hundreds of employees of NASA's Johnson Space Center joined the families of the Columbia astronauts on Wednesday for a somber ceremony planting trees in memory of the crew."


16 April 2003: Closure of camps ends to end search for shuttle debris in East Texas, AP

"NASA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are scheduled to shut down the four incident command posts that served as operational bases, and the mobilization and staging area that supported personnel in the camps."




15 April 2003: Suspected Columbia wing breach location moved, Spaceflight Now

"Ongoing analysis of sensor data and recovered debris indicate the deadly breach in the shuttle Columbia's left wing was located slightly outboard of the best previous guess, possibly at or near the intersection of leading edge panels 8 and 9, investigators said today."

15 April 2003: NASA to lend shuttle remains for science, UPI

"Leinbach said researchers from a diverse group of fields -- including materials sciences, hypersonics, chemistry and atmospheric sciences -- will have access to debris for experiments. The pieces will be placed on loan, similar to how the agency handles its sample of lunar rocks and soils. NASA hopes the research may also lead to safer spacecraft designs in the future, Leinbach said."

15 April 2003: East Texas Columbia Recovery Effort Nears Completion, NASA JSC

"As the Central Texas search for material from the Space Shuttle Columbia moved westward, the East Texas search began nearing completion. Air operations continued last week, and underwater searches were completed."



14 April 2003: Researchers will get to study Columbia debris, AP


14 April 2003: Columbia accident board focuses on panels, USA Today


15 April 2003: Heat Shielding Was Area of Concern Before Columbia, Washington Post

"Former astronaut Sally Ride, a member of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board who also participated in the Challenger probe, said last week, "I'm hearing a little bit of an echo here." She was referring to a tendency of engineers to decide that surviving a problem on one flight means that the same problem is survivable in the future. "You survived the first time, so now it becomes 'normal.'"

14 April 2003: NASA Found Wing Problem on Discovery, AP

"There is no technology right now to do effective, nondestructive testing," NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe said in an interview with The Associated Press. "It's a conundrum, one we really have to get better at and have to really figure out."


14 April 2003: UMaine engineer is studying type of composite material under spotlight in Columbia accident

"NASA has taken some criticism for not monitoring the integrity of the shuttle wing structures, but it's not fair. Non-destructive testing techniques that can be applied to these types of materials are just being developed," says Mick Peterson, associate professor of mechanical engineering who leads the UMaine research effort.



10 April 2003: NASA chief says space shuttle may be flying again this year, Denver Post

11 April 2003: NASA's tests may add look inside wings, Orlando Sentinel

"If NASA doesn't know the condition of its vehicles, we would be leery of recommending that they fly," said Gehman, a retired Navy admiral. "Some of these things might be pretty simple, you know, a CAT scan of the leading edge. You can do it in place; you don't have to remove it. If it passes, you're good to go."




10 April 2003: NASA Releases Six New Images of Columbia, AP

"The images, quietly published weeks ago on part of NASA's Web site, were captured Jan. 28 - four days before Columbia's breakup - by powerful telescopes at the Air Force Maui Optical and Supercomputing Site, which is located at the crest of the dormant volcano Haleakala."

Editor's note: "quietly published"? Sorry Ted, we posted these images on SpaceRef and NASA Watch a month ago:

2 March 2003: STS-107: U.S. Air Force Optical Supercomputing Site (AMOS) Imagery, NASA JSC





9 April 2003: O'Keefe assures lawmakers of NASA's resolve, Orlando Sentinel

"U.S. Rep. James Walsh, R-N.Y., who heads the subcommittee, said the importance of spaceflight should not be diminished by the Columbia tragedy. "I suspect that if we back away from the inherent desire in humans to move forward and find new horizons, the world would be a very different place," Walsh said."



7 April 2003: Streaming Video of CAIB News Briefing

8 April 2003: Streaming Video of CAIB Hearing and Press Conference



8 April 2003: NASA Complacency Cited In Both Shuttle Accidents, Voice of America

Editor's note: from a NASA Watch reader: "This article has two errors. One: The Columbia did not "explode", it burned up on reentry.
Second: Sally Ride was NOT the first woman in orbit. Valentina Tereshkova on June 16, 1963 was the first woman in orbit. If the Voice of America cannot differentiate between "explosion" and "burning up on reentry" and they don't know who the first Woman in orbit was, they have no right covering something they have no clue about." Another reader adds "Sally didn't say those things in Florida. She was in Clear Lake, Texas at the time."



8 April 2003: External tank experts recount two decades of debris shedding, Spaceflight Now

8 April 2003: No 'privileged' testimony or transcripts to be made public, Spaceflight Now

"Harold Gehman, chairman of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, said today two interim recommendations will be released late this week or early next and that the panel likely will write its final report in June. Gehman also said "privileged," or confidential testimony from senior shuttle managers, engineers and technicians, will never be made public, either in a public hearing or in final report transcripts."


