more Space Shuttle stuff (NY Times)

There was quite a discussion here on rcm right after the space shuttle
crashed as a result of the foam debris impact damage. Most of the
discussion devolved down to the question of, "did they know how bad
it was, and what could they have done about it?"
Most of us were under the impression that NASA attempted to
image the damage, and for whatever reason, could not get the
high resolution photos needed to properly asses the damage.
The article in the NY Times on sept 26th indicates that's not
quite how the whole thing played out. Apparently there were
many engineers who wanted to obtain imaging from outside NASA,
and petitioned the NASA management to do so.
The management ignored the requests, and when they became
insistent enough, cancelled the requests that were going up
the chain inside NASA.
When Rodney Rocha (a nasa engineer) saw the initial video
that was taken during the launch, he sent an email to to the
manager of the shuttle engineering office, Paul Shack. Shack
never responded. Rocha sent a second message to Shack.
Apparently Calvin Schomberg, a veteran engineer who was regarded
as an expert in the shuttle's thermal protection system
- although his expertise was in heat resisting tiles, not
the reinforced carbon-carbon that protected the wing's
leading edges - had been reassuring shuttle managers.
Whether because of Mr. Schomberg's influence, or because
managers simply had no intention of taking the extraordinary
step of asking another agency to obtain images, Mr. Rocha's
request found its way into a bureaucratic dead end.
On Wednesday, an official that Mr. Schomburg had spoken
to (Ms. Linda Ham, the chairwoman of the shuttle management
team) cancelled Rocha's request and two other similar
requests from other engineers associated with the mission,
according to the investigation board.
Mr. Rocha sent Mr. Shack another message asking why
the requests for extra-agency images had been cancelled.
Shack replied "Im not going to be a Chicken Little
about this" recalled Rocha.
There were apparently other meetings between management
and engineering staff, which became quite heated.
Rocha and Schomburg argued extensively. In another
meeting Linda Ham shut down a discussion of the debris
strikes to move the meeting along.
After the crash, Rocha came into direct contact with
a head NASA adminstrator, Sean O'Keefe, and detailed
what had happened. The investigation board recommended
that now, outside agencies should take images during
every flight, and 11 of the 15 top shuttle manages should
either retire or be re-assigned, including Linda Ham.
Nasa apparently is following those suggestions.
(previous almost verbatim from the NYTimes article)
My take: they really screwed up. They weren't even
in the running to try to save those folks' lives. They
had no clue and didn't want one. The managers
squashed anyone with initiative or engineering
common sense. Sure, maybe the astronauts were in a
flying coffin, that nothing could be done. But that
idea is completely anathema to all the other former
NASA disasters or near disasters.
I bet all the Apollo 13 crew were reading this, and
thinking, 'damn I'm glad *she* wasn't in charge
when that oxygen tank blew up. We never would have
made it home, because everyone on the ground would
have been too busy playing CYA.'
please reply to:
JRR(zero) at yktvmv (dot) vnet (dot) ibm (dot) com
Reply to
jim rozen
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Makes me wonder how many other problems they have treated with the old trick of pretending its not there and hoping it goes away. I can imagine one of those management types finding the over-temp warning light comming on in their car and covering it over with some black tape to fix the problem.
I must say though I am always impressed with how few accidents they actually do have when you consider the whole rocket assembly is just a huge bomb being let off a bit at a time. But I guess the real point in all of this is that you cant let non-engineers over rule engineers on engineering decisions. I dont tell our management types how to do their job - thats why I still have a job !
Reply to
In the private sector, I would think this would amount to criminal negligence and result in huge lawsuits... I hope NASA does can all responsible for impeding the efforts to image the damage, and that they are disbarred from any civil service job in this country.
Reply to
Jon Anderson
I heard something a couple of weeks ago that they could have got images and didn't. Then about a week ago all of the safety "people" resigned , 10 or 11 of them. Now , they tried and got shot down by probably those same "people" .
I can understand that it would be a tough job with all the parts and people. The foam must be covered and impregnated with ice from the humidity in Florida and the liquid fuel temperatures. I wouldn't be thinking "oh just soft foam" from the footage of the launch. I just can't see the motive to ignore it . From the angle of the camera they must have been going pretty fast by then and they acted like it was ice before or just after leaving the tower.
There had to be a reason that something so obvious and common sense was over ridden. I'd like to know what it was . I say that they should be interegated on TV. It has to boil down to image , being on time , or something like Army vs. Navy vs. AF. and ended up dropping the ball.
Reply to
On 28 Sep 2003 19:08:59 -0700, jim rozen wrote in Msg.
What do they mean when they talk about "imaging from outside NASA"? Detailed photographs of the (damaged) shuttle in flight? I can't see how that would have been technically possible even if NASA had decided to have such images taken. Or am I completely missing something here?
