Keith Cowing: August 2003 Archives

August 2003

27 August 2003: Send in your CAIB comments

Editor's note: What do you think about the CAIB's final report? Did they get it right? Can NASA accomplish all of the CAIB's recommendations? How should they do this? Send your comments to Your comments will be posted - please note if you wish them to be posted with your name or anonymously.

-- Your many replies thus far --

Excerpt: "We workers know our place in the organization. We workers understand the risks. We workers will continue to report our dissent, even at risk to our upward mobility. When transferred out of the way, we will move on but will pass the torch to our peers to continue fight the good fight; to safely fly our national Shuttle treasure and her crews until something better is "on the pad"."

2 September 2003: Follow-on publications by CAIB

Editor's note: According to a post to a space-related email list FPSPACE, a CAIB staffer said the people working at the CAIB "do not yet know exactly what they will do for follow-on volumes"

30 August 2003: Grounding the Space Program,

It's time to think big. We should be exploring space. But unfortunately we'll never get out there if all we're doing is sending people up to the I.S.S. to travel in circles.

30 August 2003: Columbia aftermath: NASA seeks definitive mission, Reuters

"One day after the release of a scathing report on the shuttle Columbia disaster, NASA's chief agreed with one fundamental criticism: the US space agency lacks an urgent mission in the post-Cold War world. NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe said on August 27 there was no motivation for his agency now comparable to the superpower competition for space that pushed NASA in its early years."

30 August 2003: Corporate success stories offer lessons for NASA, Orlando Sentinel

"Virtually every corporate success story -- Chrysler in the '70s, Harley-Davidson in the '80s and Continental Airlines in the '90s -- has been fueled by substantial change in organizational culture."

30 August 2003: Editorial: Safety first for space travel, NASA, Amarillo Globe News

"NASA should return to space as soon as is humanly possible. Rick Husband and his valiant crew would have it no other way. That return to manned space flight, however, must occur only after a demonstration that NASA truly gets it."

29 August 2003: Experts Doubt Fix for NASA Safety Culture, AP

"Nobel Prize-winning physicist Douglas Osheroff, an investigation board member, insisted in the final editing that the accident report call for culture change in strong, direct language. The chapter listing the recommendations none of which mentions the word "culture" stresses at the beginning: "NASA's culture must change." Is that likely? "If I were betting," Osheroff said, "I would probably bet no." But, he noted: "There's one big difference right now. It is unquestionably true that if NASA loses another orbiter, we are out of human spaceflight for a long time. The stakes are really high."

29 August 2003: Criticism of NASA safety checks grows harsher, Orlando Sentinel

29 August 2003: Advisers say NASA ignored warnings, Orlando Sentinel

29 August 2003: NASA culture called culprit, SJ Mercury News

29 August 2003: Failure Is Always an Option, NY Times

28 August 2003: Report spawns rethinking about NASA's reliance on contractors, Government Executive

"A GAO report issued just a few days before Columbia was lost said NASA s contract management was ineffective and its financial controls were weak and risky."

28 August 2003: NASA Worker Proposed 'Scrub' of Web Site, AP

"Just days after the shuttle Columbia disaster, a NASA employee at headquarters proposed scrubbing the agency's safety office Web site to remove outdated or wrong information that could become "chum in the water to reporters and congressmen."

28 August 2003: FOIA Request Uncovers Previously Unknown NASA Accident Investigation Website, SpaceRef

"One would assume that such a website, constructed by NASA civil servants, on government time, for explicit use with regard to the STS-107 accident investigation, would be considered part of the material provided in response to this FOIA request. Indeed, it is rather surprising that a non-governmental information system was used for such a purpose during such a highly visible accident investigation. Indeed, one has to wonder how much - and what sort of information exchanges - occurred outside of regular official government channels."

