Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Columbia Shuttle Crew Not Told of Possible Problem With Reentry
ABC ^

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 ...


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: columbia; missioncontrol; nasa; spaceshuttle
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-5051-95 next last
Wow. Tough decision. Not tell them, or tell them and have them up there for a week thinking about slowly suffocating to death.
1 posted on 01/31/2013 8:35:35 PM PST by chessplayer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: chessplayer

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.


2 posted on 01/31/2013 8:42:29 PM PST by Inyo-Mono (My greatest fear is that when I'm gone my wife will sell my guns for what I told her I paid for them)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: chessplayer

You have to tell them. Let them make the decision.


3 posted on 01/31/2013 8:42:41 PM PST by InvisibleChurch (the mature Christian is almost impossible to offend)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: InvisibleChurch

I would have preferred not to know. A quick death on re-ntry is preferable to slow suffocation.


4 posted on 01/31/2013 8:46:28 PM PST by chessplayer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: chessplayer
Don't get me started about the “truth”

Wild ass guess..You've never been in the Military?...right?

5 posted on 01/31/2013 8:47:02 PM PST by M-cubed
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: chessplayer

They might have thought of something to do...

Beauraucrats want us all to die.


6 posted on 01/31/2013 8:48:32 PM PST by mrsmith (Dumb sluts: Lifeblood of the Media, Backbone of the Democrat Party!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: chessplayer
If they were children (you know, like Jim Henson's Astronaut Babies) then you can make the decision for them.

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.

7 posted on 01/31/2013 8:51:20 PM PST by dead (I've got my eye out for Mullah Omar.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: chessplayer

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?


8 posted on 01/31/2013 8:52:24 PM PST by MacMattico
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: mrsmith
They might have thought of something to do...

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?

9 posted on 01/31/2013 8:58:14 PM PST by doorgunner69
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: M-cubed

Don’t get me started about the “truth”

Wild ass guess..You’ve never been in the Military?...right?


Yeah, I have. What the hell does that snide ass question have to do with this?


10 posted on 01/31/2013 8:59:03 PM PST by chessplayer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: doorgunner69

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?


11 posted on 01/31/2013 9:01:36 PM PST by LukeL (Barack Obama: Jimmy Carter 2 Electric Boogaloo)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: chessplayer

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?


12 posted on 01/31/2013 9:02:59 PM PST by G Larry (Which of Obama's policies do you think I'd support if he were white?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: chessplayer
"Wow. Tough decision"

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.

13 posted on 01/31/2013 9:03:46 PM PST by jpsb
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: MacMattico
What if they wanted to pray before attempting reentry?

If they are not praying prior to re-entry I'm not sure what their prayers are worth anyway.

14 posted on 01/31/2013 9:04:26 PM PST by Starstruck (All goverments become tyrannical. Individuals determine when they do.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: LukeL

I believe that qualifies as a non-sequitor.....


15 posted on 01/31/2013 9:05:39 PM PST by doorgunner69
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: LukeL
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?

One of my Mom's friends was in exactly that situation...she lived 8 or 10 years after she knew about it.

16 posted on 01/31/2013 9:05:44 PM PST by garandgal
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: doorgunner69

No idea.

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.


17 posted on 01/31/2013 9:06:56 PM PST by mrsmith (Dumb sluts: Lifeblood of the Media, Backbone of the Democrat Party!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: chessplayer
What the hell does that snide ass question have to do with this?<<<<

*G*..answer the 7th post to ya...you'll get to see *W*

18 posted on 01/31/2013 9:07:41 PM PST by M-cubed
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: chessplayer

This was not the same NASA that saved Apollo 13.


19 posted on 01/31/2013 9:08:17 PM PST by Hoosier-Daddy ( "It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: dead

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.


20 posted on 01/31/2013 9:09:15 PM PST by UB355 (Slower traffic keep right)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: chessplayer

We hhas more than one shuttle, send the other one up with a repair kit.


21 posted on 01/31/2013 9:09:50 PM PST by Husker24
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: chessplayer

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.


22 posted on 01/31/2013 9:15:08 PM PST by Kirkwood (Zombie Hunter)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: chessplayer

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.


23 posted on 01/31/2013 9:15:16 PM PST by Axenolith (Government blows, and that which governs least, blows least...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: doorgunner69

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.


24 posted on 01/31/2013 9:16:56 PM PST by LukeL (Barack Obama: Jimmy Carter 2 Electric Boogaloo)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: chessplayer

I definitely think they should have been told there might be a problem


25 posted on 01/31/2013 9:17:26 PM PST by yldstrk (My heroes have always been cowboys)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Husker24

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.


26 posted on 01/31/2013 9:18:09 PM PST by rktman (Live the oath you took or get out of office!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

To: doorgunner69

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.


27 posted on 01/31/2013 9:19:09 PM PST by Kirkwood (Zombie Hunter)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: mrsmith
The "chance" came too late for them, with EVA tile patch kits, etc. Not a NASA guy, but I am pretty sure the jig was up for the crew. Other than some half-assed escape schemes for the ascent stage, they were stuck up there. Stay up and suffocate, or take your chances on reentry.

I was them, I'd go for the blaze of glory rather than the feeling of being buried alive.

