If space shuttle is doomed, do you tell the crew?

Feb 01, 2013 by Seth Borenstein
This photo provided by NASA in June 2003 shows STS-107 crew members,from the left (bottom row), wearing red shirts to signify their shift's color, are astronauts Kalpana Chawla, mission specialist; Rick D. Husband, mission commander; Laurel B. Clark, mission specialist; and Ilan Ramon, payload specialist. From the left (top row), wearing blue shirts, are astronauts David M. Brown, mission specialist; William C. McCool, pilot; and Michael P. Anderson, payload commander. The astronauts were killed on Feb. 1, 2003, in the final minutes of their 16-day scientific research mission aboard Columbia. Altogether, 12 children lost a parent aboard Columbia. The youngest is now 15, the oldest 32. (AP Photo/NASA, File)

A NASA top official wrestled with what he thought was a hypothetical question: What should you tell the astronauts of a doomed space shuttle Columbia?

When the official raised the question in 2003 just days before the accident that claimed seven ' lives, managers thought—wrongly—that Columbia's was fine. It wasn't. Columbia, NASA's oldest shuttle, broke apart over Texas 10 years ago Friday upon returning to Earth after a 16-day mission.

But the story of that question—retold a decade later—illustrates a key lesson from the tragedy, says Wayne Hale, a flight director who later ran the for NASA.

That lesson: Never give up. No matter how hopeless.

And to illustrate the lesson, Hale in his blog tells for the first time the story of his late boss who seemingly suggested doing just that. The boss, mission operations chief Jon Harpold, asked the now-retired Hale a what-if question after a meeting that determined—wrongly—that Columbia was safe to land despite some damage after .

"You know there is nothing we can do about damage to the (thermal protection system)," Hale quotes Harpold a decade later. "If it has been damaged, it's probably better not to know. I think the crew would rather not know. Don't you think it would be better for them to have a happy successful flight and die unexpectedly during entry than to stay on orbit, knowing that there was nothing to be done until the air ran out."

When Harpold raised the question with Hale in 2003, managers had already concluded that Columbia's heat shield was fine. They told astronauts they weren't worried about damage from coming off the massive shuttle during , hitting a wing that allowed superheated gases in when the shuttle re-entered the atmosphere. No one was aware of the seriousness of the damage at the time.

This was a what-if type question that conveyed a fatalistic attitude about the heat shield system being unfixable, which was "a wrong-headed cultural norm that we had all bought into," Hale said in a Thursday telephone interview.

"There was never any debate about what to tell the crew," he said.

In fact, NASA officials were overconfident in the heat shield on Columbia. A day after launch, NASA saw video of the foam from the shuttle's fuel tank hit the shuttle wing, something that had happened before. NASA officials studied the damage and determined it wasn't a problem.

NASA managers even sent the crew a 15-second video clip of the foam strike and "made it very clear to them no, no concerns," according to the independent board that later investigated the accident. Eight times, NASA had the opportunity to get a closer look at the damage— using military satellites—and NASA mistakenly ignored those chances to see how bad the problem was, the accident board concluded.

In this Feb. 1, 2003 file photo, debris from the space shuttle Columbia streaks across the sky over Tyler, Texas. The Columbia broke apart in flames 200,000 feet over Texas on Saturday, killing all seven astronauts just minutes before they were to glide to a landing in Florida. Ten years later, reminders of Columbia are everywhere, including up in the sky. Everything from asteroids, lunar craters and Martian hills, to schools, parks, streets and even an airport (Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport) bear the Columbia astronauts' names. Two years ago, a museum opened in Hemphill, Texas, where much of the Columbia wreckage rained down, dedicated to "remembering Columbia." About 84,000 pounds of that wreckage, representing 40 percent of NASA's oldest space shuttle, are stored at Kennedy and loaned for engineering research. (AP Photo/Scott Lieberman)

And had NASA realized the severity of the problem, the space agency would not have just let the astronauts die without a fight or a word, despite Harpold's hypothetical question, Hale said.

"We would have pulled out all the stops. There would have been no stone left unturned. We would have had the entire nation working on it," Hale said. Ultimately, Hale said he thinks whatever NASA would have tried in 2003 with limited time and knowledge probably would have failed.

And the astronauts would have been told about the problem and their fate had engineers really known what was happening, Hale said.

