June 2003 Archives

June 2003

30 June 2003: Email Between JSC and the STS-107 Crew Regarding Foam Strike

Editor's Note: This email exchange occurred between Mission Control and Space Shuttle Columbia between 23 and 25 January 2003.

29 June 2003: IFMP: Balancing NASA's Checkbook, SpaceRef

"NASA has embarked on a path toward a total overhaul of its accounting system. While a lot of progress has been made, much more lies ahead. Of course, not everyone is happy with these changes."

30 June 2003: How Science Brought Down the Shuttle, OpEd, NY Times

"Astronauts do not risk their lives to perform scientific experiments in space. They fly to fulfill a much more basic and human desire to experience the vastness of space."

Editor's Note: Seven people died on STS-107 after performing a variety of science experiements - including one designed by the author of this OpEd piece, Matthew Koss. Now Koss is questioning the value of flying people in space to do science - including his own. Moreover, Koss seems to feel that he is qualified to describe the personal motives of the crew vis-a-vis their reason(s) for flying. What a presumptuous and creepy way to say thank you, Dr. Koss.

29 June 2003: Shuttle Probe Will Take Aim at NASA Management, Reuters

"A goodly portion of the report, perhaps half, is going to deal with the issue of management and management techniques" at the U.S. space agency, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board's chief, retired Adm. Harold Gehman, said last week."

30 June 2003: Panel Decries View of Spaceflight as Routine, Washington Post

"The panel investigating the Feb. 1 loss of the shuttle Columbia and its crew will recommend this week that NASA treat the space shuttle once again as an experimental test vehicle, a posture NASA mostly dropped after the first four flights in its drive to make spaceflight routine."

29 June 2003: Politics spawned Columbia mission, Orlando Sentinel

"What is most disturbing about Admiral Gehman's investigation is that it isn't looking at questions like this -- just what it takes to get the shuttle flying again as soon as possible," said Alex Roland, a history professor at Duke University, former NASA historian and vocal critic of the agency. "Neither the shuttle program or the [international] space station are providing any payoff that justifies the risk of human life or the huge expense."

Editor's Note: One again, Alex, you are out of the loop with regard to this investigation (see Washington Post article above). Moreover, you also wave your arms with these pronouncements about the value (or lack thereof) of the Space Shuttle and Space Station programs - but never provide one drop of corrobroative proof to support your position.

27 June 2003: Local Astronaut Says NASA Suffers From Lack Of Leadership, WMUR

"Astronaut Knew Crew Members Who Died Astronaut Rick Searfoss was a commander on the Columbia, and he knew all six Americans who died in the disaster earlier this year. "They had no clue until they lost the telemetry and they all went to pieces," Searfoss said. Searfoss blames a lack of both leadership and resources for NASA's problems. He left the space program in 1998. He didn't speak out then, but he is now."

27 June 2003: NASA Chief Promises High Safety Bar, AP

"James Kennedy, the space center's deputy director, will assume the top job there in August from Roy Bridges, a former shuttle pilot who will manage NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. Bridges will establish a team of engineers there to independently review all aspects of shuttle safety."

27 June 2003: NASA to put new safety center in place, AP

"Before the launch of the next space shuttle, NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe says his agency plans to put into place a new safety center that will review trends and have the authority to stop a mission. "

27 June 2003: Columbia Accident Investigation Board Issues Preliminary Recommendation Three: On-Orbit/On-Station TPS Inspection and Repair Capability, CAIB

"The Columbia Accident Investigation Board today issued its third preliminary recommendation to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, in advance of its appearance in the final report."

25 June 2003: NASA OIG: Former Deputy Pleads Guilty to Shuttle Theft

"On June 13, 2003, Jeffrey D. Arriola, a former Angelina County Deputy Sheriff, pled guilty to stealing debris from the space shuttle Columbia. Arriola admitted that while he was helping locate shuttle wreckage, he illegally pocketed two small pieces of a straight-back type back shell, which is a wiring harness connector on the shuttle."

