News Alert: Space Shuttle Columbia Lost Prior To Landing

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News Alert: Space Shuttle Columbia Lost Prior To Landing

Post by GaryEA » Feb 1st 2003, 12:33 pm

As reported by various news agencies, the space shuttle Columbia broke up over Central Texas while en route to it's scheduled landing in Florida.

At this time, it is being reported that debris has fallen over parts of Texas.

There has been no official word from NASA or the White House as to the cause of the tragedy. The only official facts are that NASA lost contact with the shuttle Columbia shortly before the apparent break-up, and that the break-up was clearly visible over Texas and the region. Further details will emerge over time as NASA makes it's investigation.

It should also be noted that there are no signs of terrorism in relation to this event.

The following is the initial report from Reuters news service...
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - The space shuttle Columbia was feared crashed in Texas on Saturday with seven astronauts on board after it lost contact with NASA minutes before landing.

Television images showed several white trails in the blue sky, which could be an indication of the breakup of the shuttle because normally only a single trail is visible. Officials immediately warned about the possibility of toxic debris in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The U.S. space agency said it scrambled rescue units to search in Texas for the shuttle and its astronauts, which included the first Israeli to fly on the shuttle, Col. Ilan Ramon. There was no immediate indication of any foul play, officials said.

A NASA spokesman said the agency lost contact with the shuttle, which was completing a 16-day mission, at around 9 a.m. while it was 207,000 feet above the Earth, and 16 minutes out from its scheduled landing at Kennedy Space Center.

It was almost 17 years to the day that the Challenger shuttle exploded on Jan. 28, 1986, killing all seven astronauts on board.

NASA would say only that it had declared a "contingency" and that search and rescue units had been scrambled to search for any wreckage.

NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe at Kennedy Space Center in Florida had no comment.

President Bush was briefed on the situation at the Camp David presidential retreat outside Washington, and citizens in the Dallas-Fort Worth area were warned not to approach any wreckage they might find.

NASA mission control in Houston said, "Any debris that is located in the Dallas-Fort Worth vicinity should be avoided and may be hazardous due to the toxic nature of propellants used on board the shuttle and should be reported to local law enforcement authorities."

In Palestine, Texas, a city southwest of Dallas that could be on a flight path that would turn up debris, police spokesman Steve Petrovich said, "We've gotten numerous calls throughout the city of some type of sonic-type boom and people seeing vapor trails."

Columbia is NASA's oldest shuttle and first flew in 1981.

There were numerous eyewitness reports of the shuttle apparently breaking apart, with several trails seen as it headed toward Earth.

Dan Archer told local television from Waco, Texas. "I kept tracking the shuttle and then it appeared to be breaking up."

Another witness told CNN: "We heard a rumble. It eventually got to where our house was shaking ... it lasted for about a minute and a half. It felt like you lived with a railroad in your backyard."

Weather forecasters had predicted clear skies and light winds at the Kennedy Space Center. NASA headquarters said there had been no reported difficulties from the shuttle before it lost contact with ground control.

The shuttle's seven astronauts had closed out science experiments conducted on the 16-day mission, which had been deemed a success by scientists and NASA officials.

The astronauts had conducted more than 80 experiments on behalf of NASA and the European, Japanese, German and Canadian space agencies, as well as numerous student and commercial investigations. The shuttle did not visit the International Space Station on this trip.
Our thoughts and prayers go to the astronauts and their families.

Thank you.

Gary
Last edited by GaryEA on Feb 10th 2003, 1:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by GaryEA » Feb 1st 2003, 12:55 pm

Official statement from NASA:

(please note that this is the first statement and may not reflect current developments)
NASA STATEMENT ON LOSS OF COMMUNICATIONS WITH COLUMBIA

A Space Shuttle contingency has been declared in Mission Control, Houston, as a result of the loss of communication with the Space Shuttle Columbia at approximately 9 a.m. EST Saturday as it descended toward a landing at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla. It was scheduled to touchdown at 9:16 a.m. EST.

Communication and tracking of the shuttle was lost at 9 a.m. EST at an altitude of about 203,000 feet in the area above north central Texas. At the time communications were lost. The shuttle was traveling approximately 12,500 miles per hour (Mach 18 ). No communication and tracking information were received in Mission Control after that time.

Search and rescue teams in the Dallas-Fort Worth and in portions of East Texas have been alerted. Any debris that is located in the area that may be related to the Space Shuttle contingency should be avoided and may be hazardous as a result of toxic propellants used aboard the shuttle. The location of any possible debris should immediately be reported to local authorities.

Flight controllers in Mission Control have secured all information, notes and data pertinent to today's entry and landing by Space Shuttle Columbia and continue to methodically proceed through contingency plans.

News media covering the Space Shuttle should stay tuned to NASA Television, which is broadcast on AMC-2, transponder 9C, C-Band, located at 85 degrees West longitude. The frequency is 3880.0 MHz. Polarization is vertical and audio is monaural at 6.8 MHz. Reporters can also go to any NASA center newsroom to monitor the situation.

New information, including the times and locations of press briefings, will be posted to this page.

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Post by GaryEA » Feb 1st 2003, 1:17 pm

CNN has reported that the Space Shuttle Columbia, including it's crew of seven astronauts, has been officially declared as "lost".

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Post by GaryEA » Feb 1st 2003, 1:36 pm

I'm going to stop updating unless significant details come through. You can watch continuing coverage on most, if not all, of the major networks and news outlets, as well as the Internet.

Thanks.

Gary

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Post by andrewgd » Feb 1st 2003, 2:24 pm

I feel really bad for the people and families in the crew. But I feel even worse for our Space program.

It took us around 5 years to recover from the Challenger. This wasn't what we needed at a time when we were starting to think of going to Mars.

