Skip to comments.Columbia Shuttle Crew Not Told of Possible Problem With Reentry
Posted on 01/31/2013 8:35:29 PM PST by chessplayer
What would you tell seven astronauts if you knew their space shuttle was crippled on orbit?
It was a question that faced NASA's Mission Control considered after initial suspicions that something might be wrong with the shuttle Columbia as it was making its doomed reentry in 2003.
Wayne Hale, who later became space shuttle program manager, struggled with this question after the deaths of the Columbia crew 10 years ago. Recently he wrote about the debate in his blog, recalling a meeting to discuss the dilemma:
"After one of the MMTs (Mission Management Team) when possible damage to the orbiter was discussed, he (Flight Director Jon Harpold) gave me his opinion: 'You know, there is nothing we can do about damage to the TPS (Thermal Protection System). If it has been damaged it's probably better not to know. I think the crew would rather not know. Don't you think it would be better for them to have a happy successful flight and die unexpectedly during entry than to stay on orbit, knowing that there was nothing to be done, until the air ran out?"
(Excerpt) Read more at abcnews.go.com ...
If it was me, I would rather know and stay in orbit than merrily come back only to be blown apart and spread all over the Southwest.
You have to tell them. Let them make the decision.
I would have preferred not to know. A quick death on re-ntry is preferable to slow suffocation.
Wild ass guess..You've never been in the Military?...right?
They might have thought of something to do...
Beauraucrats want us all to die.
How insulting that these humps decided what these extraordinarily capable and brave adults were allowed to know about their own fate.
You tell them the risks and wish them luck.
I think you have to tell them. What if they wanted to communicate with a friend or family member? What if something could have been done, some how? What if they wanted to pray before attempting reentry?
I wait for your insight with bated breath......
Not being a smart arse, just wondering what other choices there could have been. Send the Russians up?
Don’t get me started about the truth
Wild ass guess..You’ve never been in the Military?...right?
If you had a aortic aneurysm and surgery was impossible, would you want to know, or just let it burst and drop down dead one day?
Never crossed anyone’s mind that someone on the crew may have a particular faith, and would have wanted the time to contemplate their eternity?
Easy decision to me, confirm damage, attempt repair if unable to repair keep space craft in orbit. Shuttle could at some point be repaired and safely returned to Earth. Crew is doomed, but space craft is not.
If they are not praying prior to re-entry I'm not sure what their prayers are worth anyway.
I believe that qualifies as a non-sequitor.....
One of my Mom's friends was in exactly that situation...she lived 8 or 10 years after she knew about it.
But, having come up with solutions when I have been in impossible desperate situations, I believe they could have, might have, too.
‘Neccessity is the mother of invention’ would apply. Maybe they could not have helped themselves but at least they could have tried.
I would want the chance.
*G*..answer the 7th post to ya...you'll get to see *W*
This was not the same NASA that saved Apollo 13.
My thought is that they know the risks going in. They would have reconciled this with their loved ones prior to the mission. WIth no ability to alter their fate onboard I agree with the decision.
We hhas more than one shuttle, send the other one up with a repair kit.
I would want to know and have a chance to say goodbye to loved ones before leaving orbit. Then give it a best shot getting back home.
No, not a tough decision. You tell them something is or is possibly F***ed up, and give them a chance to find a solution, and/or use every second to get something else up there to get them down.
Why? Both are death sentences and there is nothing that can be done. Those that know can either let you live in ignorant bliss or tell you of your fate. This decesion goes on 1000s of times a year with the elderly. Their loved ones know about their fate and must make the choice to tell them or let them live out their last moments with not knowing.
I definitely think they should have been told there might be a problem
Having worked on the STS for 36+ years (1975-2011), that would have been nice. Unfortunately the processing time involved to ready another orbiter in time was impossible. Even if the damage had been confirmed there would not have been time regardless of how many hours were worked. That was a real crappy day to say the least. My wife and I were watching NASA select awaiting Columbia’s return. When the twin sonic booms did not happen I told her it was going to be a bad day because they didn’t land late and they didn’t land somewhere else. Watching the controllers at JSC during the last few minutes was gut wrenching.