When NASA started flying shuttles again, Hale told the new team of mission managers: "We are never ever going to say that there is nothing we can do."

NASA developed an in-flight heat shield repair kit.

The space shuttles were retired in 2011. Harpold died in 2004.

Hale said he is now writing about the issue because he wanted future space officials not to make the mistakes he and his colleagues did. The loss of the Columbia astronauts—people he knew—still weighs on Hale.

"You never get over it. It's always present with you," Hale said. "These are people I knew well. Several of them, I worked closely with. I was responsible for their safety. It's never going to go away."

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Howard_Vickridge
5 / 5 (13) Feb 01, 2013
Throughout history and across all cultures and societies, humans have recruited for or got volunteers for heroic travels and risks. These people are heros because beyond having exceptional ability, they are the ones prepared to knowingly risk their lives for the betterment of their communities and fellow humans. From our earliest ancestors setting off across tundra and ice and deserts to seek new lands, to explorers like Zheng He and his fleets of the (I think) 14th Century. They are heros when they set out, legends when they don't return, and super-heros when/if they return. I think the calibre and mettle of such folk deserves telling them the truth when death becomes inevitable on a mission. They know they die heros and that their sacrifice still makes a greater contribution to the people they have left behind. I think they'd handle such news with profound dignity, and demonstrate why they are the stuff of legend.
marble89
4.6 / 5 (17) Feb 01, 2013
I remember going over the millisecond by millisecond telemetry data from columbia during it's final moments. In it you can see how "valiantly" the flight control software fought to save the shuttle. It even resorted to using the orbital manuvering jets while deep in the atmosphere after the wing seperation - until the fuel ran out. Columbia "NEVER gave up"
antialias_physorg
4.7 / 5 (15) Feb 01, 2013
When the NASA official raised the question in 2003 just days before the accident that claimed seven astronauts' lives, managers thought—wrongly—that Columbia's heat shield was fine. It wasn't. Columbia, NASA's oldest shuttle, broke apart over Texas 10 years ago Friday upon returning to Earth after a 16-day mission.

Didn't they also make the same decision during Apollo 13?

Don't you think it would be better for them to have a happy successful flight and die unexpectedly during entry than to stay on orbit, knowing that there was nothing to be done until the air ran out.

I think I would want to know. Not telling someone the truth means: You think you are better than them. You think you can make decisions for them. It shows a very deep lack of respect for the other person. And also an innate sense that you think the other person cannot cope with (and must be shielded from) reality. It's how you would treat a child.
alq131
4.7 / 5 (7) Feb 01, 2013
I agree, the crew should be told. Additionally, a further question could be raised about how much autonomy the crew has. For example, they were shown the video of the strike. The commander could have said, "ya know, you guys on the ground are looking at a grainy video and postulating...we're on the ship and we're going to go out and look". Yeah, it would be difficult if they don't have a MMU, but i'm sure they could figure something out. Then attempt to take repair action if possible. Or making it protocol to be in an "abort to space station" orbit, which they werent anyways.
PJS
5 / 5 (4) Feb 01, 2013
i'm sure the astronaut job comes with the disclaimer that you might possibly get really bad news at a really bad time. to even be an astronaut you must accept this possibility.
coastwalker
4 / 5 (4) Feb 01, 2013
Oh fair enough tell me if there is something that we can actually try to do to repair the situation. But if you figure out that the things going to explode in ten minutes and I cant do a damn about it then no thanks I don't want to know. Telling me just salves your conscience and I would far rather just get unexpectedly snuffed out than be spending ten minutes spouting waffle on the radio.
Jo01
2.2 / 5 (10) Feb 01, 2013
I remember going over the millisecond by millisecond telemetry data from columbia during it's final moments. In it you can see how "valiantly" the flight control software fought to save the shuttle. It even resorted to using the orbital manuvering jets while deep in the atmosphere after the wing seperation - until the fuel ran out. Columbia "NEVER gave up"


That's exceptional, as is the exceptional loss.