24 June 2003: New Space Shuttle Columbia Images Released, NASA HQ

24 June 2003: Records show NASA safety office cuts, USA Today

"The NASA office that oversees safety and assesses the risk of each upcoming space shuttle flight saw its personnel level and research spending cut nearly in half in the 11 years before the Columbia disaster, recently released NASA records show."

24 June 2003: Shuttle Board Determines Likely Site of Fatal Damage, NY Times

"The Columbia Accident Investigation Board today located within inches the spot on the shuttle's left wing that was damaged by foam on liftoff on Jan. 16 and said the wing came apart at that point 16 days later in the shuttle's re-entry from space."

24 June 2003: CAIB Press Briefing Presentation Roger E. Tetrault

24 June 2003: CAIB Impact Testing Update: G. Scott Hubbard June 24, 2003

24 June 2003: Making News: NASA Says Space Shuttle Could Fly as Early as December, To The Point, KCRW/NPR

"Five months after the Columbia Space Shuttle disintegrated on re-entry, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board today gave an update of what it's discovered so far. A former scientist with the space program, Keith Cowing is editor of NASAWatch.com. Cowing has more on the next projected launch and plans to replace the aging shuttle."

24 June 2003: NASA B-757 deployment to Reno Cancelled

"Based on the current Return-To-Flight plan from the Center flight operations stand-down that was initiated on the evening of 27-May-03, the B-757 deployment planned for Reno, NV from 25-Jun-03 to 21-Jul-03 has been cancelled. At this time, the possibility remains that this deployment might be rescheduled for a future date in 2003. However, no decision has been made, nor is expected for several weeks at least."

24 June 2003: Discovery documentary offers easy-to-understand look at Columbia's fall to Earth, Houston Chronicle

"The first of several television documentaries about the last flight of space shuttle Columbia debuts Wednesday on Discovery Channel. Its value is not in the news it provides -- there's little new here -- but in the concise, cogent and tele-efficient way it is presented."

24 June 2003:
NASA Hoping to Fly Shuttle as Early as December, NY Times

"Even before the independent panel issues its report on the disaster that claimed the space shuttle Columbia and its crew of seven, NASA has apparently concluded that no enormously time-consuming changes will be required before the shuttle fleet returns to space, perhaps as early as December."

24 June 2003: Other Grave Flaws Found in Shuttle, Washington Post

"Yet Gehman has said it would be hypocritical and unfair to criticize NASA's handling of the accident-related problems with the benefit of hindsight without also identifying problems that might cause future accidents. "If these flaws are out there laying around and everybody should have seen them, okay, well, tell me what the next one is if you're so smart," Gehman said."

23 June 2003: Columbia Accident Investigation Board plans more interim recommendations before its final push to draft a report, Aviation Week

"Members of the panel probing why the space shuttle Columbia broke up on reentry plan to issue a few more interim recommendations to give NASA a head start on flying shuttles again, and then will try to grind out a final report before the end of July."

23 June 2003: Panel to ask NASA to fix foam fault, LA Times via Boston Globe

"The recommendation might put a chill on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's plans. Space agency officials have vowed to fly again by early next year, even though they have not figured out how to fix all the problems related to the foam debris."

20 June 2003: Controversial NASA attorney advising Columbia commission, Houston Chronicle

"A lawyer who devised ways for NASA to avoid requests under the federal Freedom of Information Act is again working with the agency, this time as legal counsel to the Columbia Accident Investigation Board."

July/August 1992: Hiding Space: NASA's Tips for Avoiding Scrutiny, Columbia Journalism Review

"For example, the memo's author, NASA attorney William Sikora, and Sikora's boss, Larry Ross, told the investigator they could not remember just why the memorandum was prepared. But an internal memo by another Lewis employee quotes Ross as telling his senior staff that the guidelines were intended to block attempts by a group of "anti-nuke" protesters to obtain records on the space nuclear program."

19 June 2003: NASA Advisory Committee Notice of Establishment: Return to Flight Task Group

"The Task Group will function solely as an advisory body and will comply fully with the provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act."

