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Houston we have a problem!
February 1, 2003 6:23 AM   Subscribe

Houston we have a problem! At 9:00am EST communication was lost with space shuttle Columbia. The touch down should have been occurred at 9:16am.
posted by MzB (450 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Seems to be fine now, according to CNN.
posted by CrazyJub at 6:26 AM on February 1, 2003


I was just about to post this. Right now there are declaring the shuttle has been lost.
posted by jasonspaceman at 6:26 AM on February 1, 2003


Ok, now it's bad.
Crap.
posted by CrazyJub at 6:28 AM on February 1, 2003


CNN has the story.
posted by MzB at 6:29 AM on February 1, 2003


News story here.

Emergency procedures are in place now to perserve data to determine what has happened.

Mission control looks unusally calm.
posted by jasonspaceman at 6:29 AM on February 1, 2003


Oh my god, I read this and thought someone had double posted about Challenger.....
posted by saintsguy at 6:32 AM on February 1, 2003


.
posted by PrinceValium at 6:33 AM on February 1, 2003


From the video playing on every channel it's clear that it broke up into multiple pieces and started to burn. Those heat-shielding tiles have always been a concern, AFAIK. I recall hearing that losing only a couple in a critical area could be catastrophic.

Reports are also coming in from the Palestine, Texas area of "a large impact" being heard, but that may be unrelated.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:39 AM on February 1, 2003


Nasa officials are asking people not to pick up any pieces they may find. There will not be any survivors - it was travelling at 14000 m/hr when it broke up.
posted by hannahkitty at 6:42 AM on February 1, 2003


related links:

Israel's First Astronaut, Ilan Ramon

Write-up about the astronauts
posted by jasonspaceman at 6:44 AM on February 1, 2003


it`s live on cnn & it`s clear the shuttle has broken up; i`m watching the video feed of a breaking shuttle: pieces streaking thru a blue sky. they are surely gone, all seven astronauts, gone.
posted by n o i s e s at 6:44 AM on February 1, 2003


For those of you not familiar with Palestine, Palestine is SE of DFW, where the soon to be famous footage was shot. The shuttle was on its way to Cape Canaveral so I suppose that Palestine would be a possible location for debris as the shuttle was about 200K+ feet up at breakup.

Palestine

BTW, I was listening to MSNBC when they had "Ira Petty", NASA "spokesperson" on. He said something and then mentioned Howard Stern being on board at which point MSNBC promptly switched coverage to something else. Did some prankster spoof himself as Ira Petty? Did anyone else hear this?
posted by yangwar at 6:45 AM on February 1, 2003


Official NASA Page about STS-107
posted by jasonspaceman at 6:46 AM on February 1, 2003


oh my.
posted by Espoo2 at 6:47 AM on February 1, 2003


Nobody has any video feeds, do they? I'm at work without TV.
posted by ajpresto at 6:48 AM on February 1, 2003


another israeli in palestine
posted by n o i s e s at 6:49 AM on February 1, 2003


Requiem aeternum donum Dominie, et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Mrs. Alums is on the list for the Teacher In Space program.
posted by alumshubby at 6:49 AM on February 1, 2003


Terrible news. Even more amazingly, check out this prewrite from the Washington Post, which has quotes from the shuttle crew and claims that the Columbia landed without problems!
posted by ed at 6:49 AM on February 1, 2003


ajpresto, there's not much to report right now. Not even NASA seem to know what's happened, although there is a video playing over showing debris flying across the sky over Texas. Makes it pretty clear that Columbia has exploded.
posted by chill at 6:52 AM on February 1, 2003


actually ed, it doesn't claim that at all. It has quotes via radio from the shuttle crew and says it "streaked toward" a landing.

Oh shit.
posted by Vidiot at 6:53 AM on February 1, 2003


CNN just updated their site with this:
On launch day, a piece of insulating foam on the external fuel tank came off during liftoff and was believed to have struck the left wing of the shuttle. NASA said as late as Friday that the damage to the thermal tiles was believed to be minor and posed no safety concern during the fiery decent through the atmosphere.
Hm.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 6:53 AM on February 1, 2003


Oh my god, that is very sad. Not what space exploration needs right now.
posted by riffola at 6:53 AM on February 1, 2003


i`m deeply sorry. it`s a horrible thing.
posted by n o i s e s at 6:54 AM on February 1, 2003


From Ha'aretz:

Ilan Ramon, a colonel in Israel's air force and former fighter pilot, became the first man from his country to fly in space, and his presence resulted in an increase in security, not only for Columbia's January 16 launch, but also for its landing. Space agency officials feared his presence might make the shuttle more of a terrorist target.
posted by anewc2 at 6:57 AM on February 1, 2003


Stern's underlings, especially Stuttering John, have actual jobs trying to get on the air during breaking-news events.

