Wednesday, Feb 26, 2003
Wow. CNN PDF'ed and published a packet of the emails (2.2meg PDF) that went around NASA in the days days before the Columbia disaster. Reading the exchanges is truly fascinating. I'm only on page 9 of 27 now, but it's really clear that a lot of relevant people were aware of the risks, and did what they could to work out disaster scenarios if the wheel well was breeched.
The undercurrent to most of the correspondence was that if it was a problem it could easily become a catastrophic problem, but if the Shuttle made it through the early stages of re-entry, they needed to have decisions regarding bailout or landings sans-gear already decided.
It's horrible that this happened, and worse that more data wasn't available, especially now that detailed investigation found what was probably several tiles in orbit near the orbiter after an orbiter translation (not sure if it was an OMS burn or just an RCS adjustment).
Anyhow, if you're curious, or just morbid, it makes for very interesting reading, both from a historical and an organizational perspective. All in all, I feel this is a different NASA than the one that decided to launch Challenger, but accidents can still happen.
If you decide not to read it, don't worry, I'm sure the movie-of-the-week special will probably be out by September.
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