J.
cantdrive85
1.5 / 5 (16) Feb 01, 2013
The large lightning bolt that struck the shuttle seems to never be considered as the cause of the accident, why?

http://www.jameso...-zag.pdf

http://www.thunde...mbia.htm
julianpenrod
1 / 5 (20) Feb 01, 2013
Immensely telling.
"Science" admitting it made horrendous mistakes.
"Science" being willing to admit it made horrendous mistakes. As if "science" knows the New World Order will do everything it can to keep "science" from being supplanted with something reliable, that it will keep trundling the lie that "science" can be trusted. And this is an admission there are facts "science" won't admit ti. It can be legitimately asked, on the basis of this, what isn't "science" telling the public in order to avoid the results of telling them?
And why didn't NASA implement from the start a system of stand down missions to activate swiftly in case a current mission goes bad?
frajo
1.7 / 5 (7) Feb 01, 2013
These people are heros because beyond having exceptional ability, they are the ones prepared to knowingly risk their lives for the betterment of their communities and fellow humans.

That's right - with the exception of one single word: "heros".

A hero is not a person with exceptional ability and bravery who knows that people admire his ability and bravery.

A hero is rather a person with exceptional abilities and bravery who stands for the highest ideals in the face of their usurpers knowing that he will be tortured, humiliated, and denigrated by the powers that be.
In Honor of Bradley Manning.
antialias_physorg
4.5 / 5 (8) Feb 01, 2013
"Science" admitting it made horrendous mistakes.

Erm...you do know that this article isn't talking about science in any way?
Have you even READ the article? I know you have a hard time getting your one brain cell lined up (which is quite a trick)...but for the love of all that is unholy...at least read the article before commenting.
julianpenrod
1 / 5 (19) Feb 01, 2013
The article states that, "manager", presumably using "science", "had already concluded that Columbia's hear shield was fine", that "No one", using "science", "was aware of the seriousness of the damage at the time". That is a failure of "science". And antialias physorg beginning their post with the hoary machination of using the graphical renditiion of a non verbal utterance doies nothing to lend it credence. "Science" cannot be trusted.
eachus
1.5 / 5 (4) Feb 01, 2013
First, yes this was institutionally stupid, and was the culture at the top levels of NASA. They wanted to think of the shuttle flights as routine. The engineers understood that they were never routine, but were in many cases unable to communicate this to managers.

Engineers (and scientists to the extent they were involved in shuttle flight management), would routinely communicate all anomalies 'up the chain.' It is just what you do. Managers learn that they are there to 'deal' with problems, and think that reporting issues to their boss indicates a failure on their part.

Every shuttle that goes into orbit is tracked by USAF Space Command--their primary mission requires tracking everything in orbit, including to the extent possible paint chips. NASA always had some crazy idea that they could demand that Space Command not look.

Could Columbia have been saved? Don't know, the best idea at the time was to stuff wet clothing into the hole, including parts of space suits.
antialias_physorg
4.5 / 5 (8) Feb 01, 2013
The article states that, "manager", presumably using "science", "had already concluded that Columbia's hear shield was fine",

The 'presumably' is all pulled from your own butt.

Engineers made an analysis. This has nothing to do with science (maybe you should try and look up what science is? It can't hurt, because you seem to rail against something you know nothing about)

Even if it HAD been science. Do you expect science to be infallible? Here's a hint what science actually does: investigate stuff that is hitherto unknown. Stuff that has never been done before and that nobody on the planet knows anything about.
If you think that this is something that gets 100% perfect results on the first try you're crazier than your already impressive track record indicates.
Tausch
1.4 / 5 (9) Feb 01, 2013
Imagined you've all been played.
On a need to know basis.
How do you feel?
Kron
1.6 / 5 (7) Feb 01, 2013
You have to tell them. It would be disrespectful not to.
The only way it would be ok not to, is if prior to the flight the whole crew was consulted and they collectively decided that if such a situation were to arise, they'd rather not know.
So, ask the whole crew prior to the flight whether they do or do not want to know if their fate is doomed.
This is the only fair way to handle this.
It is absolutely not ok to withhold such information without consulting with the crew first.
If you don't know the answer to this question you must inform them regardless of how they will take the news.
If the crew is consulted and is split on whether they would like to know or not, you must inform the ones that do not want to know, that you cannot fulfill their wishes. This way they still have the option to back out prior to take off.
javjav
5 / 5 (3) Feb 01, 2013
"You know there is nothing we can do.."