Columbia is -- was -- NASA's oldest shuttle, the first one built after Enterprise. It had the heaviest metal frame. There is talk that a wing may have been damaged during the launch by foam insulation from the nose cone of the external tank, and that would roughly be consistent with a structural failure during re-entry. In this kind of situation, though, we may have trouble determining with the same degree of certainty as Challenger what caused the break-up; most of the evidence will simply burn up.

God. I think this is going to mean the end of the space program for the foreseeable future.
posted by dhartung at 6:57 AM on February 1, 2003


For those of you looking for video, there are some live news feeds maybe with footage/maybe without. There are some links on the /. comments page. Get them while they last
posted by yangwar at 6:59 AM on February 1, 2003


MSNBC is reporting "Shuttle explodes over Texas". This is very, very hard to take.
posted by Songdog at 7:03 AM on February 1, 2003


just what the hell were they doing up there & shouldn`t these things be unmanned drones by now??

i fear for those where the debris has landed... the full colour horror of live news pictures from the crash site can be only minutes away.
posted by n o i s e s at 7:04 AM on February 1, 2003


They are saying the astronauts have parachutes and if the crew capsule had separated....but I think that is wishful thinking.

Crapcrapcrap.
posted by konolia at 7:05 AM on February 1, 2003


Stern's underlings, especially Stuttering John, have actual jobs trying to get on the air during breaking-news events.

It's sick.
posted by Vidiot at 7:05 AM on February 1, 2003


Cant find a video of the explosion yet, but here is mission control at msnbc.com.
posted by Espoo2 at 7:06 AM on February 1, 2003


noises, the debris will probably be minimal as re-entry is very hot. Most of the debris will have most likely disintegrated.

As for the ejection system, the astronauts would have been up to high for even to use the ejection system.

Most likely they re-entered orbit at a bad angle.
posted by jasonspaceman at 7:08 AM on February 1, 2003


the worst thing to happen to the best people -- my sympathies for the families and friends...

not what the world needs right now...
posted by ruwan at 7:09 AM on February 1, 2003


no, i suspect that this`ll not be the end of the space program, dhartung, but surely the begining of a shiny new & fully automated space program.
posted by n o i s e s at 7:10 AM on February 1, 2003


Well that's the nuclear power idea back another 50 years. This is terrible for us all.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 7:10 AM on February 1, 2003


One of my good friends trains astronauts for weightlessness in an underwater scuba diving environment in Houston. (I believe she comes to metafilter sometimes too)... I'm quite certain she knew all of them very well.

Very strange events today.
posted by Espoo2 at 7:10 AM on February 1, 2003


When I read the first posts in this thread I thought everyone was *pretending* it had broken up. This is terrible.
posted by mecran01 at 7:11 AM on February 1, 2003


To early to speculate but that never stopped us before.

Some thoughts:

No way it could have been a terrorist. It was too high when it exploded to be a missle target.

The crew in the space station will be able to get down via Soyuz capsule but what will happen the station now? I'm sure the shuttle will be grounded for a long time.
posted by bondcliff at 7:11 AM on February 1, 2003


The post has already pulled the article linked earlier.

I'm so deeply sorry to see this.
posted by onhazier at 7:11 AM on February 1, 2003


Some maroon just used the word "sabotage" on the phone while talking to a reporter on MSNBC. Geeze. All in all, sad story. It'll be a long time before we fid out what really happened to the shuttle - foam or not, hold your horses and wait and see.

The shuttle has definately been lost.

NASA: "due to the loss... landing planned at 816am.... 200000 feet all comm was lost... including tracking data.... search teams have been sent out.... all debrise must not be touched and nasa notified... all comm lost at 8am.... nasa out" (me paraphrase).
posted by tomplus2 at 7:12 AM on February 1, 2003


n o i s e s asked:
just what the hell were they doing up there & shouldn`t these things be unmanned drones by now??

from cnn.com:
The mission, dedicated strictly to scientific research, is a rare space shuttle flight that does not stop at the international space station. During the 16-day trip, the seven-person crew of the shuttle Columbia is working around-the-clock on more than 80 experiments.