28 posted on 01/31/2013 9:20:42 PM PST by doorgunner69
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: chessplayer
I think they did not perceive the true extent of the damage. It was a possibility not a certainty and debris had hit the shield on previous launches.

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..

29 posted on 01/31/2013 9:20:42 PM PST by montanajoe
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: MacMattico

“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?


30 posted on 01/31/2013 9:22:33 PM PST by garjog (Heroes Died. Obama Lied.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: Kirkwood
I hear you, but far different circumstances and resources.

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.

31 posted on 01/31/2013 9:26:38 PM PST by doorgunner69
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 27 | View Replies]

To: chessplayer

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.


32 posted on 01/31/2013 9:29:27 PM PST by Moonman62 (The US has become a government with a country, rather than a country with a government.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Kirkwood
They got Apollo 13 home with folder covers, duct tape, and incredible hands-on flying skills.

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?

33 posted on 01/31/2013 9:31:34 PM PST by doorgunner69
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 27 | View Replies]

To: doorgunner69

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’).


34 posted on 01/31/2013 9:32:35 PM PST by mrsmith (Dumb sluts: Lifeblood of the Media, Backbone of the Democrat Party!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 28 | View Replies]

To: chessplayer
'You know, there is nothing we can do about damage to the TPS (Thermal Protection System).

One of the other shuttles landed safely with a hole burned through the wing so damage to the thermal system wasn't necessarily fatal.

35 posted on 01/31/2013 9:33:44 PM PST by Moonman62 (The US has become a government with a country, rather than a country with a government.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: G Larry

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.


36 posted on 01/31/2013 9:35:55 PM PST by Andrei Bulba (No Obama, no way!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: chessplayer
I have a little more than 5,000 hrs, most of it King Air 200 time, but I also have t-37/38 time and various other aircraft.....I want to know no matter what.

It's not just my ship but my life and those I have aboard.

37 posted on 01/31/2013 9:36:24 PM PST by Kakaze (I want The Republic back !)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Moonman62
There’s steps that could have been taken to give them a chance to survive.

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.

38 posted on 01/31/2013 9:37:45 PM PST by doorgunner69
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 32 | View Replies]

To: Starstruck

Bull $hit...


39 posted on 01/31/2013 9:39:19 PM PST by GGpaX4DumpedTea (I am a Tea Party descendant...steeped in the Constitutional Republic given to us by the Founders.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: chessplayer

NASA lied to them. The decision makers should have to be in the position the astronauts were in.


40 posted on 01/31/2013 9:41:48 PM PST by GGpaX4DumpedTea (I am a Tea Party descendant...steeped in the Constitutional Republic given to us by the Founders.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Andrei Bulba
"I don’t believe NASA would have had them reenter if they knew for certain the craft would be destroyed."

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.

41 posted on 01/31/2013 9:59:08 PM PST by jpsb
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 36 | View Replies]

To: jpsb
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.

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.

42 posted on 01/31/2013 10:01:09 PM PST by Smokin' Joe (How often God must weep at humans' folly. Stand fast. God knows what He is doing)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: Smokin' Joe
I am relatively certain the Shuttle could have safely stayed on station (in orbit) for a week, maybe longer. There is little doubt that given a week either we or the Russians could have gotten supplies up there for a longer stay or perhaps fuel to get to the space station. If NASA knew the craft would not survive reentry it would not have reentered.
43 posted on 01/31/2013 10:08:46 PM PST by jpsb
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 42 | View Replies]

To: GGpaX4DumpedTea

Chapter and verse please?


44 posted on 01/31/2013 10:10:35 PM PST by Starstruck (All goverments become tyrannical. Individuals determine when they do.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 39 | View Replies]

To: doorgunner69
I would guess you are hinting at multiple atmospheric skips to slow down?

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.

45 posted on 01/31/2013 10:11:44 PM PST by Moonman62 (The US has become a government with a country, rather than a country with a government.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 38 | View Replies]

To: Smokin' Joe

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.


46 posted on 01/31/2013 10:27:02 PM PST by HiTech RedNeck (How long before all this "fairness" kills everybody, even the poor it was supposed to help???)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 42 | View Replies]

To: jpsb

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.


47 posted on 01/31/2013 10:58:35 PM PST by Wiggins
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 41 | View Replies]

To: chessplayer
Actually if you read the article carefully what Hale is saying that in hindsight NASA should have never gotten used to the idea that foam falling off the boosters was normal and in the event the shield was damaged they would not be able to do anything. His conversation just reflected the thinking of NASA at the time. After the event he came to the conclusion that the old assumption was wrong and like most here concluded everything must be done in the future to save the craft and crew.

Pretty much learning from mistakes as the airline industry learns from its crashes...

48 posted on 01/31/2013 11:05:35 PM PST by montanajoe
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: montanajoe

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.


49 posted on 01/31/2013 11:43:34 PM PST by Forward the Light Brigade (Into the Jaws of H*ll)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 48 | View Replies]

To: doorgunner69
"just wondering what other choices there could have been"

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.

50 posted on 01/31/2013 11:56:00 PM PST by UnwashedPeasant
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]


Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-5051-95 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson