STS-107 Mission Journal  

Columbia Investigation Journal - Part 2

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Mission: Columbia
SHUTTLE UPDATE:
COLUMBIA DISASTER INVESTIGATION
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  • 15 February 2003 - Saturday - Two weeks have passed since the tragic events of Feb 1st. Debris continues to roll into KSC, to be laid out in a hangar for analysis. What could have damaged the left wing? When did it happen? The investigation is in progress. NASA reports:

    Columbia Accident Board Chairman Names New Member
    Former Secretary of the Air Force Sheila E. Widnall. Click for bio. Photo courtesy USAF.On Saturday, Adm. Hal Gehman, chairman of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, announced the appointment of Dr. Sheila E. Widnall as the newest member of the board. Dr. Widnall, former Secretary of the Air Force, is an expert in aircraft turbulence and spiraling airflows.
    STS-107 Ground Track Charts
    Maps of Columbia's ground track during re-entry with mission events and sensor measurements.
    NASA Seeks Help from Sky Watchers
    NASA is still seeking help from the American public to supply video and still images of the Space Shuttle Columbia on its return flight to Earth.
    No further STS-107-related press events are scheduled to occur before Tuesday, Feb. 18. For videos and transcripts of past Columbia press conferences and memorial services, visit our ongoing Columbia Coverage page. Other Columbia information is available on the NASA home page.

    Check out NASA's Interactive Columbia Tribute.


  • 14 February 2003 - Friday - It is starting to look like something punched a hole in Columbia's wing, either on orbit, or during descent, causing superheated plasma to enter the orbiter's structure. The CAIB does not feel that the loss of a few tiles would be enough to cause the Shuttle disasterNASA reports:

    Investigation Continues into Breakup of Columbia
    Astronauts John Young (in cap) and Mark Kelly (right), with other personnel, survey Space Shuttle Columbia debris that arrived at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., on Wednesday. NASA photo.As the search for Space Shuttle Columbia debris continues, NASA working groups and the independent Columbia Accident Investigation Board, or CAIB, are poring over flight data that was downlinked by the orbiter during its last minutes.
    Preliminary analysis of the data indicates that plasma was present in the vehicle's left wheel well during its final moments, the CAIB announced Thursday. Plasma is a super-heated gas that surrounds the orbiter during re-entry.
    The RLV Hangar at KSC, where workers will atttempt to reconstruct the twisted wreckage of Columbia, for analysis. NASA photo.The CAIB said heat transfer through the structure, such as might be caused by a missing tile, would not be sufficient to cause the temperature indications seen in the last minutes of flight.
    By analyzing other flight data -- including landing gear position indicators and drag information -- the board also concluded that it is unlikely the left landing gear was deployed early.
    More than 2,500 federal, state and local employees continue to search for orbiter debris in East Texas and Louisiana. Some of the recovered pieces have already found their way to the primary investigation site at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla., or KSC. The first two truckloads of debris arrived at KSC on Wednesday.
    KSC workers bringing in Columbia debris for reconstruction. NASA photo.Some search teams are looking for pieces along Columbia's flight path west of Fort Worth. So far, no debris has been found farther west than Granbury, Texas, about 64 kilometers (40 miles) southwest of Fort Worth. Other teams -- including employees of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Civil Air Patrol and the Federal Emergency Management Agency -- are searching east and south of Fort Worth.
    U.S. Navy divers and equipment may also be brought in to search the waters of area lakes, including Toledo Bend and the Sam Rayburn reservoir. Eyewitnesses reported seeing debris enter those lakes on Feb. 1.
    Feb. 13 Statement by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board

    By the way... Happy Valentines Day.


  • 13 February 2003 - Thursday - Debris recovered so far is making its way to a hangar at KSC. Columbia is finally on her way home. Also, remains from all seven crewmembers have been positively identifiedNASA reports:

    Columbia Debris Arrives at KSC
    The first truck bearing recovered Columbia debris arrives at KSC Wednesday. NASA photo.More than 2,500 federal, state and local employees continue to search for Space Shuttle Columbia debris in East Texas and Louisiana. Some of the recovered pieces have already found their way to the primary investigation site at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla., or KSC. The first two truckloads of debris arrived at KSC on Wednesday.
    Investigators are now working in the Reusable Launch Vehicle Hangar at KSC. They will now begin the process of reconstructing Columbia, laying out the pieces relative to one another as they were positioned on the shuttle.
    Retired Navy Adm. Harold Gehman Jr. (right) checks out Atlantis' landing gear with members of the CAIB during a visit to KSC. NASA photo.Members of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, or CAIB, conducted an orientation tour of KSC facilities Wednesday. They viewed the processing locations currently holding NASA's three remaining orbiters -- Atlantis, Endeavour and Discovery. KSC officials briefed them about shuttle ground processing.
    Also on Wednesday, NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe addressed a joint congressional hearing into the Columbia accident. He responded to questions about the independence of the CAIB.
    "The Board has taken over hardware and software releases of NASA so that NASA cannot alter anything unless the Board approves. NASA has already begun to honor document requests from the Board, and has also supplied additional documents to the Board which were not requested that we believe may be helpful to their work."
    O'Keefe also talked about NASA's future. "We have an opportunity here and now to learn from this loss, and renew the boundless spirit of exploration present at NASA's beginning. We will do this by being accountable to the American people for our failings and, we hope, credible and compelling in pursuit of research, exploration and inspiration for future generations."
    Columbia Entry Flight Director Press Briefing
    NASA image of Flight Director Leroy CainLeroy Cain, the flight director who oversaw the entry of the Space Shuttle Columbia on Feb. 1, 2003, will hold a press conference Friday, beginning at [3:30PM EST/2030 GMT]. Watch it live on NASA TV.
    NASA TV Schedule