Sort of hard to perform specific experiments (on small animals & insects & the effects on them in space, etc) without actual people on board.

By & large, the shuttle missions have been very safe and highly successful. People said after the Challenger tragedy that it would be the end of manned space flight. It wasn't. I don't think that this will be either, though it's true that it'll probably go on a long hiatus.

I don't have the same knotted, sick feeling in my stomach that I had on that morning in 1986, but then, I'm not nine any more, and I'm not watching it happen over and over and over on the TVs at school (just listening on NPR). Still... I'm terribly sad. So many memories came flooding back when the news first broke -- memories that hadn't come back from reading the Challenger anniversary news stories.
posted by dryad at 7:13 AM on February 1, 2003


A sad & tragic timeline STS-107 Columbia landing journal.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:13 AM on February 1, 2003


Well, the crawl on CNN has declared that it is "unlikely" that it is terrorism, which I agree with.

Miles O'Brien circled the debris falling out immediately before explosion on CNN. That could have been the precursor to the explosion.

On preview: I still see the article from the Washington Post (AP, actually) posted just 32 minutes before they lost contact.
posted by calwatch at 7:14 AM on February 1, 2003


How many people are still at the station and how will they be coming back? What's this mean for the station? Guess I'm directing this all to you Dan.
posted by y2karl at 7:15 AM on February 1, 2003


bbc world: nasa warns any debris seen in north central texas may be toxic.

what was it carrying??
posted by n o i s e s at 7:15 AM on February 1, 2003


btw, you can see live video at nasa tv.
posted by tomplus2 at 7:16 AM on February 1, 2003


video of debris here.
posted by Espoo2 at 7:17 AM on February 1, 2003


It wasn't carrying anything toxic - they said it was due to the toxicity of some of the chemicals used as propelants.
posted by stevengarrity at 7:17 AM on February 1, 2003


No way it could have been a terrorist. It was too high when it exploded to be a missle target.

But the focus, since there was structural damage on liftoff, would be on possible sabotage before the launch.

If the Challenger was an anomaly, this makes it a trend. This will almost certainly damage public confidence and support of the space program.

noises: Regardless of what it was carrying, the propellent used for liftoff and reentry is some nasty stuff.. not exactly sure what but it is definitely not Kool-aid for anyone exposed to it.
posted by PrinceValium at 7:17 AM on February 1, 2003


The shuttle is full of toxic chemicals associated with the life-support systems and rocket engines. Every time the shuttle lands it's approached very carefully and the chemicals are bled off.
posted by Vidiot at 7:18 AM on February 1, 2003


yskarl, there are other shuttles to use.
posted by jasonspaceman at 7:18 AM on February 1, 2003


Oops. everyone beat me to my comment about the toxicity of the debris.
posted by dryad at 7:19 AM on February 1, 2003


Family in East Texas say that there was a sonic boom that shook their house, presumed to be the shuttle or a part of it. They said it lasted for several seconds, and they had never heard anything like it.
posted by Espoo2 at 7:19 AM on February 1, 2003


blue mefi & blue nasa skies. i feel for the families who must watch in horror just like the rest of us.
posted by n o i s e s at 7:19 AM on February 1, 2003


3 people on the station. There is a Russian capsule permanently parked there should they need to leave. They can get to/from the station via Soyuz but the shuttle is the only vehicle for construction.
posted by bondcliff at 7:19 AM on February 1, 2003


vidiot: True enough about the "streak."

Do any North Central Texas MeFites have any news on the debris? I hope there aren't any further casualties.
posted by ed at 7:20 AM on February 1, 2003


Bloody hell! It's horrible. I think I was 12 when the Challenger happened...

It would be nice if we could start another thread for the speculation (much of it is going to be tacky, yes) and leave this one for news updates. I personally doubt very much it's got anything to do with terrorism, but the questions will be asked...
posted by GrahamVM at 7:20 AM on February 1, 2003


NBC TV has video of the pieces falling, not sure if they've put it online.

Time to pray for those that do so.
posted by tommasz at 7:22 AM on February 1, 2003


y2karl: Three members on ISS: Expedition Six crew (Google cache). No word yet on how this will affect them; a Russian cargo ship was to dock on Tuesday to bring supplies.