This is not true. Before the accident, NASA engineers designed rescue mission that where indeed possible, although highly risky. Why is not mentioned in the article? First alternative was to keep them in the ISS and send a rescue mission in a next shuttle, even if it was risky and very difficult to achieve on time, but not impossible. Even during the final stage there was still the possibility to send them the Soyuz ship that is always in the ISS as a life boat. It would be extremely dangerous to put 7 astronauts plus the Soyuz pilot in a ship designed for just 3 people, plus the crazy spacewalks involved. But not impossible.
Maggnus
4.2 / 5 (5) Feb 01, 2013
@ antialias - It never got to that point with Apollo 13 simply because there wasn't enough time. When you read the accounts of the crew and main ground crew, there was never a time when they said "this is hopeless". While it hasn't been said that I know of, I think there was an unspoken agreement among everyone that the true extent of the danger would not be mentioned.

And I agree with those that say tell them. I would rather be fighting to my last moment then left in the dark, especially because I and/or the crew might see something everyone else overlooked.
Possibilus
4 / 5 (2) Feb 01, 2013
As is often the case hindsight is 20/20. Part of what NASA and other critical missions or organizations should employ is applying hindsight to foresight. By exploring potential outcomes before they are needed or occur, alternative solutions may become apparent or at least identified. In STS-107, others have pointed out that there were other options...to launch another rescue shuttle (they should have always been prepped for such a need), or return to the ISS for a later ship back (shuttle or Soyuz), based on the shuttle always having sufficient fuel to rendesvous with the ISS. Unfortunately not all outcomes and contingencies can be anticipated, and we sometimes lose the best amongst us. They are true heroes who blaze a path for those who follow, and represent what is best of humanity.
Anda
3.4 / 5 (8) Feb 01, 2013
Easy. You tell people the truth... Fucking manipulators.
j_stroy
1 / 5 (6) Feb 02, 2013
A strange thing I noticed is that the mission patch seems to prophetically reference the location of the damage and the time of the disastrous outcome & the multiple contrails.
http://www.logoty...on_patch

The location of the sun is where the temperature sensors first peaked in the landing gear well during reentry, & the shuttle disintegrated as it passed the terminator from night to day over the US, as shown in the patch.

http://www.smh.co...le09.jpg
http://ut-images....exas.jpg
VendicarE
2.6 / 5 (5) Feb 02, 2013
Republican Budget cuts were responsible for the lack of redundancy in the shuttle systems.

"And why didn't NASA implement from the start a system of stand down missions to activate swiftly in case a current mission goes bad?" - Julian
VendicarE
5 / 5 (2) Feb 02, 2013
What hole?

No hole was known at the time, and there was no hole in the skin of the craft.

"the best idea at the time was to stuff wet clothing into the hole, including parts of space suits." - Eachus

Stop pulling nonsense out of your backside.
VendicarE
3 / 5 (4) Feb 02, 2013
An excellent movie about a space rescue, from a time when America had legitimacy and wasn't the pathetic laughing stock of the world, that Republicans have made it.

Marooned.

https://www.youtu...hbplN4DE
ritwik
1 / 5 (2) Feb 02, 2013
Easy. You tell people the truth... Fucking manipulators.


oh,you upset cause you think nasa blurred out your favourite pics of steaming alien shit they found on mars HUH
alfie_null
4.5 / 5 (2) Feb 02, 2013
I can't put myself in the shoes of the people who would have to make this decision during such extraordinary circumstances, but it strikes me that withholding the truth is the start of a descent down a long slippery slope. Soon it becomes expedient to withhold the truth for increasingly trivial reasons. Self-serving reasons that might be harmful to the overall mission.
Jo Blas
1 / 5 (2) Feb 02, 2013
Personally, I think Nasa erred in not telling. But my point, IF the choices are A) die in re-entry or B) die in orbit, and if you tell the astronauts they then have the choice of making a heroic gesture. Namely, they can evacuate themselves into space (or die a bit slower of 02 scarcity) and save the Colombia for a future mission to salvage. If you're going to die either way... I'm just saying.
Terratian
5 / 5 (2) Feb 02, 2013
It is sad that the NASA administrators "assumed" everything was okay. They got warnings about the foam strike from engineers, but ignored them.

Should the astronauts have been told, absolutely. NASA should have also used military satellites to image the impact area. An EVA, though difficult could have been attempted.

When the hole was discovered they could have scavenged the shuttle for titanium and other fire resistant material and placed them into the hole. The reentry profile could have been altered to place less of a heat load on the left wing. The crew could have reduced consumables while the shuttle Atlantis was launched early to retrieve Columbia's astronauts.

