Columbia Investigation  

Columbia Investigation Journal - Part 1

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Columbia's crew. Image: TV
Latest updates here.

LEFT: We, too, remember the seven heroes of Columbia: David Brown, Rick Husband, Laurel Clark, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson, William McCool, Ilan Ramon.

RIGHT: STS-107 mission patch.

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  • 08 February 2003 - Saturday - A week has passed since the terrible day we lost Columbia and her crew. Here is a little info on the military's involvement in the search and recovery of Shuttle debris. Here are statements from the U.S. Navy, the Coast Guard, the Army, and the Air Force. Latest from NASA:

    Note to Media
    A scene from Friday's memorial at KSC, with Florida Governor Jeb Bush, NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe, and STS-1 Pilot Robert Crippen. NASA photo.No briefings are scheduled for the weekend of Feb. 8-9. A briefing is expected Monday at a time to be determined.
    Sensor Wire Diagrams and Shuttle Photo
    Diagrams of sensors on Columbia's left wing and photograph, released at the Feb. 7 briefing in Houston.
    + View the diagrams
    + See the photo
    NASA Announces Corrected Procedure for Filing Damage Claims
    + Read more
    Instructions for Uploading Digital Material to NASA
    Anyone who has photos, video or other digital material that may assist in the investigation can upload directly to NASA.
    + Read more

    The crew's remains were flown to Dover AFB Wednesday, where they were greeted by an honor guard, and treated with utmost respect. There will be no news briefings this weekend. Watch NASA TV for replays of this week's events.

  • 07 February 2003 - Friday - The search for Columbia debris was hampered by bad weather Friday. Among the wreckage is a super-secret encryption device that the government is anxious to get back. The Gehman Board took over the investigation yesterday. Pictures from a high-res telescope at Kirtland AFB show damage to Columbia's left wing, as well as possible debris trailing it, 60 seconds before the orbiter disintegrated over Texas. NASA reports:

    Independent STS-107 Board Begins Work
    Two views of Columbia as it roared into orbit - before and after the External Tank insulation hit the left wing. NASA photo.As the search for debris spread westward into Arizona and California on Thursday, the independent investigation board began work to learn why Space Shuttle Columbia broke up on re-entry.
    Board Meets With NASA Administrator; Investigation Continues
    This view from a hi-res telescope shows the underside of Columbia, with something trailing the left wing. Is the leading edge deformed somehow? Click for the entire slide presentation. Image: NASA/USAFNASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe met with the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, or CAIB, on Friday. Located at the Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, and chaired by retired Navy Admiral Harold Gehman, Jr., the CAIB has now taken over the inquiry.
    Administrator O'Keefe also met with JSC employees, praising them for their dedication and vowing the space program will emerge from the accident stronger than ever.
    At an afternoon briefing, Space Shuttle Program Manager Ron Dittemore discussed the finding of a small portion of insulation from one of the shuttle's wings in the Fort Worth, Texas area. The reinforced carbon-carbon insulation measures between 66 and 68.5 centimeters (26-27 inches) long and 46 centimeters (18 inches) wide. It has not been determined whether it is from the left or right wing. More than 1,200 people are involved in the recovery effort.
    Dittemore also took some time describing the pace of the investigation and complimenting the Shuttle Program team members.
    During the briefing, Dittemore provided a presentation showing the sequential shutdown of Columbia's sensors in the final minutes of the orbiter's flight. The Shuttle Program Manager also discussed a photo taken by Air Force cameras saying, "It is not clear to me that this photo reveals anything significant at this point."
    For more information see the Status Reports and Press Releases.
    NASA TV Schedule

    More news here. Next news briefing now showing on Friday, Feb 7 at 5:30PM EST (2230 GMT). Watch live on NASA TV. JSC Memorial pics here. Cheney's remarks at the D.C. service here.

  • 06 February 2003 - Thursday - The search and investigation continues. This morning, some of the landing gear was located, and the recently-found nose cone was packed up and sent to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. They seem to be backing away from the "foam insulation" theory as the root cause of the accident. NASA reports:

    Columbia Debris Hunt Expands
    KSC employess watch President Bush speak at Tuesday's Memorial Service at JSC. NASA photo.The search for clues about what caused Columbia's breakup during re-entry Saturday, and the hunt for key debris from the orbiter, expanded Wednesday with recovery teams deployed in California and Arizona.
    Four days after Columbia broke apart 16 minutes prior to landing, Space Shuttle Program Manager Ron Dittemore said the inquiry into the cause for Columbia's demise is "picking up speed". But Dittemore said efforts to draw any new information from an additional 32 seconds of data acquired by ground computers following the loss of voice communications with Columbia have so far been unsuccessful.
    In a briefing, Dittemore said the engineering evaluation teams are focusing their attention on "something other" than insulating foam on Columbia's external tank that fell off 80 seconds after launch striking the left wing, as the reason for the accident.
    KSC Director Roy Bridges and Deputy Director James Kennedy at the Astronauts Memorial. NASA photo.Watch NASA TV at [5:30PM EST/2230 GMT] today for an STS-107 Accident Briefing. Visit the STS-107 Investigation Reference page. For instructions on uploading media related to the Columbia accident click here. Media are invited to attend a ceremony to honor the crew of Columbia scheduled for Friday, Feb. 7, at [8:15AM EST/1315 GMT] at the KSC Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) in Florida.  Read more...
    The next NASA TV event will be a news briefing on Feb. 7 at [4:30PM EST/2130 GMT]. To learn more, go to the NASA home page NASA TV Schedule

    There was a memorial service for Laurel Clark in her hometown of Racine, Wisconsin yesterday. Private memorial at Washington National Cathedral today at 10AM EST. Vice President Dick Cheney will be in attendance. A memorial at the Shuttle Landing Facility, where Columbia was due to touch down, will be held on Friday. Watch it all live on NASA TV.

