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Space Science

Space Shuttle Columbia Breaks Up Over Texas 2398

An anonymous reader writes "NASA lost communication with space shuttle Columbia shortly before its scheduled landing on Saturday. It was unclear whether there were any other problems." Various news programs have been showing debris falling from the sky, and NASA has declared an emergency.Update: 02/01 15:29 GMT by H : Confirmation has come - the shuttle has broken up over Texas while coming in for landing Florida.
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Space Shuttle Columbia Breaks Up Over Texas

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  • Hrmmm... mars? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 01, 2003 @10:47AM (#5203270)

    Does this mean we won't be going to Mars?
  • by GMontag ( 42283 ) <gmontag@[ ] ['guy' in gap]> on Saturday February 01, 2003 @10:47AM (#5203276) Homepage Journal
    That looks NASTY. Glad I am not in North Texas.

    My feelings go out to the families, the people of the USA and the people of Israel.
  • Re:Space Shuttle (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 01, 2003 @10:49AM (#5203303)

    It seems like there may have been some insulation missing from one of the wings which may have hampered the shuttles entry. Or maybe the shuttle entered the earth's atmosphere too fast.
  • by chloroquine ( 642737 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @10:50AM (#5203307) Journal
    I was talking with the guy who repairs the autoclaves at my building yesterday about the challenger disaster. Our autoclave had a compromised O-ring. It turned out that he had done some electronics work for the Challenger and the Discovery back in the day. He ended up getting downsized and remembers thinking how his life was going badly, but at least there was the Challenger that he could point to proudly and say, "I was part of that." Obviously the disaster was both a national and personal tragedy for him. So this morning, looking at the news on the lab computer, it was a little eerie to read that NASA had lost contact with Discovery.
  • Terrorism? (Score:-1, Interesting)

    by SexyKellyOsbourne ( 606860 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @10:50AM (#5203315) Journal
    The first thing that came to my mind was this: Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda have attacked us by air (WTC 9/11), by sea (Yemen, USS Cole) and by land (Embassy Bombings) -- now, he has finally gone into the final frontier and attacked space. It is no coincidence that there was an Israeli astronaut aboard and the space shuttle blew up.

    According just now to Fox News, around the area where it broke up in space, electronics were reported shorted out -- meaning the space shuttle was hit with an EMP bomb!
  • Pieces? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by farnham ( 160656 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @10:51AM (#5203321)
    Is there any info on where the debris is landing? It look slike it could be from mid texas to misissippi. Do any of you have knowledge of where this stuff is landing?

    May god bless the souls of the brave men and women on board.
  • by black_widow ( 41044 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @10:53AM (#5203346) Homepage
    Remember how long it took to reinstate the STS program after the Challenger Incident?

    What are the chances NASA will send up STS 108 on schedule?

    Will they use the soyuz emergency capsule to return earthside?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 01, 2003 @10:56AM (#5203368)
    The most dangerous phases of any mission are currently launching from the ground and trying to land

    suborbital platforms enable you to do this in near space therefore avoiding the stresses incurred through gravity and atmosphere
  • Freaky (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hoagieslapper ( 593527 ) <> on Saturday February 01, 2003 @10:58AM (#5203378)
    The freaky part is this week was the 17th aniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.

  • Re:This is terrible (Score:4, Interesting)

    by debrain ( 29228 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:09AM (#5203480) Journal
    But once we are done with the grief and morning for these great people, the space program will be severely hampered from further progress. We need this program to continue, and I'm afraid we've just killed it for twenty years.

    Maybe it is not so bad for the space program itself. It was the first failure of the Apollo mission that sparked NASA's motivation, and inherent success, thereafter, I believe. The results of this, although acutely tragic, could certainly bring about renewed motiviation. If that is the case, then at least this loss will not have been in vain.
  • Re:Very sad... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:13AM (#5203523)
    Someone said, there was a minor damage to one
    of the wings during launch, but considered harmless...
  • Re:This is terrible (Score:3, Interesting)

    by handorf ( 29768 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:16AM (#5203547)
    I hope you are right, but I think you mis-estimate the current situation. Economic rough times, expensive war ahead, little precieved benefit.

    Within a year the ISS will be abandoned and manned space flights will be a novelty for the rest of my life.