17 June 2003: NASA Sources Sought Notice: 3-D Imaging Sensors for In-flight Shuttle Inspection, NASA JSC

"NASA/JSC is hereby soliciting information about potential sources for proven, flight certifiable sensors that can detect and quantify damage that may occur in-flight to the Space Shuttle Orbiter's thermal protection system (TPS)."

16 June 2003: Lawmaker seeks to sever NASA from inquiries crash probes, Houston Chronicle

"NASA News Chief Robert "Doc" Mirelson said NASA officials are comfortable with the current investigative process change." He said the CAIB has demonstrated its independence from NASA by being "outspoken and very candid" during its investigation. "Based on the work the CAIB has done, we expect a fully objective report," he said."

16 June 2003: Gordon Bill Assures Independence Of Future Space Accident Investigations

"U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon has introduced legislation that will assure future human space flight accident investigations are truly independent. The Human Space Flight Independent Investigation Commission Act authorizes a commission appointed by the president to study a shuttle or space station accident. The bill does not affect the current investigation by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, but would apply to a future loss of a crewed space vehicle."

16 June 2003: H. R. 2450: Human Space Flight Independent Investigation Commission Act of 2003

"To provide for the establishment of an independent, Presidentially-appointed investigative Commission in the event of incidents in the Nation's human space flight program that result in loss of crew, passengers, or the spacecraft, and for other purposes."

13 June 2003: Boehlert and Hall: Congress WIll Have Access to Privileged Columbia Investigation Testimony, House Science Committee

"Today, House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Ranking Member Ralph Hall (D-TX) announced that they have reached an agreement with the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) that will allow Congress access to approximately 200 confidential interviews conducted by the Board. An identical agreement has been reached with Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) and Ranking Member Fritz Hollings (D-SC)."

13 June 2003: Lawmakers to Get Shuttle Interview Access, AP

Authorized members of Congress may take unlimited notes from the testimony documents, the letter said, but these may not be released to the public.

13 June 2003: Congress to Review Shuttle Interviews, Washington Post

"Retired Adm. Harold W. Gehman Jr., who chairs the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, had resisted unfettered congressional access because of what he called the potential "chilling effect" on future accident investigation witnesses if the statements were made public."

14 June 2003: NASA lets Congress see secret interviews, Orlando Sentinel

"U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who has called for complete public access to the testimony, said Friday that he opposes the deal. "That's not going to cut it with the American people," the Florida Democrat said."

14 June 2003: Some lawmakers to receive secret Columbia data, Houston Chronicle

"Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Beaumont, who serves on the committee and whose district includes Houston's Johnson Space Center, said access to the interviews is "something that was needed, and I'll be anxious to see what they have. I think the board has been pretty good with us."

14 June 2003: Report on Shuttle Likely to Leave Important Questions Unanswered, NY Times

"To judge from the public comments of board members, the report is likely to be an unusually public and frank discussion of risk in human spaceflight. One member of the board, Steven Wallace, on loan from the Federal Aviation Administration, has repeatedly said that flying on the shuttle is more dangerous than flying an airplane in combat possibly 10 times as dangerous, possibly 100."

13 June 2003: NASA Names Former Apollo & Shuttle Commanders to Lead Columbia Accident Report Task Force

"NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe today said two veteran astronauts, Apollo commander Thomas P. Stafford and Space Shuttle commander Richard O. Covey, will lead a distinguished task force to assess the agency's "Return to Flight" efforts and help implement the findings of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) when its final report is released later this summer."

< 14 June 2003: NASA OIG: Semiannual Report, October 1, 2002--March 31, 2003

"More generally, I am concerned that there may be a public perception that human space flight can be safe when, in fact, it is inherently risky and dangerous and will be for the foreseeable future. This said, that we as a society can undertake to pursue such inspirational and challenging endeavors as human space flight is a credit to the human spirit and the United States of America. The OIG aspires to add value to NASA's efforts to mitigate the risks of these awesome undertakings."