There may be other things they could have done, but it is dismaying that NASA chose to do nothing.

Compare this flight to Apollo 13, where engineering miracles occurred daily to get the crew back alive. What happened to NASA?
Pkunk_
1 / 5 (3) Feb 02, 2013
It is sad that the NASA administrators "assumed" everything was okay. They got warnings about the foam strike from engineers, but ignored them.

There may be other things they could have done, but it is dismaying that NASA chose to do nothing.

Compare this flight to Apollo 13, where engineering miracles occurred daily to get the crew back alive. What happened to NASA?

Hey it's just another 9 to 5 job . Yeah your dealing with rockets but it's just another job isn't it ? That would've probably the atitude of the best paid rocket engineers in the world. Basically they got complacent in their cosy jobs with 15 years of no accidents. Pay was good and there was no competition.
Funny how there are thousands of flights that take off everyday with almost 0 accident rate , better than a 5 sigma rating. It's a well regulated and safe industry because oh 1000's of people doing a very good job at the ground keeping us safe while we fly.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Feb 02, 2013
It never got to that point with Apollo 13 simply because there wasn't enough time. When you read the accounts of the crew and main ground crew, there was never a time when they said "this is hopeless".

I was referring to the detail that they thought (if I recall correctly) that the blast may have damaged the heat shield. Since there was nothing that could have been done in that case they didn't mention this possibility to the crew.

On an unrelated note: there are jobs where you actively request not to be told things (and where the higher ups actively withhold information that would indicate that you are in danger). That is why I have no respect for soldiers (of any rank, from private to general). They don't even respect each other - or themselves.
Kron
1 / 5 (7) Feb 02, 2013
That is why I have no respect for soldiers (of any rank, from private to general). They don't even respect each other - or themselves.

Are you fucking kidding me? Don't respect the people that keep your little prepubescent ass safe in your computer desk chair as you type your childish nonsense? You are a fucking moron. The world is full of competing powers, should your military weaken, you'll be attacked for your resources. Are you that much of a fool? The protocols are in place to retain a functional military. A soldier of every rank has his/her specific duty to adhere to. A "private" needs to do his job and not concern himself with the "generals" work. There is no room for error or competing strategies. Each operation needs to be perfectly executed. You can't have soldiers on the battle field suddenly decide: 'well I'm just gonna go do this mission my way'. Each operation is designed to include all operatives. If one of them fails to follow, the whole operation fails.
j_stroy
1 / 5 (1) Feb 02, 2013
VendicarE: "What hole?"

This one... http://www.youtub...iiico7z4
Kron
1 / 5 (7) Feb 02, 2013
where the higher ups actively withhold information that would indicate that you are in danger

This is absolute nonsense. Soldiers are informed in real time of any gathered intel that applies to the mission they are on. If intel is gathered of an incoming attack, the soldiers are warned of the location, numbers, weapons, etc. of the attacking force. If intel is gained the operatives are informed. Communication is exactly what makes a military successful.

Mission success rides on communicating incoming dangers.
Maggnus
1 / 5 (1) Feb 02, 2013
I was referring to the detail that they thought (if I recall correctly) that the blast may have damaged the heat shield. Since there was nothing that could have been done in that case they didn't mention this possibility to the crew.


You're absolutely right, I had forgotten about that.
VendicarE
not rated yet Feb 02, 2013
Sorry, but you have provided no image or evidence of there being a hole.

"This one..." - i-stroy

NASA knew of no holes at the time the shuttle returned.

j_stroy
2 / 5 (2) Feb 02, 2013
I think I'll respond using one of your own posts VendicarE:
"It can't be happening... It isn't happening... It can't be happening... It isn't happening... It can't be happening... And if it is happening, then all the more reason that it can't be happening." ( http://phys.org/n...html#jCp )

Despite engineering computer simulations that indicated severe tile damage at the time, NASA management reportedly bypassed those concerns & declined to physically look for a hole with spy satellites or other means. Simulations while Columbia was on orbit are backed up by the post crash impact testing & post crash analysis of the wing spar melt thru, all show there was a hole. Such a hole could have been filled as Eachus suggested with space suits, thermal blankets, frozen water, etc. That combined with a re-entry yaw program that subjected the opposite wing to greater heat stress may have made re-entry possible.
antialias_physorg
3.8 / 5 (5) Feb 02, 2013
Are you fucking kidding me? Don't respect the people that keep your little prepubescent ass safe in your computer desk chair as you type your childish nonsense?