28 August 2003: Missing Mars, OpEd, Daily Camera

"Dr. Robert Zubrin, the Denver-based manned space enthusiast and founder of the Mars Society, thinks the goal is obvious: to send humans to our nearest planetary neighbor. "Seven people died on Columbia for no real reason," he says. "But it is worth risking human life to explore new worlds."

Editor's note: Once again Dr. Zubrin turns to using tasteless and downright insensitive comments to make a point. I guess if someone isn't doing exactly what HE thinks is important, then it is not worth the risk. Well, from my perspective these people died serving their country - and doing something that THEY deemed worth the risk. They certainly thought that they had a reason to take that risk - regardless of Dr. Zubrin thinks.

28 August 2003: Director says center working to fix foam on external tank, Huntsville Times

"Marshall Space Flight Center's director Wednesday said the center is responsible for the wing damage to the space shuttle Columbia from foam shed from the external tank. And he said the center is developing a fix to make sure it doesn't happen again."

28 August 2003: Director: Marshall erred in shuttle crash, Huntsville Times

"In the wake of the accident there have been changes in top level Marshall officials, including reassignment of the external fuel tank project manager, as engineers work to fix the foam problem, the director said."

27 August 2003: Shuttle not likely to fly by spring, experts say, CNN

"Congress will not help NASA fly sooner. Quite the contrary," Cowing said."

27 August 2003: Investigator Criticizes Shuttle Report, AP

"The Columbia investigation board did not go far enough in its recommended safety changes, one of the investigators says in a supplemental report that urges NASA to strengthen shuttle inspections and correct mechanical problems that were unrelated to the disaster but could cause another. Air Force Brig. Gen. Duane Deal said Wednesday he felt compelled to highlight these issues after they ended up being buried, downplayed or dropped from the final report of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board."

27 August 2003: NASA Seeks Urgent Mission After Columbia Tragedy, Reuters

"NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe said on Wednesday there was no motivation for his agency now comparable to the superpower competition for space that pushed NASA in its early years. There is "nothing comparable to what drove us as a nation with the threat of the prospect of thermonuclear war by a bipolar opponent on the other side of this globe that existed in the early 1960s," O'Keefe told a news conference."

27 August 2003: General Finds Fault in Staffing at NASA, NY Times

27 August 2003: NASA Chief Pledges He'll Make Changes, Washington Post

27 August 2003: Report Blames Flawed NASA Culture for Tragedy, Washington Post

27 August 2003: NASA's O'Keefe Says Space Program at `Seminal Moment', Bloomberg

26 August 2003: Understanding Columbia - and Fixing NASA, SpaceRef

"While the mechanical fixes to NASA's shuttle fleet are straightforward, the human fixes that are needed will require persistence from everyone involved. The question before America is not just whether human space flight is worth the risk, but also whether NASA - and the nation - are up to the task. Everyone needs to get it right this time. Everyone."

26 August 2003: NASA's Underlying Woes: Fading Support and Science, Washington Post

"It will be up to all Americans to decide where to go from here. But the back cover of the shuttle report features an emblem that summarizes its authors' advice. "Ad Astra Per Aspera. Semper Exploro," the emblem reads in Latin. "To the stars, despite adversity. Always explore."

26 August 2003: Full Transcript: NASA Update on the Space Shuttle Columbia Sean O'Keefe and Scott Hubbard August 26, 2003

"... I would suggest that we update those words, that we indeed also adopt the principle of tough and competent and that each day when we enter and we do what we do throughout this agency every single one of us ought to be reminded of the price paid by Husband, McCool, Anderson, Clark, Challa, Brown and Ramon. These words are the price of admission to the ranks of NASA and we should adopt it that way."

26 August 2003: Full Transcript of CAIB Press Conference August 26, 2003, CAIB

"... The lives of these people are very precious to us, and the board considered that a very serious matter, that these brave people thought that what they were doing was important, that it was significant, that it was part of human space exploration, that the things that were going to be learned from this mission were worth the risk that they were taking."