13 June 2003: NASA says shuttle cassette tape a hoax, AP

"A woman who left an anonymous message with a newspaper tip line suggesting she had found a mini-cassette from the space shuttle Columbia acknowledged to NASA today she did not have such a tape, an official said."

12 June 2003: Anonymous caller claims she has shuttle tape, Cox News Service

"The Sound-Off caller claimed that she listened to the recording, and that it contains some kind of communication from the astronauts, but Smith said that NASA might be more concerned with the other sounds that the cassette may have captured."

13 June 2003: WESH Newschannel 2 Finds Letter Warning Of Shuttle Disaster - Bolts Used On Columbia Under Suspicion, WESH

"The letter, from the former bolt manufacturer, Hi-Shear Technology Corp., said another Challenger-type failure was inevitable. Billow said that warning came fully 11 months before Columbia went down."

13 June 2003: NASA discovers problem with bolts on space shuttles, Washington Times

"Accident investigators yesterday revealed a new danger to the fleet of space shuttles but said they are not changing their theory surrounding the probable cause of the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegration."

12 June 2003: Columbia Accident Investigation Crawls Toward The Finish Line, SpaceRef

"I asked John Logsdon how he could possibly formulate a complete picture of how NASA's budgets were developed if he did not have access to such materials. Specifically, I asked him if he had asked for these NASA/OMB materials for the years during which both Sean O'Keefe and Dan Goldin served as NASA's Administrator. Logsdon did not respond to my inquiry about how one could develop an overall picture without the pass back materials, but he did respond to the issue of requesting them."

11 June 2003: RCC Panel 6 Foam Impact Test Results (Preliminary), CAIB

11 June 2003: NASA to Boost Trouble-Shooting, Washington Post

11 June 2003: O'Keefe: NASA needs tough inspection rules to return to flight, USA Today

11 June 2003: NASA may need better inspection system for panels, O'Keefe says, Orlando Sentinel

11 June 2003: External fuel tank redesign planned, Huntsville Times

11 June 2003: Space plane push eyed to aid station, Huntsville Times

11 June 2003: New Methods Needed to Spot Shuttle Damage, Tests Show, NY Times

11 June 2003: Membership of NASA Return to Flight Task Group

Editor's note: This is a list of initial members of the Return to Flight Task Group, which will help assess NASA's implementation of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board's findings once its final report is released. Additional members are expected added throughout the process.

10 June 2003: Interior Secretary Norton and NASA Administrator O'Keefe Announce "Columbia Point" in Honor of Space Shuttle Columbia, DOI

"Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton and NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe today announced the naming of Columbia Point, a 13,980-foot mountain peak in Colorado's Sangre de Cristo Mountains, in honor of the Space Shuttle Columbia's final voyage."

11 June 2003: Topographic Map Showing Location of Columbia Point, USGS

11 June 2003: Remarks by Sean O'Keefe - Columbia Point Naming Ceremony

"I certainly hope to some day to bring my kids to the base of the range right before dawn on a summer's day, when a majestic sea of stars hovers overhead these majestic peaks, prior to first light when hawks and other raptors rise on the early morning thermals. Perhaps my kids will also be privileged to travel in space and be able to look down and see a point worthy of the name Columbia, and of the crew members Rick, Willie, Mike, Dave, Kalpana, Laurel and Ilan, who delighted in viewing our planet's purpled mountain majesties while they carried forth their joyful mission of exploration and discovery."

9 June 2003: Columbia Accident Investigation Board Holds Seventh Public Hearing and Press Briefing

"Speakers include: Allen Li, Director of Acquisition Sourcing Management, US. General Accounting Office; Marcia Smith, Senior Level Specialist in Aerospace and Telecommunications Policy for the Resources, Science and Industry Division, Congressional Research Service Library of Congress; Russell D. Turner, President, Honeywell Engines Systems and Services."

Update: Dan Goldin reportedly testified before the CAIB for 3 hours last Thursday in Texas and brought a lawyer with him.