    My thoughts go out to the families and us all. Finally the use of an aging orbiter fleet has come back to bite us.
  • by Snowhare ( 263311 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:34AM (#5203725)
    Following the Challenger disaster 17 years ago, Richard Feynmann came to the conclusion that catastrophic shuttle disaster had odds off approximately 1 in 100 (See RISKS Digest 18.09 []) based on the fact that 4% of unmanned space shots go bad - and presumably manned flight gets that 'extra' attention that would reduce their rate a bit.

    Challenger was flight STS-51L - this was flight STS-107. I'd say even Feynmann may have been somewhat optimistic (although 2 failures is a thin data set - anyone want to figure a chi-square on it?).
  • Appropriate Lines: (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:41AM (#5203792)
    Weave a circle round him thrice
    Close your eyes with holy dread
    For he on honeydew hath fed
    And drunk the milf of paradise.
    -"Kubla Khan", Coleridge
  • NOAA Radar (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dorko ( 89725 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:47AM (#5203841) Homepage
    NOAA weather radar / short range reflectivity for Mid-Texas [] shows a line of high return paralleling and just south of a line between Dallas and Tyler. It's time lapse. Quite a remarkable radar image.
  • NOAA Radar (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WeenaMercatur ( 591056 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:54AM (#5203880)
    Not exactly something most people probably want to see, but heres the radar track showing the breakup... shv.shtml
  • Shuttles. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Grendel Drago ( 41496 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:54AM (#5203885) Homepage
    No. The shuttle is a monstrously complex beast that NASA kept using because it had already sunk so much time and effort in. If technologies like the Rotary Rocket had made space flight simple, reliable and cheap, this wouldn't have happened, and it wouldn't have set the space program back twenty years.

    I now know how everyone felt in 1986, after the Challenger disaster.

    --grendel drago
  • by Karpe ( 1147 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:57AM (#5203906) Homepage
    can be found here [] (Google cache)
  • by LinuxParanoid ( 64467 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @12:01PM (#5203926) Homepage Journal
    My understanding is that the space station requires re-supply by the shuttle. After the Challenger explosion, shuttles didn't fly for another two years. Clearly the people on the space station require at the very least rescue if not re-supply. My question is this: how long can the folks in the space station last without another shuttle flight?

  • by rkent ( 73434 ) <rkent@pos[ ] ['t.h' in gap]> on Saturday February 01, 2003 @12:19PM (#5204016)
    At the risk of running OT, I highly doubt this is the end of project prometheus, although it is an excellent argument against it: just doesn't seem safe to fire up rockets full of nukes anymore.

    As evidence that the project will continue, I refer to this PopSci article:

    "The New War in Space" cle/0,12 543,334743,00.html

    Not because PopSci is really the definitive source on such issues, but because it contains some quotes from Rumsfeld about his (hence, the administration's) intent to "weaponize" space, and some analysis thereof.

    The choice quote, which I can't track down at the moment, is something like "All media (land, sea, air) have been used for combat, and it's unrealistic to think space will be any different." Unfortunately, I doubt the administration will be dissuaded by the deaths of 7 astronauts, or the broader implications of this tragedy relative to the safety of sending *anything* into space.
  • by Phoenix-kun ( 458418 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @12:21PM (#5204040) Homepage
    During a pre-launch interview with Payload Commander, Mike Anderson, he said this would be the heaviest shuttle ever upon landing due to the number of science experiments on board. Could they have been pushing the design parameters?
  • Fate of All Shuttles (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PingPongBoy ( 303994 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @12:24PM (#5204059)
    The space shuttle is an amazing technology, but all the shuttles are going to fly until they can't.

    This is an acceptable risk, and with the aging shuttle program Columbia is a timely wake-up call.

    It's time to redesign the shuttle
    - why does it have to re-enter so fast? (not to evade terrorist missiles) It should be able to fly itself anywhere after re-entry.
    - crew ejection
    - tiles falling off
    - can lift off and land in poor weather
    - more monitoring to know if something can go wrong (not acceptable to have a tile break off and not know what the consequences are)
  • "High Flight" (Score:2, Interesting)

    by two_socks ( 516862 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @12:27PM (#5204073) Homepage Journal
    "High Flight" Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there, I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung My eager craft through footless halls of air. Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace Where never lark, or even eagle flew - And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod The high untrespassed sanctity of space, Put out my hand and touched the face of God. John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
  • Re:Very sad... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by waytoomuchcoffee ( 263275 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @12:32PM (#5204099)
    " 20 or minutes or so " to hit the ground... i have to disagree. nowhere near that long. a minute or so, at most.