26 August 2003: Transcript of Administrator O'Keefe's Appearance on "CNN Newsnight" with Aaron Brown Aug. 25, 2003
26 August 2003: Remarks by CAIB Chair Adm. Hal Gehman (Transcript)
26 August 2003: NASA Watch Editor Keith Cowing on CNN: The Columbia Shuttle Tragedy: Analyzing the Report (Transcript)
26 August 2003: Congressman Feeney Commends Columbia Accident Investigation Board
26 August 2003: Sen. McCain Statement on Columbia Accident Investigation Report
26 August 2003: DeLay: NASA One Step Closer to Shuttle Flight; Shuttle Program Will Be Safer, Smarter in Future
26 August 2003: Rep. Rohrabacher Applauds Columbia Accident Investigation Board's Findings and Conclusions
26 August 2003: Rep. Boehlert Praises "Selfless and Tireless Work" of Columbia Accident Investigation Board
26 August 2003: Chairman of House Research Subcommittee Statement on Space Shuttle Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) Report
26 August 2003: Statement by Rep. Dave Weldon, M.D. (FL-15) on the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) Report
26 August 2003: Reps. Hall and Gordon Comment on Release of the Gehman Report
26 August 2003: NSS Urges NASA to Embrace CAIB Recommendations and Move Forward with Bold Vision for Space Exploration

26 August 2003: Columbia Accident Report Released

The Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) has released its final report.

  • NASA Administrator Accepts Columbia Accident Report
  • Columbia Accident Investigation Board Statement
  • Columbia Accident Investigation Board Executive Summary
  • Columbia Accident Investigation Board Report (10MB PDF)

    You can also download the report at: CAIB | NASA

    26 August 2003: No More Excuses: Cancel The Space Shuttle, Space Frontier Foundation

    "Under the Foundation's proposal, money currently spent on the Shuttle would be converted into financial incentives to foster a new spaceship industry that could serve both government and commercial markets."

    Editor's note: In other words you want a hand out. Why shouldn't this industry use its own money to develop these capabilities? Oh wait; it already is (Bezos, Musk, Rutan, Carmack ...)

    26 August 2003: Bush in the hot seat over shuttle's future, Houston Chronicle

    26 August 2003: Match passion for space with fervor for safety, USA Today

    26 August 2003: Hill to Use Report as 'Map', Washington Post

    26 August 2003: `Echoes of Challenger' in Columbia blast, Houston Chronicle

    26 August 2003: Short- and Long-Term Recommendations, NY Times

    26 August 2003: Inertia and Indecision at NASA, NY Times

    26 August 2003: A Husband Remembers, ABC

    26 August 2003: NASA Sees Spring Launch for Next Shuttle, AP

    26 August 2003: NASA's culture contributed to Columbia disaster: report, Globe and Mail

    26 August 2003: Report Cites Flawed NASA Culture, Washington Post

    26 August 2003: Shuttle report cites flawed NASA culture, Orlando Sentinel

    26 August 2003: NASA lapses ended chance of saving crew, Orlando Sentinel

    26 August 2003: Cash settlements possible for astronauts' survivors, Orlando Sentinel

    25 August 2003: White House to Issue Statement on CAIB report

    Editor's note: NASA Watch has learned that the White House will respond directly to recommendations made in the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) report. The CAIB's report will be issued tomorrow. The White House will endorse the CAIB report. NASA, specifically Sean O'Keefe, will be tasked with implementation of the board's recommendations. The President will say something along the lines of "we will keep America at the vanguard of spaceflight and will continue the legacy of the Columbia and Challenger astronauts. They will not have died in vain."

    25 August 2003: NASA Awaits Report on Columbia Disaster, AP

    "[Sen. Barbara Mikulski, of Maryland] wants a 15-member board, selected by the House and Senate leadership, that will assure compliance with all the recommendations of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, which Mikulski calls the Gehman commission. She said the board would report to Congress every six months."