7 June 2003: Costs and Risk Clouding Plans to Fix Shuttles, NY Times

"Anticipating other board recommendations, NASA engineers are discussing ways to launch the shuttle only in daytime, a change that would provide better opportunities to watch for falling debris but would sharply limit the available launching windows for reaching the International Space Station."

7 June 2003: Widow of Columbia commander says NASA must 'fly again', AP

"I don't want to see NASA hammered over issues that are irrelevant or unfair," she told The Associated Press after a speech at the Women of Faith conference, which drew 9,000 people. "I just don't want there to be a witch hunt just for the sake of a national television audience ... to see NASA get pummeled."

6 June 2003: Space Shuttle Columbia Investigation: Foam Impact Test Breaks Reinforced Carbon-Carbon Panel, CAIB

"An initial foam impact test on a section of an orbiter reinforced carbon-carbon left-wing leading edge showed visible and significant damage on RCC panel 6 and the T-seal between RCC panels 6 and 7, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board reported today."

6 June 2003: New Columbia Tribute Announced, NASA

6 June 2003: Interior Secretary Norton, NASA Administrator O'Keefe to Announce Naming of Mountain Peak in Colorado in Memory of Columbia Astronauts, Dept. of the Interior

"On Tuesday, June 10, Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton and NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe will announce the location and name of a
mountain peak in Colorado in memory of the seven Space Shuttle Columbia astronauts lost upon re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere on Feb. 1, 2003."

Update:. NASA Watch has learned that the unnamed
mountain peak, which will be named "Columbia Point",
is part of Kit Carson Mountain. Kit Carson Mountain includes 3 significant summits, the highest being Kit Carson Peak, the other two are Challenger Point
(14,081), and now Columbia Point (13,980 feet).

6 June 2003: Report on shuttle accident to slam NASA decisions, culture, Orlando Sentinel

"A detailed 10-page draft outline of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board's report obtained by the Orlando Sentinel presents a sweeping, hard-hitting review of the technical, organizational and political factors that resulted in America's second space-shuttle disaster. The report traces the accident's causes from the program's origins in the late 1960s to Columbia's breakup over central Texas on Feb. 1."

5 June 2003: Storms delay crucial space shuttle test, AP

"Thunderstorms sweeping across Texas scuttled an attempt by Columbia accident investigators today to fire a piece of foam at space shuttle wing parts to test their theory of what destroyed the spacecraft. The crucial test was rescheduled for Friday, though more bad weather was expected."

4 June 2003: NASA's plan for shuttles termed overly optimistic, Washington Times

"While NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe has said he hopes the next shuttle flight can happen as soon as October, Mr. Boehlert said it likely will be next year before the next shuttle flight. "In general I am confident that the shuttle will fly again. I can't tell you when. I think the original schedule outlined by NASA would fall more in the heading of wishful thinking than reality," Mr. Boehlert said."

5 June 2003: NASA debris study winds down, Orlando Sentinel

"NASA plans to leave the parts where they are for another couple of months to give investigators final chances to examine them -- and to give NASA employees a chance to pay their respects -- before the pieces are boxed up in mid-August."

4 June 2003: CAIB Impact Testing Update G. Scott Hubbard June 4, 2003, (images and movies) CAIB

  • Foam broke apart in manner suggestive of film record of STS-107
    - shower of small shards with several larger pieces
  • Foam impact comparable to catching a basketball thrown at ~500 mph

    - total loads ~ 6,000 lbs.
  • Observed effects, including higher than expected forces, resulted in test plan change

    - Decision to proceed directly to RCC testing

4 June 2003: Shuttle's Carbon Composite to Undergo Tests, Washington Post

"NASA's assumption that the material could withstand such impacts now looms as another of a series of flawed judgments about risks to the shuttles, and Columbia's potential peril during its final flight, that contributed to the tragedy."

4 June 2003: Columbia Disaster Foam Theory Backed by Test, Reuters

"A test firing of insulation foam at a replica space shuttle wing struck with such power that it shocked witnesses and added force to the theory that a foam strike led to the breakup of shuttle Columbia, a member of the board investigating the accident said on Wednesday."