    You are correct, it wasn't 20. It was a bit over 3 minutes. My memory seems to have exaggerated after almost 20 years.

    "Analysis of crew cabin wreckage indicates the shuttle's windows may have survived the explosion. It is thus possible the crew did not experience high-altitude cabin decompression. If so, some or all of the astronauts may have been alive and conscious all the way to impact in the Atlantic some 18 miles northeast of the launch pad. The cabin hit the water at better than 200 mph on Scobee's side. The metal posts of the two forward flight deck seats, for example, were bent sharply to the right by force of impact when the cabin disintegrated.

    "The internal crew module components recovered were crushed and distorted, but showed no evidence of heat or fire," the commission report said. "A general consistency among the components was a shear deformation from the top of the components toward the +Y (to the right) direction from a force acting from the left. Components crushed or sheared in the above manner included avionics boxes from all three avionics bays, crew lockers, instrument panels and the seat frames from the commander and the pilot. The more extensive and heavier crush damage appeared on components nearer the upper left side of the crew module. The magnitude and direction of the crush damage indicates that the module was in a nose down and steep left bank attitude when it hit the water.

    "The fact that pieces of forward fuselage upper shell were recovered with the crew module indicates that the upper shell remained attached to the crew module until water impact. Pieces of upper forward fuselage shell recovered or found with the crew module included cockpit window frames, the ingress/egress hatch, structure around the hatch frame and pieces of the left and right sides. The window glass from all of the windows, including the hatch window, was fractured with only fragments of glass remaining in the frames."

    Several large objects were tracked by radar after the shuttle disintegrated. One such object, classified as "Object D," hit the water 207 seconds after launch about 18 nautical miles east of launch pad 39B. This apparently was the crew cabin."
  • by cscx ( 541332 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @12:35PM (#5204113) Homepage
    Fark posted a link to the NOAA radar site []. You can see the debris in the base reflectivity. Look at the loop images, yeech.
  • by MsGeek ( 162936 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @12:41PM (#5204138) Homepage Journal would probably have happened on the ground as the shuttle was being prepared for launch.

    I am old enough to remember the first flight of the good ship Columbia. Please bear in mind a few facts:

    The Columbia was the first Shuttle to blast off. The Enterprise was basically a glider that was used to test how well a Shuttle could land.

    It's old. 22 years old. It has flown 25+ missions and literally millions of miles.

    When the Columbia first landed in the early 1980s, there was concern for the safety of the Astronauts during re-entry. Nobody was entirely certain about whether or not the ceramic tiles would hold, and it was speculated that if a tile broke loose before or during reentry the entire heat shield would be compromised enough for the ship to break up under the stress of the friction of the atmosphere.

    I am not saying that this was the work of terrorists...there are so many things that can go wrong during reentry that a completely accidental breach of the heat shield is probably the most likely cause of the disaster. However, very simple "monkey-wrenching" of the heat shield could have caused this as well. If an infiltrator broke a tile or two in such a way that it wouldn't be readily apparant to final inspection, or maybe pried one or two loose...

    I have no doubt, however, that either Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or Hesbollah, all three and/or any combination of the three will claim responsibility for this event. I don't think AlQaeda will, because they seem to only take credit for things they actually have a hand in. Also I don't think that you will hear anything from the Palestinian Authority other than conciliatory words.