    26 August 2003: NASA Preparing Itself For Scathing Report, Washington Post

    "The U.S. human spaceflight program is already very different from the organization that launched the doomed shuttle Columbia and its crew of seven on Jan. 16. What remains to be seen is how much more NASA officials will have to alter their basic way of doing business to satisfy the requirements of what promises to be a scathing 250-page report to be released today by the independent Columbia Accident Investigation Board."

    25 August 2003: NASA's culture of denial, OpEd, Jim Oberg, MSNBC

    "The culture can also be powerful because it is so pervasive, since it is rarely exposed to outside influences. Unlike the space team that conducted Apollo, recruited from a dozen major pools of experienced workers, most workers at NASA today have only worked at NASA since graduation. Some retired military officers are brought in at headquarters - mostly because they are good at "following orders" of the officials who hire them - and specialists are brought in as needed, but they are far from the levers of power within NASA. This encourages an inbred "groupthink" that is not conducive to disagreeing with what management wants."

    25 August 2003: Shuttle-crash report prods NASA management, Christian Science Monitor

    Noting the impact of flat budgets on NASA's culture of safety, [Howard] McCurdy continues, "over the last 30 years, no one in NASA has had the nerve to stand up to Congress and the White House and say, 'If that's all the money you've got, then we're not going to fly.'"

    25 August 2003: NASA Awaits Report on Columbia Disaster, AP

    "John Logsdon, a member of the board, said Monday the board believes "its criticism is founded on careful evidence, gathered in an intense way over seven months. So, if NASA views it as ugly, it needs to look at itself...." Logsdon, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, said the report "will dig deep into the so-called culture," adding that "the language is frank and direct and there may be some surprises."

    25 August 2003: Painful Questions: A conversation with Sally Ride, NY Times

    "Q. Dan Goldin, the NASA administrator from 1992 to 2001, had a mantra, "Faster, better, cheaper." Was that a mistake?

    A. "Faster, better, cheaper," when applied to the human space program, was not a productive concept. It was a false economy. It's very difficult to have all three simultaneously. Pick your favorite two. With human space flight, you'd better add the word "safety" in there, too, because if upper management is going "faster, better, cheaper," that percolates down, and it puts the emphasis on meeting schedules and improving the way that you do things and on cost. And over the years, it provides the impression that budget and schedule are the most important things."

    25 August 2003: Fasten your seatbelts.

    Editor's note: Tomorrow, America's space program will begin to face a challenge which will rank among the greatest challenges it has yet to endure. The release of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board's report will begin a series of very public events wherein virtually every facet of NASA's human spaceflight endeavors - and even the agency's soul - will be placed under close scrutiny.

    Following the catharsis of the report's release, a gauntlet will be run by all of the players in this drama as every corner of Congress and the media weighs in and exacts their pound of flesh - or gives their vote of confidence. Alas, most will both praise and condemn. This process will run it self out sometime in October - around the time that the next crew to inhabit the International Space Station is due to blast off.

    Last night I sat and watched two things on the History Channel: Ron Howard's "Apollo 13" and Gene Kranz's "Failure is not an option". I am certain I am not the only one who looks back at all of this and wonders why so many things seem so hard now - and challenges so daunting - when NASA in the 60's did not know any better to tackle impossible things - and then get up after an accident and go at them again - as hard - if not harder.

    The crew of Expedition 8 don't know how they will be coming home after their stay in space - Soyuz or Shuttle. Nor do they (or any of us) know what NASA they will return to - one armed and invigorated with a new commitment to move on - and outward, or one reigned in by political shortsightedness and insecurity relegated to satisfaction with the status quo.

    (Much) More to follow.

    28 August 2003: Over the Moon, editorial, Wall Street Journal

    "The Columbia astronauts were brave and accomplished and died prematurely doing the nation's work. Despite its drubbing this week, NASA itself is a can-do agency: It's not about to go on strike, saying we can't work in these conditions, with these tools, with these priorities. But changing the "culture" of NASA will take outside leadership to craft a new and more compelling space mission."

