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  1. #1
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    Mar 2009
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    10 years after the Columbia disaster: doomed crew not told of disaster awaiting them

    01 February 2003.

    NASA expert reveals Columbia shuttle crew were not told of problem with re-entry as families mark 10-year anniversary (Daily Mail)
    A NASA has revealed that the Columbia crew were not told that the shuttle had been damaged and that they might not survive re-entry.
    ---
    Ten years ago, experts at NASA's mission control faced the terrible decision over whether to let the astronauts know that they may die on re-entry or face orbiting in space until the oxygen ran out.

    Those on the ground decided that it would be better if the crew were spared knowledge of the risks.

    There was no way to repair any suspected damage - the crew were far from the International Space Station and had no robotic arm for repairs. It would have taken too long to send up another shuttle to rescue them.

    Wayne Hale, who went on to become space shuttle program manager, has written on his blog about the fateful day.

    Mr Hale writes: 'When possible damage to the orbiter was discussed, he (Flight Director Jon Harpold) gave me his opinion: "You know, there is nothing we can do about damage to the TPS (Thermal Protection System).

    '"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?"'
    ---
    much, much more - a long and very affecting article about the survivors on the ground - with pictures and video, at link above

    Wayne Hale's blog about the Columbia flight: http://waynehale.wordpress.com/

  2. #2
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    That was a horrible morning, no matter which way one looks at it. How hard to have to be in the position to decide whether to tell a flight crew they can die during re-entry, or slowly suffocate to death - that death was inevitable no matter what?

    What a horrible load to carry for the rest of one's life - always the question did they make the right call, would incineration be better than slow oxygen starvation? I have such sympathy for the ground folk who had to make that call...and for the load they'll carry for the rest of their lives.

    God bless everyone in this tragedy...every one, living and dead.

    Best-
    Herding Cats
    When you find yourself in the position to help somebody, do not feel burdened. Rather, feel happy and blessed because God is answering that person's prayer through you. In that moment, you are God's Angel - His door to reach through and bring light to someone who is struggling in the darkness.

    Be God's Light. Be God's love. Be an answered prayer. Be God's Door.

  3. #3
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    Jan 2011
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    I think they made the right call. I would much rather die instantly upon re-entrywithout a warning, than slowly choke to death in outer space.
    ďEvery day that they donít find something is good for me.ď Billie Dunn

  4. #4
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    Wfgodot , thank you for posting this article. Well written and very informative.

  5. #5
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    Aug 2003
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    Quote Originally Posted by Herding Cats View Post
    That was a horrible morning, no matter which way one looks at it. How hard to have to be in the position to decide whether to tell a flight crew they can die during re-entry, or slowly suffocate to death - that death was inevitable no matter what?

    What a horrible load to carry for the rest of one's life - always the question did they make the right call, would incineration be better than slow oxygen starvation? I have such sympathy for the ground folk who had to make that call...and for the load they'll carry for the rest of their lives.

    God bless everyone in this tragedy...every one, living and dead.

    Best-
    Herding Cats
    Unless I'm misreading, the choice was between (a) certain death by slow suffocation; or (b) a serious risk of instant death during re-entry.

    I think NASA made the right choice on both counts: right to at least give the crew a chance to survive and right not to alarm the crew over a problem that could not be fixed and might not be catastrophic.

    Relatives of the crew may disagree, of course, as they were robbed of the chance to say goodbye. I've never been in their shoes and I won't judge how they feel about this.

  6. #6
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    Sep 2009
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    But for the grace of God go I. I have heard this expression often, but never have I felt the true extent of this expression until reading this story. What a burden sits upon the shoulders of those involved.
    ___________________

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