Monday, July 04, 2005

This is Odd

As we await the scheduled launch of Discovery, astronaut Dr. Jon Clark, who lost his wife Laurel aboard Columbia, has been studying what can be done to prevent another such disaster and improve astronaut safety. But something he says in this article in the Washington Post is rather odd:

...Clark and a team of injury-analysis experts spent several days in February sifting through the Columbia wreckage that's stored at Florida's Kennedy Space Center. They studied what was left of the crew cabin, where Laurel Clark and her six fellow astronauts sat during their catastrophic re-entry two years earlier almost to the day.

Clark says the emotional part of going through the wreckage was overcome by the importance of the job.

"Did the crew perform switch throws that might have made it worse? There are things about that that may actually have been the case," he says. "Do you want to tell the next crew that if they're in a horrible loss situation in the shuttle, to do this or not do that?" (my emphasis)

Once the CAIB report was published, NASA shut down providing information about the loss of Columbia to the public, even though many of the reports included with the main CAIB document in fact contained mentions that they were not final reports and that work was continuing. For one thing, bits of wreckage have been recovered since - including the escape hatch from the top of the crew compartment which appears to have separated from the orbiter in one piece. Did someone hit the wrong switch? And why does the NASA report on crew survivability claim that none of the crew closed their helmet visors? Surely that would be the first thing to do in an emergency at this altitude. Seems to me some FOIA requests need to be made.

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