    Weird coincidence: smack dab in the middle of the debris field is a Texas town called Palestine.
  • by polyiguana ( 76056 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @12:44PM (#5204153)
    This was filed [] on the AP wire (and shown on the Washington Post's web site) just 32 minutes before the shuttle came down. Kind of eerie when you look at what David Brown said. -- Columbia Streaks Toward Florida Landing By Marcia Dunn AP Aerospace Writer Saturday, February 1, 2003; 8:28 AM CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- With security tighter than usual, space shuttle Columbia streaked toward a Florida touchdown Saturday to end a successful 16-day scientific research mission that included the first Israeli astronaut. The early morning fog burned off as the sun rose, and Mission Control gave the seven astronauts the go-ahead to come home on time. "I guess you've been wondering, but you are 'go' for the deorbit burn," Mission Control radioed at practically the last minute. Ilan Ramon, a colonel in Israel's air force and former fighter pilot, became the first man from his country to fly in space, and his presence resulted in an increase in security, not only for Columbia's Jan. 16 launch, but also for its landing. Space agency officials feared his presence might make the shuttle more of a terrorist target. "We've taken all reasonable measures, and all of our landings so far since 9- 11 have gone perfectly," said Lt. Col. Michael Rein, an Air Force spokesman. Columbia's crew - Ramon and six Americans - completed all of their 80-plus experiments in orbit. They studied ant, bee and spider behavior in weightlessness as well as changes in flames and flower scents, and took measurements of atmospheric dust with a pair of Israeli cameras. The 13 lab rats on board - part of a brain and heart study - had to face the guillotine following the flight so researchers could see up-close the effects of so much time in weightlessness. The insects and other animals had a brighter, longer future: the student experimenters were going to get them back and many of the youngsters planned to keep them, almost like pets. All of the scientific objectives were accomplished during the round-the-clock laboratory mission, and some of the work may be continued aboard the international space station, researchers said. The only problem of note was a pair of malfunctioning dehumidifiers, which temporarily raised temperatures inside the laboratory to the low 80s, 10 degrees higher than desired. Some of Columbia's crew members didn't want their time in space to end. "Do we really have to come back?" astronaut David Brown jokingly asked Mission Control before the ride home. NASA's next shuttle flight, a space station construction mission, is scheduled for March. The next time Columbia flies will be in November, when it carries into orbit educator-astronaut Barbara Morgan, who was the backup for Challenger crew member Christa McAuliffe in 1986.
  • Re:Space Shuttle (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Black Rabbit ( 236299 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @12:44PM (#5204158)
    What is it about this time of year for nasty space disasters?

    Jan 27th, 1967, Apollo 1
    Jan 28th, 1986, Challenger

    Now this?

    Withthe exception of Apollo 13, which ended in a successful rescue, all the most serious disasters in the NASA space program, the ones involving deaths of astronauts, have been in the last week of January and now the first week of February.

  • by hey ( 83763 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @12:54PM (#5204193) Journal
    Of course, this is a tragedy but its not the end of manned spaceflight as some people are saying.
    Perhaps the end of the shuttle but remember all the other NASA disasters we overcame.

    Since today underlines how dangerous launch/reentry is I think it illustrates that we should not be taking such big risks for dinky reward (ie to and from space station) ... lets go to Mars!
  • by Black Rabbit ( 236299 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @01:01PM (#5204224)
    Three now. Four including the original Enterprise. I wonder if they'll retrofit her now, to replace Columbia?

    For that matter, are/were there any astronauts/cosmonauts aboard Alpha? How are they going to get home now? I don't think there's going to be any shuttle missions for quite a while. Are we going to have to get lifts from the Russians?

    How about the whole ISS project anyway? Is this going to toast that for good, too?
  • by Flounder ( 42112 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @01:23PM (#5204338)
    I took my kids and tried to explain what happened. All they could keep asking was "What happened? Why did it break?"

    Which is exactly what I was asking myself when the Challenger exploded.

  • Re:Shuttles. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by random_static ( 604731 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @01:39PM (#5204436) Journal
    I now know how everyone felt in 1986, after the Challenger disaster.

    if anything, it was a bit worse then. there was a civilian aboard Challenger - Christa McAuliffe, because of whom that liftoff was watched on live TV in a lot of classrooms. the shuttle program was going full-bore then, too; it was a time when the things were supposed to be safe, effective, cheap lift to orbit. regular people didn't expect them to blow up spectacularly and kill all their crew back then, so it was more of a surprise and shock.

    but yeah, just about as bad the second time around too. goddessdammit, i just don't want there to be a third time. woulda, coulda, shoulda had the bloody DC-X by now...

  • Interesting radar (Score:3, Interesting)

    by T5 ( 308759 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @01:43PM (#5204454)
    I just checked the weather radar over the United States and found some interesting results. First, there were three of rapidly-disappearing streaks over the San Joaquin Valley, near Beale AFB, and near Reno, NV, laying parallel to the shuttle's path. Shortly after that, there were two simultaneous streaks north and south of Tuscon, AZ. Shortly thereafter there are also a lot of smaller, very intense echos in the area around Holloman AFB and El Paso, TX. Then a persistent cloud that of the time of this posting is drifting from between Lufkin and Longview, TX toward Alexandria, LA.

    If these streaks and point echoes are what I believe them to be, that is, parts of Columbia, she was in trouble before she made landfall in California or very shortly thereafter. The images we've been seeing on TV are several minutes after the first possible indications of trouble and show Columbia badly damaged.

