The Corner

Saving Columbia

Here’s more about that supposed big NASA news

coming out today. It was supposedly leaked to a Florida Space Coast paper,

which said the following on Wednesday, and failed

to attract national attention. My source says there’s a lot more detail to

come, but the bottom line is that the review board is rumored to conclude

that contrary to its earlier statements, NASA could have saved the shuttle


Since the first days after shuttle Columbia’s loss, NASA has maintained

there is nothing it could have done to save the crew even if they had known

the ship’s heat protection system was fatally damaged.

Now, a different picture has emerged.

An internal NASA study done at the request of the Columbia Accident

Investigation Board indicates it may have been possible to mount a rescue

mission that could have had a chance of saving Columbia astronauts.

A senior investigator familiar with the study told Florida Today the plan

would have to have been predicated on an immediate post-launch recognition

by NASA that the shuttle was so badly crippled it could not make it home.

That would have allowed the crew to strictly conserve its life-sustaining

supplies, hunker down and wait for the rushed launched of shuttle Atlantis,

which was on its way to being ready for liftoff March 1 on another flight.

Atlantis’ crew then could have rendezvoused with Columbia and tried to bring

the crew aboard through a series of daring spacewalks.

We’ll never know if this Hollywoodesque scenario would have worked. Frankly,

it takes a great leap of faith to think it would have. But it was never even

considered, because NASA managers failed to thoroughly examine the extent of

Columbia’s damage.


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