8 April 2003: Budget squeezed NASA safety, expert says, UPI

"In a sensitive but dire assessment, Richard Blomberg, the former head of NASA's independent safety advisory panel, said years of neglect had resulted in a shuttle program that was operating safely only in the short term, a scenario that came to a crashing to a halt on Feb. 1, when shuttle Columbia disintegrated in the skies over Texas, snuffing out the lives of seven astronauts."

20 November 2002: Spacelift Washington: The Future of Shuttle Safety (Part I) A Conversation with Richard Blomberg, SpaceRef

"Q: Do you think NASA is putting aside sufficient resources for space shuttle upgrades in the future?

A: No. Absolutely not. One of the major concerns I have about the long-term safety of the space shuttle is the continuity of personnel, and their long-term experience. An awful lot of people that are retiring who have treasure-trove of shuttle knowledge in their head because they were in it (the program) from the beginning. And now, if you further transition that to a management structure that would not be familiar with space shuttle, you are exacerbating that problem. It's not just the aging hardware and infrastructure, Frank, it's the loss of long-term capability."



8 April 2003: Space Shuttle Program Launch Manifest 27 Mar 2003, NASA JSC

14 March 2003: Letter from OSF AA Bill Readdy regarding "Space Shuttle Return to Flight", NASA HQ

"As a goal, the SSP shall plan for corrective actions and reviews which support a launch opportunity as early as the Fall of 2003."

Editor's note: In Congressional hearings this morning Sean O'Keefe repeated the agency's goal of Fall 2003 (as outlined in Bill Readdy's memo) as an earliest possible return to flight date for the Shuttle. However, based on this official program schedule, issued a week after Readdy's memo, it would seem that some folks in the agency are even more optimistic and are working towards a launch date for STS-114 NET (No Earlier Than) 21 July 2003.

8 April 2003: Space Shuttle Program Launch Manifest 8 Apr 2003, NASA JSC

Editor's note: I stand corrected. Thanks to an alert NASA Watch reader we now have the subsequent manifest which shows a shift from the previous NET 21 July date to NET 1 October 2003. Still, it is rather interesting that nearly 2 months after the accident that NASA was holding to a mid-summer launch date - until Readdy's correction.




8 April 2003: Statement of Sean O'Keefe before the Subcommittee on VA-HUD Independent Agencies, House Committee on Appropriations

"Mr. Chairman, I will tell you as I told them, I think not. A test of any long-term plan is whether it can accept the inevitable setbacks and still achieve its goals. That is my hope for our plan. Mr. Chairman, in light of the recent tragic loss of Columbia, we must recognize that all exploration entails risks. In this, the Centennial Year of Flight, I am reminded of an accident that occurred just across the river at Ft. Myer in 1908 onboard the Wright flyer. The Wright brothers were demonstrating their flying machine to the U.S. Army, and a young lieutenant was riding as an observer. The flyer crashed, and Lt. Thomas Selfridge died of head injuries, thus becoming the first fatality of powered flight. From that accident in 1908 came the use of the crash helmet.So too from Columbia we will learn and make human space flight safer."




7 April 2003: Foam impact set off NASA's alarms, UPI

"The piece of foam insulation that fell off shuttle Columbia's fuel tank and struck its wing during launch raised safety flags at NASA, which had planned to halt future flights for further analysis, an agency program manager said Monday."

7 April 2003: Official Says NASA Erred on Tank Problem, NY Times

"The astronaut who will be in charge of planning the resumption of shuttle flights said today that NASA had failed to see a trend in the shedding of foam from the external tank, despite a similar incident a few months before the Columbia accident, because the agency thought that it had solved the problem years earlier."

7 April 2003: Foam Risks Eyed Before Shuttle Disaster, AP

"Did you ever think that it was possible to pop a big enough piece of foam off of this external tank to severely damage the shuttle itself?" Air Force Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hess, a board member, asked a NASA fuel tank expert. "The answer is yes. We have large areas ... that are hard to spray," replied Lee Foster, a longtime Marshall Space Flight Center employee. "Yeah, we were always worried that there's going to be a big piece that comes out."




6 April 2003: Officials Question NASA's Willingness To Make Risk Assessments, AP

"Retired Adm. Harold Gehman, the board's chairman, later said that although NASA does a great job of measuring risk at the "wrench-turning level," the failure to use the risk assessment model for shuttle processing may be a sign that the space agency has problems measuring risks on a broader scale."



3 April 2003: NASA detects problems in way it studies damage, Orlando Sentinel

"An internal NASA review has found major flaws in how the agency analyzes possible damage from debris strikes during space shuttle flights."

3 April 2003: Old technology offers new answers in Columbia crash probe, Computer World

"An old-fashioned magnetic tape recorder on board the doomed space shuttle Columbia is helping NASA fill in critical gaps about what caused the spacecraft to break up on re-entry on Feb. 1."

3 April 2003: Data Form Picture of Shuttle Disaster, NY Times

"Admiral Gehman has said that the board is trying to put the accident in the broader context of the way decisions are made at NASA. One theory holds that because the foam strikes did not cause serious damage on earlier shuttle flights, foam may have been treated more as an annoyance and maintenance problem than a high-priority problem that needed to be resolved quickly."

