Skip to comments.'I think they would rather not know. Wouldn't it be better to have a...successful flight and die...'
Posted on 02/01/2013 3:18:12 PM PST by iowamark
NASA has revealed that the Columbia crew were not told that the shuttle had been damaged and they might not survive re-entry.
The seven astronauts who died will be remembered at a public memorial service on the 10th anniversary of the disaster this Friday at Florida's Kennedy Space Center.
The shuttle was headed home from a 16-day science mission when it broke apart over Texas on February 1, 2003, because of damage to its left wing.
Ten years ago, experts at NASA's mission control faced the terrible decision over whether to let the astronauts know that they may die on re-entry or face orbiting in space until the oxygen ran out...
There was no way to repair any suspected damage - the crew were far from the International Space Station and had no robotic arm for repairs. It would have taken too long to send up another shuttle to rescue them.
Wayne Hale, who went on to become space shuttle program manager, has written on his blog about the fateful day.
Mr Hale writes: '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 dailymail.co.uk ...
Not telling them was the kindest thing to do. That would’ve been my call, too.
Heartbreaking. I think that they made the right decision.
Any warning that I can get that I am about to meet my Maker would be appreciated. Same reason I would have told them. (To say nothing of last massages to family and loved ones).
I remember feeling so incredibly impotent. I can only imagine how mission control felt, having to make that horrible choice.
It surely is. And living with that decision must be tough.
I 100% agree. Not telling them was the wrong answer.
Tough decision. But I still would have wanted to get the choice to pray and say goodbye to my loved ones.
That was my thought too, they could have had a chance to make their peace and say their goodbyes at least. I guess what you think the kindest choice is may depend on whether you’re an atheist or not.
It is the better decision to allow their deaths to be sudden and unexpected, than to have them anticipate a suffering before hand.
I think the crew should have been told. If they would have wanted to orbit longer, they might have felt better about being empowered to make that decision themselves than burning up in surprise, even if that burning only took several seconds.
Remember, some of the Challenger crew might have survived several minutes, even after hitting the ocean.
I think the information should’ve been made public, such that millions might have prayed for their safe return, though it might have seemed beyond all hope. All the more glory to God if through prayer, disaster might have been averted.
By coincidence, I’m a friend of one of McCool’s grandfathers, but I don’t believe that has influenced my opinion.
FR live thread from that day:
If it had been me, I would have wanted to know.
It is hard to say. I personally would rather not know.
I had a Cousin, actually he was my Father’s First Cousin die near the first of January. His Doctor had told him around six months ago that he had an inoperable aneurism in the aorta which would kill him fairly soon. As luck would have it, he was at one of his Daughter’s birthday celebration when it burst. His entire family was there in Nashville.
On January 26, there was a memorial service held near here.
His Son said he had a couple of minutes with his family before he passed out. He told them he was not afraid to die, then according to his Son he told the family that he loved them all then passed.
In his case I think it was good that he knew what was happening. He was also very religious and had been a pastor for around 60 years.
Plus, they might have wanted a choice in how they die. If you had a choice, would you rather die of lack of oxygen or risk being ripped in half on re-entry?
But I agree, the most compelling reason is to make peace with your family and maker. I would have wanted to know.
I wouldn’t want God to be surprised with my sudden, unannounced arrival at the pearly gates.
And neither would I. :)
Any trip into space is a potential suicide mission and I think I would make sure I said what I had to say before launch.
Would rather have the opportunity to send my PIN codes and regards.
Why not have compromised..say, told them maybe 2-3 days before scheduled re-entry..that would have given them time to pray, ( they could have received the last rites) and speak with their loved ones. I would have wanted that..the time, the chanced to say goodbye..
Alternatively, some might have wanted to have videos recorded in Houston to be shown to there loved ones later one, days, weeks, or years later. Several had children..imagine being able to record a video(s) to be shown to your daughter at her graduation, or her wedding, or the birth of your grandchild. I would have wanted the chance to leaved that type of legacy..
OTOH, I've never read anywhere if the astronauts do thats sort of thing, or not, before each flight. In Lovell's book "Lost Moon" about the Apollo XII mission, he writes about the plans the Apollo astronauts made in the event of an accident. There were no suicide pills on the lunar lander. All they had to do was depressurize the cabin, and death would have been near instantaneous
Does anyone know if this bit is true, or if it’s tin-foil-hatdom?
Did “Environmentally Friendly” Materials Cause Shuttle Disaster?
August 27, 2003
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said recently that it had discovered what caused the space shuttle Columbia to break apart as it re-entered the atmosphere: a piece of “environmentally friendly” foam had peeled off the external fuel tank and struck the shuttle’s wing shortly after liftoff.
In its zeal to use “environmentally correct” materials, NASA had stopped using Freon-based foam because of the damage supposedly done by Freon to the ozone layer, claims John Berlau (Insight on the News), even though the agency had observed for years that bigger pieces of this new foam were likely to fall off.
Experts say this isn’t the first time that substituting “politically correct” materials for older, more reliable ones has brought about disastrous results:
After the 1986 Challenger explosion, a scientist from the U.S. Geological Survey found that a new asbestos-free putty had allowed hot gases to burn through a joint in one of the solid rocket boosters.
In 1997, after the first space shuttle launch using Freon-free insulating foam, NASA scientists found that nearly 11 times as many of the shuttle’s ceramic tiles were destroyed, compared to flights with the foam containing Freon.
Since the 1970s, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and various environmentalist groups and politicians have pressured NASA to use “environmentally friendly products,” even though old materials had proven effective with little or no harm to humans. Since then, most of the space shuttle fleet had already been designed with the new, environmentally-safe foam, says Berlau.