    28 August 2003: Still Lost in Space, Op Ed, Washington Post

    "But watch what they do, not what they say. The shuttle program's budget has been cut and cut. It has become a public relations boondoggle, not to mention just another area for Congress to add pork barrel projects. School kids send up experiments (how to paint with urine, an available commodity in any capsule) and presidents add this or that foreign astronaut for diplomatic, not scientific, reasons. This is a program that has lost its way."

    27 January 2003: "Fun with Urine" Stirs Students' Imagination, NASA

    22 August 2003: White House Turns Down Shuttle Budget Boost Request, Florida Today/

    "The White House has turned down a NASA request for an extra $1.6 billion next year to get the three remaining shuttles flying again and speed up development of the proposed Orbital Space Plane, Florida Today has learned."

    Editor's note: Contrary to what is claimed in the Florida Today/ story, i.e. that the White House has turned down a request by NASA for additional funds, NASA Watch has learned that the White House (OMB) has neither approved or rejected any budget request by NASA. NASA will be submitting its FY 2005 budget request to the White House this Fall. Any requests for additional funds for Shuttle program fixes (accident recovery) or OSP acceleration in the form of an amendment or supplemental request to the FY 2004 budget will likely be submitted in roughly the same time frame as the FY 2005 budget submission. Moreover, any such supplemental request to the FY 2004 budget will be worked as part of a larger, overall plan which will include coordination with the FY 2005 budget request.

    25 August 2003: NASA set to revamp system, Orlando Sentinel

    "The changes are detailed in a 121-page report titled "NASA's Implementation Plan for Return to Flight and Beyond." An Aug. 5 draft was obtained by the Orlando Sentinel."

    23 August 2003: NASA's Next Step, US News & World Report

    "NASA's immediate goal is to get the shuttles safely flying again, perhaps as early as next March. And it does intend to complete the station, according to William Readdy, associate administrator for space flight. That task requires the shuttles, because the ISS modules were designed to fit into their cargo bays. But then the costly, fragile shuttles could be mothballed. Before the accident, some NASA officials had vowed to keep them flying through 2020. "I don't think [that's] plausible now," says Cowing."

    23 August 2003: NASA Watch Editor Keith Cowing on NEXT@CNN 23 Aug 2003 [Transcript], CNN

    "... culture is sort of a key that all reporters have on their keyboards these days. And when something happens at NASA they don't quite understand, they say, Oh, it's culture. There's more to it than that. There's a culture within NASA works, there's the contractor community, there's Congress, and then there's the public. So I don't want to cast the blame elsewhere. But you've got to understand NASA not by itself, but within the context with which, you know, it does all these marvelous things. Scant attention is paid to the fact that all these spacecraft operate perfectly. It's when one thing goes horribly wrong that suddenly we think, Well, the entire agency is messed up. That's not true."

    23 August 2003: Congress counts down to report on Columbia, Houston Chronicle

    "Throwing the word `culture' around is a recipe for letting everyone off the hook because no one knows what it means," said [David Goldston, chief of staff of the House Science Committee]. "Clearly this is an agency that needs change. If the discussion is about some indefinable notion called `culture,' that's not going to get us very far."

    23 August 2003: Columbia's 'Smoking Gun' Was Obscured, Washington Post

    "While most of the ingredients of Columbia's destruction had been collecting for some time, tucked away in the crannies of a complicated bureaucracy, no one had seen them, either. In contrast to the 1986 loss of the shuttle Challenger, when engineers had tried to stop the launch only to be overruled by higher-ups, this time the portents had become invisible to all those who might have altered events."

    23 August 2003: Way to fix panels in space shows promise, NASA says, Orlando Sentinel

    "Engineers are studying a repair for heat-resistant panels on the leading edges of the space shuttle's wings that could eliminate one of the major obstacles to resuming launches."