2 April 2003: Parts of shuttle Columbia's engines found, UPI

"NASA officials said Wednesday they have found additional pieces from space shuttle Columbia's engines in two craters on the grounds of Fort Polk in western Louisiana."



2 April 2003: Testimony of Marcia Smith before the Science, Technology, and Space Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

"Human space flight is risky. It has claimed the lives of 17 American astronauts and four Russian cosmonauts in spaceflight-related accidents so far. While this is a relatively small percentage of the more than 400 people who have made space journeys, their loss is felt deeply."

2 April 2003: Testimony of Brian Chase before the Science, Technology, and Space Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

"Robust, low cost access to space is the key to expanding opportunities in space, whether in Low Earth Orbit or beyond. In light of the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia, it is more important than ever for our nation to address the issue of how we transport people and cargo to and from space."



2 April 2003: Memorandum for the Record to the CAIB by William Readdy 3 February 2003

"Wednesday, January 29, 2003 in the early afternoon Mr. Michael Card, NASA Headquarters Safety and Mission Assurance visited me in my office. Mr. Card and an individual from another agency had been discussing the external tank (ET) debris issue during STS-107 ascent. He wanted to discuss an 'offer of support' from the other agency with respect to observing the Space Shuttle Columbia on orbit. He explained that NASA would have to request that support on an emergency or high priority basis."

28 March 2003: Letter from NASA Adminstrator Sean O'Keefe to NIMA Director Clapper

"As agreed during that session, we deeply appreciate your intention to make available the products of NIMA assets on a routine basis, without specific tasking from NASA. This will be very helpful as we continually asses the condition of the Shuttle during on-orbit operations. Significantly, your willingness to employ NIMA assets during targets of opportunity without specific tasking will be another useful source of information to help us assess the potential of on-orbit anomalies."




2 April 2003: Columbia Investigation Zeroes In on Carrier Panel, Washington Post

"An object that detached from the space shuttle Columbia on its second day in orbit resembled a carrier panel from near the leading edge of a wing, investigators said yesterday."

1 April 2003: Primer May Have Weakened Shuttle Wing, AP

"Paint primer leaching off the shuttle launch towers may have eaten tiny holes in the leading edge of Columbia's left wing, weakening it enough to break when struck by a chunk of foam during liftoff, accident investigators said Tuesday."




1 April 2003: Senior Engineer Faulted NASA for Not Seeking Satellite Help, NY Times

"A review in late January by engineers from NASA and Boeing, a NASA contractor, found that the foam did not pose a serious risk to the Columbia and its crew. The analysis has been criticized since the accident as overly optimistic."



31 March 2003: NASA e-mail show shuttle safety questioned, UPI

"From the e-mail messages, NASA clearly was expecting Columbia to land safely, with engineers making plans and issuing requests for measurements and pictures of the actual wing damage after the shuttle's return to Florida."

31 March 2003: Draft email from Rodney Rocha regarding possible damage to Columbia

"Remember the NASA safety posters around the site stating "if it's not safe, say so"? Yes, its that serious."

31 March 2003: NASA Releases Large Email Collection Related to Columbia Accident (includes links to all documents)

"The following email collections were released by NASA in response to Freedom of Information Requests made to the agency. Discussion and briefing charts are broken into sections to reduce file size."

1 April 2003: Engineer Disputed NASA on Seeking Image of Shuttle, Washington Post

"William F. Readdy, NASA's associate administrator, disclosed recently that he spurned an opportunity to request a high-priority photograph of the damaged space shuttle during the final days of its mission because he felt the agency had no "extraordinary reason" to request the diversion of the equipment -- described by others as spy satellites -- from their assigned military tasks."

Editor's note: Here we go again, Eric and Guy. We went over the Post's sloppy choice of words (Jeff Smith's) back on 15 March. Readdy did not "spurn" the offer for imagery - he simply did not pursue it. That's what he told you (Eric), the Post's Jeff Smith and Kathy Sawyer, and a room full of reporters on 14 March 2003. Scorn is defined as being "to reject disdainfully or contemptuously." That did not happen and the Post has yet to produce anything to suggest that it did. Continuing to use such an inaccurate misrepresentation of reality in a national newspaper whose stories are reprinted around the world is a disservice to all of your readers.

"It is not known whether Rocha then wrote his draft "bordering on irresponsible" response. What he sent to Shack, however, was a two-line e-mail simply asking, "Can you tell us more on Roe's negative answer?" There was indication yesterday that Shack responded to that message."

Editor's note: Instead of printing provocative, unsubstantiated extrapolation of what you think might have happened, how about actually asking the people involved what happened - and then printing their responses? After all, you now have their email addresses ...

Previous NASA Watch Comments on News Coverage of Columbia Accident (contains an ongoing collection of commentary on the Post's sloppy reporting on the Columbia accident).


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