They got Apollo 13 home with folder covers, duct tape, and incredible hands-on flying skills. Who knows what someone might have thought up for a solution.
I was them, I'd go for the blaze of glory rather than the feeling of being buried alive.
The guy is trying to sell his book..needs to make it more dramatic than any talk of damage probably was at the time IMO..
“I think you have to tell them. What if they wanted to communicate with a friend or family member? “
Yes, what if you were denied last words to your wife?
Question: Couldn’t they send up a rescue vehicle or something?
Perhaps you have more insight into what might have been accomplished?
Apollo 13 had an intact reentry module. They just had to get it into position and tough it out without freezing or running out of O2. They had a way to get down.
It seems like some here do not appreciate just what reentry actually entails. It ain't a parachute drop.
The Columbia was the heaviest shuttle reentry ever, and into a dense winter atmosphere. There’s steps that could have been taken to give them a chance to survive.
I await your explanation for what any of that has to do with a viable reentry vehicle, and not just getting into position for reentry?
I think they’d rather have died trying than died oblivious. And, as was noted above, the shuttle might have been saved at the cost of their death by
suffocation. Maybe they’d have rather done that.
Heck, maybe an EVA to fill in the missing tiles with oatmeal... who knows. Desperate people sometimes find solutions- (though usually they make things worse in this case there was no ‘worse’).
One of the other shuttles landed safely with a hole burned through the wing so damage to the thermal system wasn't necessarily fatal.
There is a big difference between a possible problem and knowing the mission was doomed. I don’t believe NASA would have had them reenter if they knew for certain the craft would be destroyed.
It's not just my ship but my life and those I have aboard.
I would guess you are hinting at multiple atmospheric skips to slow down?
Interesting if that does work, maybe NASA was too risk-averse by then to try such an untried strategy? No one had ever done such a thing on purpose as far as I know, but a few Russions came down a good ways off from planned.
NASA lied to them. The decision makers should have to be in the position the astronauts were in.
I agree, I worked on Shuttle and Space Station, if NASA was certain of damage they would have told the crew. If the crew was capable of leaving the space craft (EVA) then the crew was capable of attempting repair. No way NASA would not have given them the change to try something.
I am calling BS on this story.
Admitting there might be a problem is the first step to finding a solution. It worked with Apollo 13, and who knows what the world's minds could have come up with in a week? Just the notoriety of 'saving the shuttle' would have had some of the best amateurs and professionals on the globe taking a crack at a solution--either to keep the astronauts alive until they could be evacuated, or to repair the shuttle.
Chapter and verse please?
The shuttle made turns as part of its reentry program. They could have changed the program to take pressure off the bad wing. I don't know if they could have dumped the entire Spacehab module overboard, but they could have dumped a lot of equipment to reduce weight. The other step they could have taken would have been to land at the alternate sight in Australia where it was was warmer and the atmosphere less dense.
I’d sure like to think so... like an ICBM getting refitted to carry more oxygen and supplies to the crippled craft using something like a net to achieve handoff, if necessary trying it several dozen times till the net catches, then a spacewalk to get the stuff and unhook the net.
I would hope that if NASA knew Columbia was doomed they would have attempted something like keeping it in orbit and supplying it with life support from unmanned rockets until another shuttle could be launched for rescue or maneuvering it to ISS where the shuttle crew could wait for rescue. I think they would have tried something. At least I hope they would of.
Pretty much learning from mistakes as the airline industry learns from its crashes...
The American way is to try—not trying, giving up, is un-American. There could have been a way to get them down—or at least had the prayers of a nation help them back. Something should have been attempted—even asking the Russians for help. Pride, PR, and arrogance cost these brave men their lives. Even if they died—they at least tried. Like the people in the burning twin Towers who tried to make parachutes and jump to freedom—didn’t work but a noble attempt.
Wasn't it the same thing with Apollo 13? The crew improvised and came back alive.
The Shuttle astronauts might have gone out on a spacewalk and improvised a fix. They should have been given a chance.