    22 August 2003: Investigator's Assignment Nears End, NY Times

    "As the board members studied the shuttle disaster, he said, they realized that they needed to look beyond failing hardware and simple human error into NASA's culture, to see if there were elements that all but compelled bad decisions. "It's more than just an accident report," Admiral Gehman said.

    23 August 2003: Hard-hitting report on Columbia disaster coming, AP

    "Force Brig. Gen. Duane Deal, a board member, says the report will be "a frank assessment of what we've seen has happened to NASA over the years and its current state." Even Gehman has hinted that the tone of the report may well be newsworthy, given its toughness. Yes, it will be ugly."

    22 August 2003: NASA- from the ground up, Daily News

    "Think about the ultimate reality show, now taking off with this crew - not going to the moon, been there, done that - but going to Mars," [Gene] Kranz said. "That would be a four- or five-month journey, and people could be living with this crew, and each day looking forward to this one step."

    22 August 2003: NASA Culture, Columbia Probers on Collision Course, Washington Post

    "O'Keefe said he considers the idea that NASA has a cultural problem "arguable." He said, "There clearly is a problem with the information flow and the decision-making process -- you can call that culture." But he said the principal lesson of the Columbia disaster is that "people are very fallible, people make mistakes" in judgment."

    22 August 2003: OneNASA web site on "Culture".

    Editor's note: NASA's recent "One NASA" efforts are just dripping with the word (and concept) of "culture". A few examples:


    "... One NASA's focus is cultural change. It was begun by NASA employees and is fully backed by NASA leadership."

    Recommendation 4: Organizational Culture: Revalidate and advance our common organizational values to build a unified culture. [details: "The pursuit of One NASA is more cultural in nature and will be somewhat more difficult to measure. You will know it when you see it."]

    22 August 2003: Congressmen: NASA Must Change 'Huge Blob Of Bureaucracy', AP

    "It's going to require us to knock some heads and to affix some accountability and to make sure certain people are let go and make sure changes are made. There's nothing that resists change more
    than a huge blob of bureaucracy," said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, chairman of the House Science Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics."

    22 August 2003: Behind the doors of Mission Control, USA Today

    "Anyone curious about the origins of NASA's flight culture, which has been under fire again since the loss of the shuttle Columbia in February, will find plenty of clues in the missions described in this two-hour documentary. Though failure may not have been an option, it was a real threat, and it still is today."

    21 August 2003: NASA braced for culture shock as Columbia inquiry reaches verdict, Nature

    "Asked whether that would apply to any call to reform NASA's culture, [Deputy Administrator Fred] Gregory said: "It would be difficult for me to define to you what the NASA culture is."

    22 August 2003: Remarks by President Bush After Meeting Local Economic Leaders - Excerpt Regarding Columbia Accident Investigation, White House

    "Let me first -- I've been a strong supporter of NASA. I want to look at the report before I comment. You may have seen the report; I haven't, in which case, I want to look at it. I do believe that a space program is important for a country that is trying to stay on the leading edge of technological change. But let me look and first see what the report says, how critical it is, what it says, what it means."

    21 August 2003: Columbia Accident Investigation Board Will Release Final Report on August 26, 2003, CAIB

    "ARLINGTON, VA - The Columbia Accident Investigation Board will hold a press briefing to discuss its final report on the cause of the February 1, 2003 Space Shuttle accident on Tuesday, August 26, 2003 at 11 a.m. EDT at the National Transportation Safety Board boardroom at 429 L'Enfant Plaza in Washington, D.C."

    20 August 2003: A Preview of Congressional Activity

    21 August 2003: Editor's Update: The House Science Committee will be holding a full committee hearing with Adm. Gehman on 4 September 2003. Unlike what I was first posted, this will not be a joint hearing with the Senate. Word has it that that The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation (chaired by Sen. McCain) is planning a hearing for 9 September 2003.