  • 03 February 2003 - Monday - Two days after the Columbia tragedy, the investigation continues. Here's what we know so far:

    • The search for debris is expanding westward, as the breakup may have happened earlier in the flight path. Columbia's nose cone was found near the Louisiana border, and part of the crew cabin was located also.
    • NASA strongly suspects that several tiles, possibly near the landing-gear door, may have been knocked off during launch, but not enough to cause a catastrophic failure. Did something else contribute to the loss of Columbia?
    • Former President George H. W. Bush visited Mission Control with former First Lady Barbara Bush; he spoke with the crew of the International Space Station.
    • NASA continues to caution anyone finding wreckage not to disturb it or touch it, due to the possibility of toxic residue or radioactivity. It is federal property and illegal to take. Call 281-483-3388 or 800-525-5555 if you find debris.
    • A memorial service (to be shown on NASA TV, but not open to the public) is scheduled for noon CST (1PM EST/1800 GMT) at JSC Tuesday. President and Mrs. Bush will attend. There will be no morning news conference Tuesday.

    Here's the latest NASA statement:

    Space Shuttle Columbia Inquiry Continues
    The investigation of the Space Shuttle Columbia accident continued Monday with engineers reviewing data and recovering debris. During a briefing, Space Shuttle Program Manager Ron Dittemore said that engineers are making progress and provided more information for the final few minutes of Columbia's flight.
    Tuesday, a memorial service for the STS-107 astronauts will be held at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. President and Mrs. George Bush and NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe will be in attendance to pay tribute to the crew. The ceremony is slated to begin at [1PM EST/1800 GMT] and will be broadcast live on NASA TV.
    Space Shuttle Columbia and its crew -- Commander Rick Husband, Pilot Willie McCool and Mission Specialists Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla and Laurel Clark, and Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon -- were lost over north Texas as they were descending for landing Florida.
    A statement from the families of the STS-107 crew about the Space Shuttle Columbia accident.
    Tuesday's Columbia Accident Briefing is set for [4:30PM EST/2130 GMT]. NASA TV will air the briefing. NASA TV Schedule

    News coverage is overwhelming - we're still trying to pull this all together. Until then, here are some good places to check in the mainstream media:

    Of course, check the links in the right-hand column for the usual space press.

  • 02 February 2003 - Sunday - On the day after the Columbia tragedy, the investigation is underway. Here's what we know so far:

    • Debris from the orbiter is scattered over Texas, New Mexico, and Louisiana, mainly in Nacogdoches County, Texas. Some larger pieces, including one report of a pickup-truck-sized section, are being found. Pieces of Columbia splashed into a reservoir, prompting concerns over water quality.
    • Evidence is mounting that a thermal problem was at work, rather than a structural one. There is a possibility of 32 seconds of additional telemetry data that could be recoverable, which would obviously be of extreme value to the investigation.
    • Human remains have been found; an earlier statement that all seven astronauts had been identified was later retracted. Remains are being transported to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware (the same place the remains of the Challenger crew were taken).
    • Shuttle debris will be taken to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana for analysis. So far, local law enforcement has been overwhelmed with reports of found wreckage, and it will be difficult to keep it protected.
    • NASA continues to caution anyone finding wreckage not to disturb it or touch it, due to the possibility of toxic residue or radioactivity. It is federal property and illegal to take. Call 281-483-3388 or 800-525-5555 if you find debris.
    • Boeing, the largest NASA contractor, has pledged their full support in the investigation.
    • The entrance to Johnson Space Center in Houston, and the Astronaut Memorial at KSC, are piled high with flowers, balloons, and messages of condolence for the astronauts' families.
    • A memorial service (not open to the public) is scheduled for noon CST (1PM EST/1800 GMT) at JSC Tuesday. President and Mrs. Bush will attend.

    Here's the latest NASA statement:

    NASA Steps Up Space Shuttle Columbia Inquiry
    Sean O'Keefe, NASA Administrator, and Bill Readdy, Associate Administrator, Office of Space Flight, announcing Columbia's demise. NASA photo.Aided by federal and local agencies, NASA stepped up its inquiry into the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia and its seven astronauts. Multiple investigative teams continue to pore over engineering data in an effort to uncover the cause of the breakup of the shuttle over Texas on Saturday 16 minutes from landing.
    Ron Dittemore, Space Shuttle Program Manager said in a news briefing Sunday afternoon that a Mishap Response Team is gathering data from numerous engineering teams in the early stages of the investigation. The team is receiving assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local law enforcement agencies, among others. Also, he said that the recovery of debris and human remains is being coordinated at Barksdale Air Force Base, La.
    Dittemore reconstructed the final minutes of Columbia's flight, including the failure of four temperature sensors associated with the shuttle's left hand elevons and the shuttle's reaction to drag on it's left side. In addition, he said that ground computers may contain an additional 32 seconds of data which could provide additional information in the analysis of Columbia's breakup.
    Two briefings are scheduled for Monday. The first will be held at [11:30AM EST/1630 GMT] and the second at [4:30PM EST/2130 GMT]. NASA TV will air the briefing. NASA TV Schedule
    NASA Announces Space Shuttle Columbia Accident Investigation Board (The Gehman Board). To learn how to send NASA photos and videos that may be relevant to the Columbia investigation, click here.

    Stay tuned...

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