Skip to comments.New images of Columbia under study
Posted on 04/11/2003 9:42:07 PM PDT by BenLurkin
NASA has released six new images captured by an Air Force telescope in Hawaii showing the shuttle Columbia in orbit days before it broke apart during its return to Earth.
The images - three photographs and three infrared images - were studied in detail by the board investigating the disaster but appeared to be of little use to officials. Columbia flew most of its mission upside down relative to Earth, so the images showed only the top of the spacecraft.
Investigators suspect Columbia suffered crippling damage to the lower part of its left wing when a 2-pound chunk of insulating foam smashed against it 81 seconds after liftoff.
The six slightly grainy images do not show obvious damage to Columbia's left wing, although details like the cockpit windshield and protective panels along the wing's edge are visible. The shuttle was orbiting at an altitude of about 172 miles.
The images, quietly published weeks ago on part of NASA's Web site, were captured Jan. 28 - four days before Columbia's breakup - by powerful telescopes at the Air Force Maui Optical and Supercomputing Site, at the crest of the dormant volcano Haleakala.
The facility includes the nation's largest optical telescope for tracking satellites, the 75-ton, 3.67-meter advanced electro-optical system.
Telescopes at the Maui facility routinely monitor space shuttles' flights over the Pacific.
I remember seeing some similar shots earlier, but don't recall if it was Columbia or another bird. In any event, the open payload doors/radiators occlude the part of the wing where the damage is thought to be, from RCC #6 on forward; I believe it shows #9 on back.
[If you want off or on my Columbia ping list, let me know. FReegards.]
we have witnessed the beuracratic "Darwin Award" process in action at NASA over the last 20 years. If they challenge the bean counters, the Proxmire and Mondale inspired upper level political mangement team, and demand things like taking the necessary images to look for damage, which might upset the carefully constructed "normal" flightplan, then they'll be weeded out as a "trouble maker." The ones left, however capable and dedicated, are those who don't have the power to stand up and make a change, for if they do they are squeezed out. They stay, swallow their objections, so that they can make some difference and hold it all together with chewing gum and bailing wire. And when some REMF screws up and it spirals out of control, they're the ones that take it in the neck.
Some entrepreneur will come along, find a way to make a profit out of working in space (note the closing of the California open pit gold mines by ecological regulations as one likely investment kicker for seriously looking at asteroid mining) and we'll take space travel back from the beuracrats. I think we'll be able to hire the guys with the "right stuff" back into the private sector without much trouble.
Will someone please hire Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven to build a business plan for getting this stuff done?