Steven Hawking wrote something like this: "I hope that human kind can last another 100 years. Because by then, we should have colonies on other planets, and one single disaster would not be able to wipe the human race out of existence."

Things like today push that date further and further back. Maybe I'm being selfish, but things like this make it less possible that I will see man walk on another planet in my lifetime.
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Post by TomSpeed » Feb 1st 2003, 3:03 pm

Words cannot express how I feel at this moment. I just happened to be watching the news this morning when it was reported that NASA had lost contact with the space shuttle. Immediately, I was taken back to 1986 and the Challenger explosion. The crew of Columbia has joined the Challenger crew among the ranks of America's heroes. One day, years from now, when men and women reach out to our solar system and beyond, these brave crews will be remembered as our pathfinders to the stars.
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Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Feb 1st 2003, 9:19 pm

I, too, thought of the Challenger explosion (and remembered that we had discussed it earlier this week). My thoughts and prayers are with the friends and family of the astronauts, as well as everyone at NASA who are undoubtedly in shock.
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Post by lance » Feb 2nd 2003, 11:00 am

Hey all,

I am praying for the crew and the family of the Columbia. NASA financially had been going through some lean years recently. No replacement to the shuttle is on the horizon. I hope that the good comes out of this tragedy, I hope that NASA gets the funding they need to develop the next generation of shuttles.

Best,

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Post by Megs » Feb 2nd 2003, 1:16 pm

My thought and prayers are with the astronauts and their families and loved ones.
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Post by GaryEA » Feb 2nd 2003, 7:56 pm

My girlfriend and I were both in high school (same one) when the P.A. speaker kicked in and an announcement was made that the Challenger had exploded. I was fifteen, maybe sixteen.

Yesterday, I was still asleep when she called me, yelling into my answering machine to turn on CNN. I felt like a teen again.

When I turned on CNN, with Miles O'Brien fumbling his way through the coverage, there was still that vague sense that maybe,maybe, it could be a goof. Communications error, technical problem, that the shuttle was gliding off course. It would still land.

But then the Zapruder-like loop of the shooting star that was the Columbia tumbling to earth was all over t.v. Not like 9/11; most stations kept going, but the for the networks ans new channels, the world stopped and the mystery began.

I grew up on Carl sagan's Cosmos, and while I royally sucked at math and science, I really wanted to be an astro-physicist. Like Sagan. I wanted to see Mars, whether at JPL or as I touched down.

But the government that used the Cold War as a reason to get into space as soon as possible, now chisels off NASA's budget year after year. Ideally, we should be using an advanced design of the shuttle. Yes, they have been retrofitted with great success, but if NASA plans had been funded and space was still a key priority, the shuttles we now see launching routinely would be retired or used as reserves, while a new fleet is used.

Will it take 2/1/03 to jolt the US government to fund it with more vigor, or will we shy away? There's a half-built space station floating over our heads, and three people are still on board. Can you imagine hearing the news from up there?

NASA says that they will move on. I say "Bravo". I just hope things will move in a way where we progress not in decades, but in years.

Gary

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Challenger

Post by lance » Feb 3rd 2003, 10:04 am

Hey all,

When the Challenger exploded I was a freshman in High School. I was at lunch period when school staff rolled televisions into the cafeteria and hallways so we could watch the coverage.

In February of 2000 the wife and I went to Johnson Space Center in Houston. We saw a wall where they had posted portraits of all the shuttle crews. They had a special portrait of the Challenger crew. I suppose now there will be a special portrait of the Columbia crew as well.

Lance Man

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Post by mglenn » Feb 3rd 2003, 11:15 am

First off let me say that I am deeply saddened by the loss of 7 true American Heros.

But on the strange coincidence meter, see where this ranks for you:

Jan 27 1967 - Apollo 1 Fire
Jan 28 1986 - Challenger explodes during liftoff
Feb 1 2003 - Columbia breaks up on reentery

Other bits of trivia: The back up teacher from Challenger Mission was scheduled to fly on the next Columbia mission in November.
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Post by lance » Feb 3rd 2003, 3:03 pm

Hey all,

As mglenn indicated risk always accompanies our attempts at space flight. Hopefully, NASA can learn what happened and make future missions safer.

Best,

Lance Man

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Post by K-man » Feb 3rd 2003, 4:59 pm

It does seem ironic that some of us were discussing the last shuttle crash late last week and now this. :cry:
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Post by mglenn » Feb 6th 2003, 5:40 pm

Here’s a question that’s been bothering me as I have some engineering and failure analysis training.

NASA is saying that the foam insulation was not the cause of the incident. They say this after studying the video of the impact. This video does not show the actual impact because of the angle of the spacecraft. They have maybe six frames of video showing this piece hitting the craft. (The craft is doing 100MPH by the time the tail end passes the top of the tower, when the insulation came lose the craft was doing several times the speed of sound) They make assumptions about the weight of the piece based on the size in the video and what they believe it weights. Yet they have not yet even found out where the break up started.

So my question is how can they determine that this did not cause the problem when they have not even determined where the problem started?

Failures like this are not caused by one incident, instead its an event chain. They have a few pieces of this chain in the telemetry data. But this only points to the left wing of the craft. There is no specific data that disproves the insulation strike didn't cause this. Instead all I have heard is that they've run simulations that say this insulation could not have caused the extent of damage that would lead to the craft breaking up. But those simulations are based on the engineering specs for the craft and the craft certainly did not meet those specs.

It would be like them saying that the 100% O2 under 15psi in Apollo 1 was not the cause of the fire (which maybe they did, I wasn't alive then). True it didn't cause the fire... but it certainly made it a whole lot worse.

Just my thoughts that they shouldn't be saying that anything is or is not the cause of breakup until they find evidence as to where and how it started.
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