    May God bless all who are affected by this tragedy.
  • Re:No doubt! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Enahs ( 1606 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @01:43PM (#5204456) Journal
    No, the second teacher was supposed to go to the Columbia after landing, to get a good look at it after landing and whatnot. There's all sorts of nice neat tidy coincidences on this flight, and I'm sure the data will be gone over with a fine-toothed comb. It's the week of the Challenger disaster, the Columbia flight right before it took up the second teacher to be green-lighted for a Shuttle mission, and the first Israeli in space was on this flight. I don't think that necessarily means that something evil was afoot, but there are certainly a number of interesting coincidences that make it more probable.
  • by automandc ( 196618 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @02:03PM (#5204588)
    ...that this was Columbia's first flight after being returned to service following extensive upgrades. NASA has been upgrading the avionics and other systems aboard the Shuttle fleet for the last several years, and Columbia was the most recent upgrade. Thus, even though everyone is harping about Columbia being "the oldest" shuttle, it is actually the oldest airframe, many parts of it (including engines and flight control) were actually the newest in the fleet.

    Interesting facts aside, this is a terrible tragedy. After an appropriate period of introspection and mourning, I hope that our government has the foresight to use this as the impetus to rethink the space program from the ground up, and reinvest in the types of endeavors that made the U.S. recognized leaders in the advancement of science and human exploration in the 1960s. It is time for NASA to be completely redesigned, and a new human space initiative begun with the bold, risk-taking nature that Americans have always been known for.

    Unfortunately, our current governemnt is led by what is most likely the most short-sighted administration of the past 100 years. The chances of this President using this tragedy constructively as a catalyst for postive change are about the same as one of the Shuttle astronauts phoning in from a payphone in East Texas.

  • by CommieLib ( 468883 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @02:34PM (#5204830) Homepage
    DFW's outstanding local coverage of the tragedy (the anchor is a pilot and really knows his shiznit about aviation tech) pointed out what must have been a huge piece breaking off before the contrail begins. I immediately said "bay door". He followed with that a moment later.

    It's obviously way early, but it's possible that the shuttle bay door was not secure, the ram pressure of reentry levered it open, the shuttle tumbled due to new aerodynamic forces, and the rest is, sadly, history.
  • Re:Several Comments (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mpe ( 36238 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @02:39PM (#5204872)
    Survival is possible... space shuttle was relatively slow, already mostly throught the atmosphere the crew may have been able to bail out, and they do have parachutes.

    Only compared with its orbital speed. Still many times the flat out speed of any other aircraft. You cannot simply bail out of something travelling at hypersonic speed. The only possible escape would be something like the F-111 capsule, which is not fitted to the Shuttle.
  • by Sepper ( 524857 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @03:08PM (#5205039) Journal
    Ironic that it happens 17 years (and a couple of days) after The chanllenger tragedy... Like they said on CNN, let's remember Reagan last words in the speech of the challenger disaster ( er.cfm): "We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God.' "
  • by Kaz Riprock ( 590115 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @03:15PM (#5205067) has a series of pictures [] put together with captions that were taken during the past 2 weeks on board the shuttle.

    You can also find a copy of the mission patch and an explanation at (don't remember the direct link, sorry).
  • by Vadim Makarov ( 529622 ) <> on Saturday February 01, 2003 @03:56PM (#5205282) Homepage
    I'm not a space expert, but the most sensible thing for my country (I'm Russian) would be to fully support ISS operation with its Progress and Soyuz spacecrafts, until the things are sorted out with the Shuttles. Perhaps cough up some extra cash on the Russian side, yes. That would also be a politically correct thing to do.

    This would mean the construction activity is halted (Shuttles were to deliver most/all new modules), but at least the station can be operated in its current configurations for the time being.

    I view the dual delivery systems (STS + Russian crafts) as a partial redundancy built into the ISS program. Don't we now have the exact case when this redundancy should be used?

    Any knowledgeable person to comment?
  • How many? How safe? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by geoswan ( 316494 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @04:34PM (#5205523) Journal
    How many shuttles have there been you ask? This was the 107th shuttle launch.

    I strongly recommend looking at Richard Feynman's account of serving on the committee to investigate the Challenger crash.

    He describes being shocked at how the figure one crash in 100,000 launches was floating around, with no justification behind it. When he talked with actual engineers, they had realistic views of the reliability of their particular sub-systems.