Yeah, beacuse there are actually people willing to invade your (or my) country, right? Wake up. People want to live in peace.

Only those that can hire thugs and dupe them into thinking it's a measure of respect, honor - or whatever else hogwash they brainwash young kids with, like neat dress uniforms and promises to pay for their education - those are the people we need to fear.

And the idiots who fall for that line and let themselves be paid to be hired killers and ENABLE them to be bad guys. It's really sad that the world is crawling with so much stupid. Some times I'd just wish all those guys who think holding a gun is worthwhile would go to an island and shoot each other. Everybody wins. They 'defend' whatever they feel like and we get to be rid of crazy killers.
Kron
1.4 / 5 (9) Feb 02, 2013
If it were only that easy antialias. Hatred is a very real thing. A country on the losing end of a past war which has grown in power is very likely to strike back. A peace keeper goes in and overpowers the aggressor of two nations at war. The aggressor grows in power and attacks the peace keeper for previously intervening. You're a dreamer. You can wish for the world to be anything you want, but it is what it is. You cannot act aggressively against someone and expect no retaliation in the future. The USA has been playing peace keeper around the world for a long time. The countries they've attacked might potentially have some resentment, no? Same goes for all the countries of the United Nations.

Your countries military is there to protect you from the people that hate your ideals and your way of life. Without those "crazy killers", you'd be weak to attack.

To get rid of your military, and be safe, every nation in the world would have to do the same. That will never happen.
Kron
1 / 5 (8) Feb 02, 2013
Those "idiots" are keeping your punk ass alive, Some Guy. If you don't respect them, you don't respect yourself. Stop being so stupid and show some respect to the people who dedicate, and give, their lives to protect yours.
antialias_physorg
3.8 / 5 (6) Feb 02, 2013
Hatred is a very real thing.

And you know what causes (and perpetuates) that hatred? Soldiers with guns. It's a very calculated move - as it keeps otherwise untenable people in power, aggressive people in jobs on a leash, and the greates industry in the world rolling in cash.

Soldiers do nothing of benefit to humans whatsoever.

Without those "crazy killers", you'd be weak to attack.

As I said before: No one wants to attack unless they have enough dimwits in uniform that will do it for them. By having them WE force others to have them for fear that THEY are weak to attack from OUR crazy killers. See how this works both ways?

And as for respect: Didn't YOU just say it would be disrespectful not to tell the shuttle crew the truth? Yet you defend soldiers as respectworthy for breaking that very rule up and down the chain of command?

Hypocrit much?
Thrasymachus
2.5 / 5 (6) Feb 02, 2013
Noble sentiments that I for one share, antialias. However, most of humanity is not yet at the "turn the other cheek" phase of their moral development. They're mostly still stuck in the "I'll turn the other cheek after you do," phase. A simple trip down any American freeway in the city during rush hour will confirm this to you, and may remind you, as it often does me, of your own innate tendency towards that less sophisticated state of mind.

The tendency towards violence and gang-oriented behavior is deeply ingrained in the human psyche, and sometimes, the only way to stop it before it does too much damage is to counter it with gang-oriented behavior and violence.
VendicarE
not rated yet Feb 02, 2013
Bullshit.

"Simulations while Columbia was on orbit are backed up by the post crash impact testing & post crash analysis of the wing spar melt thru, all show there was a hole." - i_stroy

Meaningful simulations of the impact could not be performed for a variety of reasons.

1. The size of the impact foam could not be determined.
2. The orientation of the impact foam could not be determined.
3. The density of the impact foam could not be determined since the amount of ice condensate on the foam could not be determined.
4. The precise location of the impact could not be determined.
5. The speed normal to the surface of the tiles could not be determined.
6. The coefficient of restitution of the foam at impact could not be determined.
Kron
1 / 5 (7) Feb 02, 2013
And as for respect: Didn't YOU just say it would be disrespectful not to tell the shuttle crew the truth?

Yes.
Yet you defend soldiers as respectworthy for breaking that very rule up and down the chain of command?

This does not happen you dumb ass. Soldiers are informed of the dangers they will be facing during briefing. They are told everything pertinent to the mission ahead. Sending them in without giving them all the intel required to carry out the mission would be suicide. You don't understand what an 'on a need to know basis' is. Soldiers are given all the information that their superiors have pertaining to the mission. This is what they 'need to know'. What they are not given is any information they do not require to carry out the mission.