    Earlier Editor's Note: If the CAIB's report is delayed this could impact the planning for a long series of hearings on Capitol Hill. If the report is released on 26 August as planned, there will be at least one hearing per week by the House in September.

    NASA will most certainly be running a gauntlet in September.

    20 August 2003: CAIB Report Delayed?

    Editor's Update: NASA Watch has learned that editorial work on Volume 1 (which is approx. 250 pages in length) of the CAIB's final report should be finished by later today. This volume will be delivered to the printers tomorrow (Friday) morning. As such, it would seem that the original 26 August release date is still in effect.

    Editor's Note: According to sources NASA Watch has spoken with the CAIB's report was due at the printers this week (Monday). That has apparently not happened. The 26 August release date has yet to be confirmed by the CAIB. According to a CAIB representative, they will know whether the 26 August date will be met on Thursday. According to the same CAIB representative, the back-up date for the report's release is 3 September.

    When the report is finally issued it will be released in print form with a CD included which will have the report in PDF format. The final report will also be posted on the CAIB website, and one would expect, on NASA's website. One of the report's appendices is reported to have an extensive treatise on the history of the Space Shuttle program written in great part by John Logsdon. More to follow.

    18 August 2003: NASA support up after tragedy, USA Today

    "The public accepts some risk that astronauts will die. Only 17% considered any shuttle accidents "unacceptable." Slightly fewer than half, 43%, said they would accept one accident every 100 flights; 32% said they would accept an accident every 50 missions or fewer. Two shuttles have crashed in 113 flights."

    18 August 2003: Public support could prove crucial for NASA, USA Today

    "Similarly, few seem to closely follow developments in the space program. Only 35% of poll respondents knew that there is a U.S. astronaut in space now. NASA astronaut Ed Lu has been living in the International Space Station since April. Half the respondents thought no U.S. astronauts were in space."

    17 August 2003: Critical flaws in shuttles loom as potential disaster, Orlando Sentinel

    "An Orlando Sentinel review of NASA's hazard-evaluation studies and nearly 2,000 malfunction reports from the 113 shuttle flights found a half-dozen hardware systems -- all critical to successful launch, orbit and landing -- that have repeatedly faltered or failed during flight. In many instances, they have been treated and accepted in much the same fashion that NASA reacted to ongoing flaws that doomed Challenger and Columbia."

    15 August 2003: NASA Inspector General Issues Letter to NASA Administrator Regarding Observations on the Independence of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board

    "In his August 15, 2003, letter to Administrator Sean O'Keefe, Mr. Cobb said, 'Although NASA policy and the CAIB's original charter contained provisions that could have hindered an independent investigation, based on my observations, I believe the CAIB, under Admiral Harold Gehman's leadership, is and has been conducting its investigation independently and without undue influence from NASA."

    17 August 2003: NASA budget is T-minus and holding as Columbia probe is out, Orlando Sentinel

    "I don't think the Congress is going to be unwilling to spend more. But they want to know it's going to solve the problems, and they want to know it's going to get you somewhere in the long run, that it's not just a short-term fix," said Jim Muncy, an independent space-policy consultant at PoliSpace, based outside Washington, D.C."

    Editor's Note: Word has it that OMB is considering a $380 million supplemental appropriations request which would address Shuttle repairs, upgrades, and what it would take to accelerate the Orbital Space Plane project.

    13 August 2003: Uneasy e-mails could not shake NASA's feeling that all was well, Orlando Sentinel

    "NASA's top safety official knew about concerns that arose during shuttle Columbia's final mission, but -- like everyone else involved -- accepted the conclusion that the spacecraft and crew were in no danger, e-mails released Tuesday show."