A sad day for spaceflight.
posted by skyboy at 7:22 AM on February 1, 2003


google news is surprisingly slow in getting any of this.
posted by Espoo2 at 7:22 AM on February 1, 2003


"It was like a car hitting the house or an explosion. It shook that much."
posted by ed at 7:23 AM on February 1, 2003


Some guy on CNN is reporting that a plane was near by! Shit, I hope it's coincidence.
posted by ed at 7:24 AM on February 1, 2003


Witness Benjamin Lester in Central Texas reporting plane.
posted by ed at 7:25 AM on February 1, 2003


God damn I hate breaking news. Some yokel on CNN is saying he saw a commercial jet near the shuttle before it exploded. Commercial jets don't fly at 200,000 feet, moron.
posted by bondcliff at 7:26 AM on February 1, 2003


It was far too recently that I was reading the thread about the Challenger; I was in anatomy class 17 years ago; I was laying in bed listening to NPR today.
posted by TedW at 7:26 AM on February 1, 2003


God, and we were just talking about the Challenger the other day. Another where you when day...
posted by y2karl at 7:27 AM on February 1, 2003


I was just getting ready to go to sleep when this hit the screen.

I don't think I'll be sleeping for a while.
posted by Inkslinger at 7:27 AM on February 1, 2003


m_c_d
Reports are also coming in from the Palestine, Texas area of "a large impact" being heard, but that may be unrelated.


if that wasn't true, then it would probably have been the blackest joke i have ever heard.
posted by kickingtheground at 7:28 AM on February 1, 2003


Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia - all within a week (different years obviously)
posted by edh at 7:29 AM on February 1, 2003


I was getting ready for the Gasparilla Parade. Was supposed to be a big one, the Bucs won the Super Bowl. I don't feel like going now. This is awful. My prayers go out to the families involved.
posted by RunsWithBandageScissors at 7:30 AM on February 1, 2003


I personally seriously doubt this will put any major hiatus on the space program. There will be some down time due to investigation. But according to that article that the Washington Post will regret, the next launch is scheduled for March.

If anything, this will probably increase the scheduling for 100% reusable space vehicles. Trying not to make lite of anything, but having a space vehicle that mostly burns up upon use is so '80s.
posted by mychai at 7:31 AM on February 1, 2003


For all folks watching the breaking news feeds, be aware that there is almost certainly a no-fly over the impact area, and choppers won't have any footage. We're going to be sitting on speculation for hours.
posted by PrinceValium at 7:31 AM on February 1, 2003


Columbia Astronauts Remember Challenger
Space shuttle Columbia's astronauts briefly interrupted their science work on the 17th anniversary of the Challenger disaster to remember their fallen comrades. (4) NASA's work force, in orbit and on Earth, observed a moment of silence Tuesday at the exact time that Challenger exploded in the sky Jan. 28, 1986. (4) Ten bells tolled on the ground, one for each of the seven astronauts killed in the Challenger explosion and the three who died aboard Apollo One in 1967 flash fire on the launch pad. (3) In a statement to mission control, shuttle commander Rick Husband and Columbia's six other astronauts, including Israel's first astronaut, paid homage to their fallen colleagues.
posted by konolia at 7:32 AM on February 1, 2003


karl, the Station is currently manned by one Russian astronaut (Budarin) and two Americans (Pettit and Bowersox). They are scheduled to remain on board through March 1, when the Atlantis was to bring up the expedition 7 crew and an MPLM logistics module, as well as consumables such as fresh water and food; it is unlikely they will remain even that long, now, even if their supplies would have lasted. Because of NASA's concern for safety margins, they may be ordered home almost immediately, using the Soyuz crew return vehicle. The Soyuz was due to be swapped out in late April (they have a six-month on-orbit lifetime).

The ISS had just begun construction of the main truss, which will hold the major solar arrays and cooling systems, and its completion -- with as many as four flights by the end of year -- would have been the major task of 2003.
posted by dhartung at 7:33 AM on February 1, 2003


Jesus. I was up all night, about to go to sleep, decided to check Google News before sleeping... now, how can I sleep?

It's truly horrifying hearing the Mission Control folks reporting so professionally about a "shuttle contingency," knowing what that means.
posted by litlnemo at 7:33 AM on February 1, 2003


Not again :( Please, not again...