Information regarding safety (such as a hole in a tank the soldier is in) is not withheld. They don't send soldiers through known mine fields without informing them of the danger.

Hypocrit much?

You're a fucking moron.
Kron
1.4 / 5 (8) Feb 02, 2013
There may be multiple cells working towards a common objective (multiple groups each with their own specified missions). There is no need for 1 of the cells to know the specifics for all the missions, they only need to know what they need to know to carry out their own.

The superior needs to have all of the information necessary, the units do not. They have their tasks to carry out, not everyone elses. This is delegation of duties.
Mayday
1 / 5 (2) Feb 03, 2013
I believe the correct action is to give the whole truth to the captain of the ship. It is then his or her prerogative as to what to do with that information. Speaking for myself, I would appreciate any opportunity to stay alive and conscious even a few seconds longer. And the prospect of running out of oxygen seems preferable to the violence of a failed re-entry. I may be wrong, but I always assumed that astronauts give informed consent to all likelihoods before liftoff. Space travel is extraordinarily dangerous and mankind has been extraordinarily fortunate to date.
Raygunner
5 / 5 (1) Feb 03, 2013
Assuming the problem was known a rescue was attempted - a de-orbit burn could be extended a full minute longer (or more depending on fuel). Then, using the RCS system, another full duration de-orbit burn could be done, leaving just enough fuel to do the s-curve speed decrease while trying to protect the left wing from excess heating as much as possible. A sim was done in the mid 90's that proved the RCS system could perform de-orbit if the OMS engines failed.

That MIGHT have gotten the entry speed down to around 14,000 MPH, and MIGHT have reduced the heating duration and severity at this lower reentry speed to prevent the wing from melting through. Bail-out would probably be necessary because of wing, wing flap, wheel and actuator damage.

If NASA would have known, and some plan developed that might have brought the astronauts home safely, you can bet that would have been an edge-of-your-seat event for the ages, even eclipsing the Apollo 13 effort.
j_stroy
1 / 5 (1) Feb 03, 2013
Meaningful simulations of the impact could not be performed for a variety of reasons.
Determining potential outcomes by testing a range of conditions is what simulation is all about. Simulations produce greatest certainty when results are consistent across a broad range of the conditions such as the ones you mentioned. The exactness of certain parameters can be proven to be moot if the outcome of the simulation is consistent regardless of variation in initial conditions.

Engineers reportedly determined the simulations of the impact was intense enough and the risks high enough to merit action. The final outcome is sad proof of their results being accurate & meaningful.
indio007
1 / 5 (7) Feb 03, 2013
NASA is tone death. If it wasn't for legal waivers, a case could be made for negligent homicide. Missions should have oversight by engineers (whose paycheck comes from doing the right thing) not "administrators" (whose paycheck comes from saying the right thing).

Criminal Negligence
It is defined as an act that is:
careless, inattentive, neglectful, willfully blind, or in the case of gross negligence what would have been reckless in any other defendant.

Appendix F
by R. P. Feynman
"Official management, on the other hand, claims to believe the
probability of failure is a thousand times less. One reason for this may be an attempt to assure the government of NASA perfection and success in order to ensure the supply of funds. The other may be that they sincerely believed it to be true, demonstrating an almost incredible lack of communication between themselves and their working engineers."

NASA had a duty to act because they were on notice of the danger and failed to act.
VendicarE
not rated yet Feb 03, 2013
Quite impossible.

"Engineers reportedly determined the simulations of the impact was intense enough and the risks high enough to merit action." - j_stroy

Meaningful simulations of the impact could not be performed for a variety of reasons.

1. The size of the impact foam could not be determined.

2. The orientation of the impact foam could not be determined.

3. The density of the impact foam could not be determined since the amount of ice condensate on the foam could not be determined.

4. The precise location of the impact could not be determined.

5. The speed normal to the surface of the tiles could not be determined.

6. The coefficient of restitution of the foam at impact could not be determined.

Again I ask... What hole?
VendicarE
not rated yet Feb 03, 2013
Feynman offered this opinion about the Challenger explosion, not the Columbia re-entry breakup.

"Official management, on the other hand, claims to believe" - Feynman

His opinions might have been the same, but since he was dead at the time, we will never know.