Thursday, October 30, 2003

Excerpts From the CAIB Report

Before some congressman asks Sean "I'm here to slash the budget" O'Keefe about the uncomfortable facts buried within the accompanying volumes of the CAIB report and O'Keefe piously repeats his line that "nothing could be done" to save the crew of Columbia, let's read and take to heart this extract from Volume V, Appendix G.12: Crew Survivability:

Acceleration levels seen by the crew module prior to its catastrophic failure were not lethal. LOS occured at 8:59:32. The death of the crewmembers was due to blunt trauma and hypoxia. The exact time of death - sometime after 9:00:19 am Eastern Standard Time - cannot be determined because of the lack of direct physical or recorded evidence.

Failure of the crew module was precipitated by thermal degradation of structural properties that resulted in a catastrophic sequential structural failure that happened very rapidly as opposed to a catastrophic instantaneous "explosive" failure. Crew module separation from the forward fuselage is not an anomalous condition in the case of a vehicle loss of control as has been the case in both 51-L (Challenger) and STS-107 (Columbia).

It is irrefutable, as conclusively determined by items that were recovered in pristine condition whose locations were within close proximity to some crewmembers, that it was possible to attenuate the potentially hostile environment that was present during CM break-up to the point where physically and thermally induced harmful effects were virtually eliminated. This physical evidence makes a compelling argument that crew survival under environmental circumstances seen in this accident could be possible given the appropriate level of physiological and environmental protection.

NASA should investigate techniques that will prevent the structural failure of the CM due to thermal degradation of structural properties and determine their feasability for application.

Translation: we should have fourteen live heroes, not fourteen martyrs. This is fixable. We can save the crew of a shuttle that breaks up on reentry or during ascent. NASA needs to get off its dead ass and do this, and anyone who is an obstacle to progress - the Sean O'Keefes, the Linda Hams - need to go.


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