Source: John Berlau, “Lost in Space,” Insight Magazine, August 4, 2003.
The people sent on space missions are of the highest caliber. They would have been able to handle it.
Even so, in the final brief moments, they knew what was happening.
Thanks for that link.
Depressing,but still incredible to read.
It’s hard to discuss but doesn’t it make sense that a “death is certain” scenario would be part of their training? Are there no cyanide tabs (or equivalent) or anesthetics available to the crew, just in case it’s determined they are walking into a very violent death? It would seem that would be part of the training.
Am I the only person who has no memory of this event? It was only ten years ago, but the story is completely unfamiliar to me.
It was a chicken s#!* descision not to tell the crew. They had a right to know the truth. An hour to make peace, ask for forgiveness, and say goodbye is the least they were owed. I would have felt betrayed in the last minutes when we relized our ship was burning up on re-entry. Betrayed. And any crews that come afterwards will know mission cammand has lied in the past.
How many sent messages and called home when the Twin Towers were hit knowing their fate?
I think they should have been told!
When the last moments of a person’s life are known they need that time to make peace with their Maker! My Father knew about 6 hours before the end, he was angry and combative, but when I asked him if he needed spiritual guidance and a need to talk with his pastor not believing death was imminent and asked me if I thought it was that close. He being a 20 year Platoon Sargent I replied Yes Sir I do! The DR. had given me the look and the nod so I knew! I also told him he had nothing to lose by talking to a Man of God! So within the hour our Pastor was there! I did not stay for the conversation as I felt it was a private affair! After the Pastor left a Calm had come over my Father I had never seen before. I can imagine after 2 wars and a Military Career of 20 years a lot could have been on the back burner! I felt, that of all I ever did for my Dad this was my best gift of all! RIP Sarge!
Inside Mission Control During STS-107 Columbia’s Failed Re-entry and disaster 19:48
Why is the government telling us this info 10 years after?
- They knew the truth then, but withheld it?
- This is not the truth, but a cover story.
The government has lied in so many circumstances it’s impossible to take anything they say at face value.
Anticipating a hard death would have been eased if that crew had known that their ground team were doing everything they could do to try to save them. It sounds like they didn't even respect the crew enough to consider allowing them to make the decision on whether to stay in orbit hoping for a miracle or going for re-entry and taking their chances.
Just a thought, how much would any one of us pay to have a last conversation with a dearly loved one?
Something tells me the pilot and mission commander knew they were in big trouble more than a few seconds before breakup.
Read the transcripts.
Not sure if I would want advanced warning or not because I’d sit there helpless and hope it doesn’t hurt too bad when it breaks up.
RIP, crew of Columbia!
Without a doubt.
I think it was a terrible, cowardly, and shocking decision. The astronauts (and engineers on the ground) might have come up with alternatives if they had known and not been forced into a default give-up. Necessity truly is the mother of invention in situations like that. Recall Apollo 13 and how those astronauts and engineers beat the odds by improvising.
I didn’t have quite the impact of the Challenger but it was pretty well a news everywhere event.
I can still remember exactly when I learned of the Challenger disaster but I don’t recall the exact time when I learned of Columbia.
I remember following the live landing thread on FR and when it was more than a couple minutes overdue over Canaveral I feared the worst.
I think they made the right decision by not telling them. However I find the lack of a rescue backup plan unacceptable. They had already lost Challenger, had extra shuttles and a space station and yet the policy seemed to be to not even try a rescue. My guess is they would rather risk a sudden explosion (one screw-up) than a possible failed rescue attempt (2 screw-ups).
Here is an article on that topic as FYI
As several have said, I think they should have been informed. They were well trained big boys and girls.
It would be one thing if someone inside their family made the judgement call about informing them, but not an outsider who didn’t know them intimately. They put their lives on the line and someone sitting on the ground couldn’t square up with them and tell them the truth? OK, if it was just a minute or milliseconds I can see it, but even then...
On the other hand, I never shared the details of my son’s post-mortem autopsy. Of course at that point it doesn’t matter, but I wanted to know everything.
Who really knows what is truth and what is not...coming from Washington D.C.
The only difference being that they couldn't fix the hole in the wing...even if they had the tools, training, oxygen and time.
The crew was dead the minute the insulation hit the wing.
With Apollo 13, they were going to make it back to earth no matter what (safe return trajectory), they just had to keep the crew alive long enough to make it to reentry.
“Did Environmentally Friendly Materials Cause Shuttle Disaster?”
This was reported by the investigative team after the disaster.
Seven dead astronauts, a couple billion in lost materials and missions, but at least the ozone layer is safe.
Sir, please accept my sincerest gratitude for the sacrifice and loss of your beloved son. I can never thank you nor him enough for my freedom.
“The crew were all adults; all highly trained professionals who were aware of the risks involved and of the distinct possibility that they could die on the mission.”
The East Indian lady, Mrs. Chawla, had made comments well before her death, that if there would be a planned trip to Mars she would jump at the chance even if it was a one-way trip and death was assured.
The crew and the public should have been told. Maybe the Russians had a capsule that could have been sent up quickly or an USAF missile carrying oxygen tanks or any number of things including letting them die up there and retrieving their bodies in whole for later burial.
There is just no way the NASA bureaucrats could have ever told the astronauts.
Telling the truth simply isn’t in the DNA of any government bureaucrat.
Unless there is absolutely no way to avoid it, and then only after at least a decade has passed, and even then expect only a partial truth.
Once informed, then it would have been COL Husband's call whether to inform the rest of his crew. To cut him out of the NASA decision loop/chain of command was just plain wrong. I can't help but believe an USAF O-6 like COL Husband would have understood.
Well, as long as NASA management took the time to make sure Muslims felt good about math and science, that’s all that matters.