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1 JeffFX  Fri, Feb 1, 2013 11:16:43am

I strongly disagree with their decision. They took away the goodbyes the astronauts could have had with their friends and relatives. This is horrible.

Nevermind…the story appears to be bullshit.

2 Political Atheist  Fri, Feb 1, 2013 11:31:50am

re: #1 JeffFX

What makes you say it’s bull?

3 Bubblehead II  Fri, Feb 1, 2013 11:32:12am

Video of Columbia’s takeoff showed a briefcase-sized chunk of foam breaking off an engine and colliding with the shuttle’s wing

Strange, I seem to recall that the only part of the Shuttle launch system that had any sort of insulation that tended to fall off during launch was the external fuel tank.

I am with JeffFX, this story is a crock of shit.

4 Destro  Fri, Feb 1, 2013 11:46:15am

re: #1 JeffFX

Is this real because if it is real then it is fucked up. We could not send up a Russian space capsule? The Cold War was over. We could not send up bottles of air and food till a replacement shuttle went in place, etc?

What the fuck were we doing since we landed on the moon?

Sorry, I am slowing down the anger - this story may be false…..

5 Ghost of a Dopefish  Fri, Feb 1, 2013 11:59:25am

I’m calling BS. Besides playing fast and loose with the facts, NASA had no way of determining the extent of the damage to Columbia solely from the launch video. Now it is true that NASA (and in particular, higher management) bungled attempts to investigate what they realized was a potential problem, but this does not prove foresight. The cited quote is given without context.

6 JeffFX  Fri, Feb 1, 2013 12:18:58pm

re: #2 Political Atheist

What makes you say it’s bull?

The comments on the article. It appears that one guy thought the orbiter would be destroyed on re-entry but NASA didn’t expect it.

7 erik_t  Fri, Feb 1, 2013 12:25:25pm

re: #5 Douchecanoe and Ryan Too

I’m calling BS. Besides playing fast and loose with the facts, NASA had no way of determining the extent of the damage to Columbia solely from the launch video. Now it is true that NASA (and in particular, higher management) bungled attempts to investigate what they realized was a potential problem, but this does not prove foresight. The cited quote is given without context.

When you’re talking about foam falling off of ‘an engine’, you’re starting at a severe credibility deficit.

8 erik_t  Fri, Feb 1, 2013 12:29:39pm

re: #4 Destro

Is this real because if it is real then it is fucked up. We could not send up a Russian space capsule? The Cold War was over. We could not send up bottles of air and food till a replacement shuttle went in place, etc?

To answer the questions, no, no, and no. At no time in history has any space power had the ability to launch anything on such short notice.

9 sliv_the_eli  Fri, Feb 1, 2013 1:02:13pm

Whether this story turns out to be true or false, there is probably not one of us who would have wished to be in the shoes of those at NASA who were faced with the difficult choices of how to deal with the damage that they almost certainly knew had occurred. FWIW, I am inclined to believe that NASA would have chosen to at least give the astronauts a chance of returning safely even if those chances were not great. Similarly, my belief in and respect for the tremendous courage that each and every astronaut on that mission had to even go into space in the first place leads me to believe that they would have chosen to take their chances attempting re-entry if the choice had been given to them. From what we, the public, have been led to believe, it does not appear that anyone actually knew the craft would not survive re-entry, such that the astronauts would have wanted or needed an opportunity to “say goodbye” beyond the one they had before taking off on the mission in the first place.

All of which is to say that none of this diminishes one iota the tremendous bravery shown by each and every human who has voluntarily chosen to travel into “outer space”, or the tragedy of what actually took place. May the souls of each and every member of that crew, and of their families and friends, know everlasting peace.

10 Political Atheist  Fri, Feb 1, 2013 1:24:50pm

re: #4 Destro

Is this real because if it is real then it is fucked up. We could not send up a Russian space capsule? The Cold War was over. We could not send up bottles of air and food till a replacement shuttle went in place, etc?

What the fuck were we doing since we landed on the moon?

Sorry, I am slowing down the anger - this story may be false…..

Space flight is very dangerous no matter what capsule or rocket you ride. The Russians have lost some people and had a couple terribly close calls.

11 erik_t  Fri, Feb 1, 2013 1:25:07pm

re: #9 sliv_the_eli

Whether this story turns out to be true or false, there is probably not one of us who would have wished to be in the shoes of those at NASA who were faced with the difficult choices of how to deal with the damage that they almost certainly knew had occurred.

They didn’t know it had occurred, or rather had no way to guess the severity. At the time there was no regular on-orbit examination of tiles for damage, and though some indication of foam impingement was seen in the review of launch footage while Columbia was on-orbit, there was no way to rapidly determine where the strike was, exactly, and how serious the damage might be. Foam-induced tile damage was a fact of life in the program, and at least half a dozen flights had returned with TPS damage from foam impingement.

12 Bubblehead II  Fri, Feb 1, 2013 1:30:48pm

re: #7 erik_t

When you’re talking about foam falling off of ‘an engine’, you’re starting at a severe credibility deficit.

Yep. That was what really caught my eye. Such an blatant technical error tends to make me skeptical about the rest of the story.

13 Tigger2005  Fri, Feb 1, 2013 8:42:43pm

It’s a moot point now since the space shuttle program has been retired, but…would it have added that much weight to the shuttle to have included emergency food supplies and a recycled oxygen system that could, in the event it was known safe re-entry was impossible, have allowed the astronauts to survive long enough for a rescue mission to be attempted?

14 Ghost of a Dopefish  Sat, Feb 2, 2013 5:17:09am

re: #13 Tigger2005

It’s a moot point now since the space shuttle program has been retired, but…would it have added that much weight to the shuttle to have included emergency food supplies and a recycled oxygen system that could, in the event it was known safe re-entry was impossible, have allowed the astronauts to survive long enough for a rescue mission to be attempted?

Short answer, yes. An emergency mission can’t just be prepped and launched overnight. After Columbia, Space Shuttle missions were flown with an emergency relief standing by, but these backup missions were planned and prepped beforehand and took a not-inconsiderable amount of time and effort. The Space Shuttle, believe it or not, barely had fuel enough to make it to low Earth orbit as it was; and for every pound they added, they would’ve needed to add 20 pounds of rocket fuel somewhere.

The real problem with Columbia is that NASA grew accustomed to foam shedding from the tank and accepted it as SOP. The original design specs called for no shedding, and launches were supposed to be scrubbed if an impact was detected. By the time of Columbia, they just figured that it was no big deal, and had no procedures in place to detect if a strike was damaging or not. As the above quote points out, though, it’s also true that they couldn’t have done much about it even if they could tell.

15 Tigger2005  Sat, Feb 2, 2013 6:33:46am

So, here’s another option. Have an unmanned emergency food, fuel and oxygen station already in orbit.

16 Ghost of a Dopefish  Sat, Feb 2, 2013 10:08:11am

re: #15 Tigger2005

So, here’s another option. Have an unmanned emergency food, fuel and oxygen station already in orbit.

The problem there is that there would either have to be a lot of these stations, or the Shuttle would have to have its onboard fuel allotment increased so that it had sufficient fuel to adjust orbit to meet up with one of these stations. I understand where you’re coming from, and I’m sure NASA has considered many options, but space travel is inherently dangerous mainly because there are so many engineering difficulties with what would otherwise be obvious contingency solutions.


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The computer can't tell you the emotional story. It can give you the exact mathematical design, but what's missing is the eyebrows.