    11 August 2003: Families of shuttle crew await report, AP

    "Clark, 50, thinks the preliminary recommendations the board has already made, including finding ways to do in-orbit inspections and repairs and better preflight safety checks, are very prudent. Still, he says, "It's one thing to say it but another to do it." Both he and Salton pointed to a NASA culture that may make questioning decisions difficult. "There's this cultural mind-set that's present here," said Clark. "It's not an evil thing. It's great to have that 'let's go' spirit, but sometimes you push things to beyond where you should. But this is not about fault, it's about cause."

    7 August 2003: NASA Watchdog Calls Columbia Decisions 'Shocking', Reuters

    "[Former astronaut and Task Force chair Richard] Covey told reporters at the Kennedy Space Center that he was not necessarily surprised that NASA suffered a second shuttle disaster, since "space flight is risky business and it will remain risky business." But he said he was disappointed there were so many management mistakes similar to those that preceded Challenger."

    7 August 2003: 'Risky Business', ABC

    "Covey said the task force may never quite assess the "cultural" issues within NASA that many experts say have plagued the space agency because the task force must finish its work a month before shuttle flights resume."

    6 August 2003: Asteroids Dedicated to Columbia's Crew, NASA

    "The final crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia was memorialized in the cosmos as seven asteroids orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter were named in their honor today."

    6 August 2003: NASA looks over reforms, vows to implement them, Orlando Sentinel

    6 August 2003: NASA assures board it will follow directives, Houston Chronicle

    6 August 2003: NASA targets spring 2004 for shuttle return, New Scientist

    "NASA cautions that the date is a planning target, not a deadline that must be met. The plan (STS-114) calls for Atlantis to deliver the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module to the International Space Station. The launch window from 11 March to 6 April meets "all the constraints" imposed on a return to flight, said Bill Readdy, NASA associate administrator for space flight."

    4 August 2003: Equations prove more reliable in NASA lab's Columbia study, SF Chronicle

    "Until 2003, scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration assumed that during a space shuttle launch, lightweight foam falling off the spaceship's external fuel tank wouldn't damage the shuttle. They were wrong."

    1 August 2003: Shuttle's problems, editorial, Orlando Sentinel

    "But NASA has been constrained as much by the limited vision of its leaders as by its limited budgets. If those leaders, starting with Administrator Sean O'Keefe, can persuasively articulate a compelling new vision for NASA, Congress is more likely to respond. Such a vision would include leaving low-Earth orbit, where astronauts have been stuck since the end of the moon missions, and heading for Mars. That's the best hope for recapturing the excitement that once energized the U.S. space program.But the future of the program is not secure with the shuttle. The sooner that NASA moves beyond it, the better."

    4 August 2003: Shuttle crews to look for damage, Orlando Sentinel

    "A July 31 internal NASA document obtained by the Orlando Sentinel details the options for surveying the shuttle's thermal-protection system in orbit and recommends testing possible repair techniques for the ship's protective heat tiles on the next mission."

    4 August 2003: Shuttle Inquiry Uncovers Flaws in Communication, NY Times

    "Edward R. Tufte, a professor emeritus at Yale University and an expert in the visual presentation of evidence, has expressed his dismay at the content of the transcripts from the Jan. 23 meeting. In March, Professor Tufte published a blistering critique of the Boeing studies used by NASA. He has since included the material in a course he teaches on presenting data and information, and in a booklet. He calls the crucial slide about the foam strike a "PowerPoint festival of bureaucratic hyper-rationalism" because, he said, it conceals far more than it reveals."

    ET on Columbia Evidence Analysis of Key Slide

    1 August 2003: Investigator Worries NASA Won't Change, AP

    "Board members and former NASA employees have pointed to attitudes of superiority, fear of retribution by lower-level employees, communications problems and strained relationships between key divisions of NASA as part of its difficult culture. Osheroff is also troubled that some managers who made crucial decisions during Columbia's flight seem unwilling to accept individual blame."

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    This page is an archive of recent entries written by Keith Cowing in August 2003.

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