But I think the NASA administration was right in not WANTING to know too much about the damage because where would exact knowledge have left them? Let's assume they'd had a good, sharp photograph of the damaged wing. The could have either decided that the damage didn't present too high a risk and to just wing it (ha-ha) on re- entry (1), or they could have realized that no way the shuttle'd make it back down in one piece (2). Had (1) not worked (as we now know it wouldn't have) the scandal would have been even bigger than now. And what could have been done in case (2)? Send up another shuttle, rescue the crew and abandon the old one? I don't think that space shuttles are just standing around like commercial aircraft, fuelled up, ready to go. It would have been a very haphazard enterprise to get the crew out of the damaged shuttle into the other one, and even if everybody was rescued the discussions about whether it was OK to sacrifice an entire shuttle because of (possibly) minor damage would have been pretty damaging to NASA as well. Not to mention the possibility of losing two shuttles and two crews.
The NASA knew damn well that hushing up and hoping for the best was their best option, and in that case it's best to know nothing. It's quite logical and not even condemnable, all things considered. No conspiracy theory needed.
Reply to
Daniel Haude
I'll bite. HOW?
Outside in space, zero G. They didn't have the EVA packs on this flight, right?
Joel. phx
Reply to
Joel Corwith
On Tue, 30 Sep 2003 06:53:24 -0400, Nick Hull wrote something ......and in reply I say!:
But didn't they only have eno9ugh of those after it was too late?
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Reply to
Old Nick
They had space suits and could have reached the area with one astronaut holding the other & the open bay door.
A slim chance is better than no chance.
Reply to
Nick Hull
On 30 Sep 2003 06:16:32 -0700, jim rozen wrote in Msg.
I know. My argument was based on the assumption that there was no possiblilty to do anything about the damage *itself* in flight. I thought there were no space suits or so. Dunno. The whole affair didn't interest me much because I think manned space travel is stupid anyway. Challenger and Columbia is what you're asking for when you shoot people into space, and all things considered, it went surprisingly well so far. I wonder what people are so upset about -- death by atomization is kind of part of an astronaut's job description. Nobody gives a shit when one of Europe's stupid Arianes explodes, which is the way it should be.
Reply to
Daniel Haude
All they need was a space suit and a patch. The shuttle could do all the manuvering, the space walker just had to sit still.
Reply to
Man, I don't think I've read much funnier than that. Well, OK, there was the 'just doc with the spacestation' one.
Joel. phx
Reply to
Joel Corwith
Actually, NASA considered a similar scheme to give the belly a looking over, not including any repairs.
Unless they carried spare tile material, it would be moot anyway.
Reply to
There is a difference between sitting in space and rotating an object past you versus trying to stuff objects in a crevice while a pilot is trying to shove the shuttle at you with the same force as you pushing in. Otherwise any/all movement of the astronaut will cause an 'equal but opposite' reaction (i.e. drifting out to space).
Joel. phx
Gemini 4 mission, Ed White was unable to shut the door without assistance.
They would have to have a MMU to insert the tile otherwise as you pushed the tile in, your body would head off the other way.
Reply to
Joel Corwith
I think the real point here is that the shuttle cannot operate any of the maneuvering systems when somebody is outside. Doing so is 'very bad.'
This is where the original discussion traipsed around, "what would they do," "what could they do," "ropes" "duct tape" "patches"
But the simple fact of the matter is, the moron management did not even let them get off of square zero. Nobody had a clue about what the real conditions were, hence the crew was certainly doomed.
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Reply to
jim rozen
Yes, there would need to be some kind of restraint; but that is not a major difficulty if rope or strong-enough* wire were on board. You would pitch the rope straight out, then rotate the shuttle to wind the rope around it a few times, pull out slack, and then use the rope to go where you need to work, etc. So, getting to a workplace and holding in place might not have been insurmountable roadblocks. Of course other problems, like keeping the rope from damaging other tiles, or finding suitable materials for repairs, could have been. -jiw
Of course long-enough wires were on board, any little transformer from an electronic device contains hundreds of meters of fine wire.
Reply to
James Waldby
They certianlly don't ride the CM back through the atmosphere with a gaping hole in it, tiles or no.
And they also ALMOST didn't make it back for that reason. Their re-entry was too shallow and...
Anyway. Essentially, I think they should have been given the opportunity to AT LEAST inspect their hull. Alive in orbit is preferable to "atomization". There were options, even if they were far-fetched, just like Apollo.
And there is no need for the Ad Hominem.
Reply to
You funny. They did the EXACTLY the same thing on 13. Gee, the panel is blown off clear up to the heatshield. Blank looks around the room. Ok then, lets land it.
Joel. phx
They lost on the second roll,... right?
Reply to
Joel Corwith
Umm. CHeck.
You guys had a pathetic *attitude*.
But only 0.001% as pathetic as the NASA management that derided the engineers there, who wanted desperately to DO something.
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Reply to
jim rozen

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