    Did budget cuts compromise safety? Did Ilan Ramon see a "crack in the wing" during Columbia's mission? (No! - See what it really was here.) Could a tire have blown out, damaging the wheel well? Did a NASA engineer have concerns about the landing gear during Columbia's flight? Check his message here.


  • 12 February 2003 - Wednesday - A tire, possibly from Columbia's landing gear, have been found. Wreckage that has been recovered so far is on its way to KSC.   NASA reports:

    Columbia Debris Recovery Continues
    KSC workers prepare the RLV Hangar to receive Columbia debris being trucked in from collection points in Texas and Louisiana. NASA photo.The first two truckloads of Space Shuttle Columbia debris were expected to arrive at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., or KSC, on Wednesday. They departed from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Tuesday. Search teams have recovered more than 1,600 pieces of debris so far, tagging them for identification and delivering them to field collection sites in East Texas. The collected items are then loaded onto trucks and transported to KSC -- Columbia's intended destination on Feb. 1 when it broke up in the skies over Texas.
    Some of the accident investigators are working at the collection sites, while others are already at KSC, analyzing the recovered pieces to determine a cause for the accident.
    NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe announced Monday that future information about the Space Shuttle Columbia accident will be released at a pace directed by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, or CAIB. NASA will continue to release information periodically as it becomes available, but "we will defer to the CAIB to set the pace of discussions of how the investigation itself is progressing," O'Keefe said.
    NASA's role in the investigation is to help determine the cause of the accident, find solutions to the problem and return to safe flight operations as soon as possible.
    Read the letters from the STS-107 families and the spouses and children of the NASA Astronaut Corps.

    Today, there will be a Joint congressional hearing into the Columbia accident at 9:30AM EST (1430 GMT). More interviews with with the ISS crew starting at 10:30AM EST (1530 GMT). Watch live on NASA TV.



  • 10 February 2003 - Monday - The search for why Columbia broke up on reentry is ongoing. Could a chunk of ice from the wastewater vent have broken off and damaged the tiles while in orbit? Could Columbia have been hit by a piece of space junk or a micrometeorite? Did a crewmember email safety concerns to their family during the flight? The debris recovered so far is on its way to KSC, but it will be impossible to reassemble it (like they did for TWA Flight 800) because the pieces are too deformed. NASA reports:

    Release of Columbia Information Transitions to Board
    IMAGE: STS-107 PatchDuring a news conference Monday, NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe announced that future information about the Space Shuttle Columbia accident will be released at a pace directed by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, or CAIB. NASA will continue to release information periodically as it becomes available, but "we will defer to the CAIB to set the pace of discussions of how the investigation itself is progressing," O'Keefe said.
    "We intend to fully support and ensure the Board has independence and objectivity to proceed as its members feel appropriate," Administrator O'Keefe said.
    The NASA Inspector General has been an observer on the ground from the beginning, helping to ensure the independence and objectivity of the CAIB under the terms of the Inspector General Act.
    NASA's role in the investigation is to help determine the cause of the accident, find solutions to the problem and return to safe flight operations as soon as possible.
    Debris collection continues in East Texas. Approximately 12,000 pieces have been found so far. Search teams are tagging the debris and delivering it to Barksdale Air Force Base, La. The first truckload of debris is expected to depart Barksdale today, bound for the Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Investigators there will analyze the recovered pieces, hoping to determine the cause of the accident.
    The CAIB, led by retired Navy Adm. Harold Gehman Jr., will conduct its first press conference Tuesday at [3PM EST/2000 GMT). Watch it live on NASA TV. NASA TV Schedule

    Download Shuttle memorial wallpaper for your computer. Next NASA News Briefing today at 3PM EST (2000 GMT Monday).

    Tuesday: Press Conference with ISS crew at 9:34AM EST (1434 GMT). First News Briefing with CAIB at 3PM EST (2000 GMT). Watch live on NASA TV.




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Revised: 16 Nov 2008