    Anyhow, the real figure was expect one disaster every one hundred launches or so.

    So two disasters within the first 107 launches is withing the predicted envelope.

    I feel sure all the astronauts are aware of this figure. If they were doing their homework they would have to have learned this. I feel sorry for their friends and family, but they too should have been aware of the gamble the astronauts were choosing to make.

  • by BTWR ( 540147 ) <americangibor3@y ... minus city> on Saturday February 01, 2003 @05:19PM (#5205799) Homepage Journal
    >My kids are watching cartoons and won't let me change the channel. :(

    I did the exact same thing when Challenger blew up. I was 6 years old and I wanted to watch USA Cartoon Express and my parents kept watching the news. I always felt a little weird about that - understandable, but weird.
  • by BTWR ( 540147 ) <americangibor3@y ... minus city> on Saturday February 01, 2003 @05:29PM (#5205862) Homepage Journal
    Ironic that it happens 17 years (and a couple of days) after The chanllenger tragedy

    And ironic that it happens 36 years (and a couple of days) after the Apollo 1 tragedy.
  • by XO ( 250276 ) <> on Saturday February 01, 2003 @05:35PM (#5205897) Homepage Journal

    I just think it's too bad that all of the U.S's space activity will stop for years now as they wring their hands over what went wrong, and how to do better next time.

    And they'll continue to use the same 8088 based microprocessors, and the same control software, and all the same hardware that is now mounting on 20-30 years old, because all new designs and projects keep getting cancelled.

    This should be a perfect excuse to get a NEW program going, completed, and get a NEW vehicle out there. The government should DEMAND it of NASA if NASA doesn't DEMAND it of itself.

    Yes, we've had relatively few space vehicle accidents compared to number of successful launches, orbits, flights, landings, etc.. and yes, I recognize that space travel is dangerous.

    I hope that this affects the right people in the right ways to make it the impetus for PROGRESS rather than to SIT ON OUR ASSES as NASA did for the 2 and a half years after Challenger. (yes, I know they were determining the cause and working to protect the other shuttles from that.. but come on. 2 and a half years of no flights?)
  • by Eric Green ( 627 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @08:28PM (#5207164) Homepage
    For the crime of testifying before Congress that NASA was skimping on safety, she was fired. Here is what she has to say about the situation (forwarded from Politech []):

    Two years ago, I was a highly decorated NASA engineer. I was awarded their highest medal, for Exceptional Achievement -- something that is usually reserved for senior managers -- because of my expertise.

    I was a safety engineer.

    I was removed from my GS-13 position, as an internationally-recognized authority on hypergolic propellants and explosives, and forced off the Kennedy Space Center. At gunpoint.

    Their excuse was that I had "abused government equipment." Because I sent a friend an e-mail joke.

    The reality was that I wouldn't play their "political ball."


    I told them that the technicians and engineers were overworked. I told them that there were too many managers and too many meetings and "dog-and-pony" shows. I told them that their senior "face time" play games, while they spent all their time plotting how to give each other pay raises, and left the guys on the floor to struggle day to day with obsolete and overpriced and unqualified equipment, was going to result in another Challenger.

    I was there for Challenger.

    I saw the same exact conditions happening again. Overpaid, lazy, irresponsible managers concerned solely with their climbing up their ladders.

    I told them they were skimping on inspections. I told them that the ground crews were asleep on their feet from exhaustion. I made as much noise as I knew how to make about the top-heavy bureaucracy sitting around in their fancy panelled offices, giving whorish press interviews in their smugness, while they did not have a clue what was going on in the real world where I was working.

    They fired me. They fired a GS-13 civil servant, with an Exceptional Service medal and ten dozen commendations. For sending an e-mail joke.

    In reality, for objecting to political fat-cats sitting on their fat rear ends and failing to do their jobs.

    Like Challenger, those who are most guilty are the ones who will attempt to make the most political capital out of it. But the blame for Columbia lies entirely and totally with the NASA administrators. They should all be investigated for their criminal negligence. They should all serve time in jail.

    I warned them. They did their best to destroy me, because I warned them.

    It's too bad that innocent astronauts paid with their lives for NASA managers greed and political ass-kissing.

    But I am not surprised.

    Two years ago, I warned them.

    Dian Hardison
    Cocoa, FL 32927

    Note: Her NASA biography [] is still online at a NASA site.

Heuristics are bug ridden by definition. If they didn't have bugs, then they'd be algorithms.