4 June 2003: Foam wedges into wing in shuttle test, CNN

"When I saw it, I thought, oh my God, this is something. This is not just a light force. This is a really significant effect," Hubbard said at the Center for Advanced Space Studies."

2 June 2003: Risk factors: NASA looks forward to its return to space (Editorial), Union-Tribune Editorial

"NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe was blunt during his visit to San Diego
last week. Human space exploration, he said, always will entail a certain
measure of risk. The question before the space agency, and before the American public, is
just what degree of risk is acceptable."

2 June 2003: The 71 Million Dollar Man Speaks and Runs

Editor's note: Sen. Bill Nelson only sat through a portion of the hearing. He showed up - just long enough to dump on Ed Weiler about VASIMR (an interesting advanced propulsion system) - and then left. Wow. What a space supporter. Nelson couldn't even sit through the entire hearing. The amount of money for VASIMR being discussed is rather small in the larger scale of things - several tens of millions of dollars. But it is not insignificant. Given Nelson's interest in this propulsion project (led by one of his crewmates on his space junket on mission STS-61C), one would wonder how he evaluates the merit of other space projects vis- -vis the potential payback they provide. There seems to be a bias at work here.

Shuttle missions cost $500 million each in 'now' dollars. Do the math. $500 million divided by 7 crew members on STS-61C = $71 million per astronaut. What is it that the good Senator contributed to the mission that was worth this much money? Informed sources tell us that Nelson's contribution to this mission was best described as "ballast". Perhaps he can enlighten us further - with corroborative sources as to what he did, as a member of Congress, with zero previous space experience, that was worth $71 million of taxpayer's money.

Only then should we be able to calibrate his comments about the projects he thinks are important - and those that he does not. Otherwise, all of Sen. Nelson's arm waving with regard to space policy should be viewed on face evidence: that it is motivated by self-serving politics and personal bias - the most egregious waste of tax dollars one can imagine.

3 June 2003: Shuttle Board May Open Files for Congress, NY Times

"Mr. Boehlert said negotiators were "now in the process of dotting i's and crossing t's" on an agreement for Congress to examine all of the testimony obtained by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, a 13-member group led by Adm. Harold W. Gehman Jr., who is retired."

3 June 2003: Space Is The Greatest Strategic Venue, Op Ed By Rep. Dave Weldon

"I want to congratulate Boeing and Lockheed Martin on successful missions and inaugurating a new era in American space launch. Sadly, the business model that was the cornerstone of EELV has not materialized."

2 June 2003: NASA wrestles over timeline for shuttle flights, MSNBC

"More than four months after the Columbia catastrophe and the grounding of the three remaining space shuttles, NASA officials are wrestling with the question of when flights can resume. Estimates and guesses range from "the end of the year" through mid-2004."

2 June 2003: Flights Likely to Resume, but NASA Itself May Enter New Orbit, Washington Post

"I think it's quite clear there's going to have to be a shake-up in the design of the decision-making process," Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), chairman of the Commerce subcommittee on science, technology and space, said in an interview. "We may need wholesale changes in the structure of the NASA bureaucracy itself."

2 June 2003: NASA plans to re-examine shuttle fleet's durability, Orlando Sentinel

"To better understand the problem, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has launched a major initiative to determine just how long the orbiters can be relied upon, both in terms of missions accomplished and time passed. The process began late last year and is expected to take as long as two years to complete."

1 June 2003: U.S., Russia Renew Commitment to International Space Station, Department of State

"The U.S.-Russia space partnership has deepened following the loss of the U.S. shuttle Columbia, President Bush and President Putin said in a June 1 joint statement issued in St. Petersburg, Russia, where the two leaders met."

1 June 2003: Lessons Not Learned?, Editorial, Washington Post

"The probe is disturbing because the results suggest that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was not transformed by the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger 17 years ago. The investigation suggests that NASA continued to tolerate risks in the shuttle, discounted safety concerns while it was in flight and, most troubling of all, suffers from systemic shortcomings that could result in another tragedy."



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