Space is a very dangerous job. These astronauts are true heroes. My condolences to all of their families.
posted by Soliloquy at 7:34 AM on February 1, 2003


Does anyone have a duty roster?
posted by konolia at 7:34 AM on February 1, 2003


The "plane near the shuttle" report is probably true, and it was probably a USAF chase plane checking up on the STS...
posted by costas at 7:34 AM on February 1, 2003


This is so sad.
posted by Tarrama at 7:35 AM on February 1, 2003


I personally seriously doubt this will put any major hiatus on the space program.

Where you around in 1986? I think it was two years before another one was launched.

This is the second failed shuttle out of five. A large portion of the public thinks the manned space program is a waste of money. Other than us geeks, few people actually care about it.

I honestly think this could bring an end, for a long time, to the manned space program. I certainly hope not.
posted by bondcliff at 7:35 AM on February 1, 2003


I doubt this will kill the US human spaceflight program -- if only for psychological reasons...the goal will be to get flying again.
posted by Vidiot at 7:37 AM on February 1, 2003


CNN is reporting this was the 113th flight for all shuttles combined. I am an aero engineer and we take our superstitions seriously... within a week of the Challenger anniversary, 1-13... damn, damn.
posted by costas at 7:38 AM on February 1, 2003


From Florida Today: (thanks madamjujujive for a great link)

NASA's contingency board is meeting at this moment to discuss what happened. Johnson Space Center will release a statement shortly, we are being told. And a press conference should follow. Administrator Sean O'Keefe was on site today for the landing but is not clear yet whether the press will get access to him to discuss the incident.
posted by Vidiot at 7:38 AM on February 1, 2003


bondicliff - leaving China to take up the baton....?
posted by edh at 7:39 AM on February 1, 2003


bondcliff: It wasn't a commercial jet, but if other witnesses confirm another flying object or "a plane," it might be worth looking into, even if it's most likely a piece of the Columbia.
posted by ed at 7:40 AM on February 1, 2003


Sidebar: It was Febraury of 1962 when John Glenn road the fiery Friendship 7 back to earth.
posted by Dick Paris at 7:40 AM on February 1, 2003


leaving China to take up the baton....?

Very possibly.

I wonder whose flag will touch down on Mars first?
posted by bondcliff at 7:41 AM on February 1, 2003


Rick Husband has just one other space flight under his belt and already he’s flying as commander. That’s a rarity. "I think a lot of it has to do with being in the right place at the right time, for starters," says Husband, 45, an Air Force colonel from Amarillo, Texas. The former test pilot was selected as an astronaut in 1994 on his fourth try. Space flight has been his lifelong passion, along with singing. Husband, a baritone, has barbershop quartet experience and has been singing in church choirs for years

William McCool says one of the most nerve-racking parts of training was learning to draw blood — from others. Columbia’s two pilots are exempted from invasive medical tests in orbit, like blood draws. That means he and his commander have to draw blood from their crewmates. McCool felt bad practicing on volunteers. "I didn’t want to inflict pain," he recalls. The Navy commander and former test pilot became an astronaut in 1996. This is the first space flight for McCool, 41, who grew up in Lubbock, Texas.

Michael Anderson loves flying, both in aircraft and spacecraft, but he dislikes being launched. It’s the risk factor. "There’s always that unknown," he says. Anderson, 43, the son of an Air Force man, grew up on military bases. He was flying for the Air Force when NASA chose him in 1994 as one of only a handful of black astronauts. He traveled to Russia’s Mir space station in 1998. He is now a lieutenant colonel and in charge of Columbia’s dozens of science experiments. His home is Spokane, Wash.

Kalpana Chawla wanted to design aircraft when she emigrated to the United States from India in the 1980s. The space program was the furthest thing from her mind. But "one thing led to another," the 41-year-old engineer said, and she was chosen as an astronaut in 1994. On her only other space flight, in 1996, Chawla made mistakes that sent a satellite tumbling out of control, and two spacewalkers had to go out and capture it. She realizes some may see this flight as her chance to redeem herself.


David Brown is a Navy novelty: He’s both a jet pilot and a doctor. He’s also probably the only NASA astronaut to have worked as a circus acrobat. (It was a summer job during college.) He says what he learned about "the teamwork and the safety and the staying focused" has carried over to his space job. He joined the Navy after his medical internship, and his current rank is captain. NASA chose him as an astronaut in 1996. This is the 46-year-old Virginia native's first space flight.

Laurel Clark, a Navy physician who worked undersea, likens the numerous launch delays to a marathon in which the finish line keeps moving out five miles. "You’ve got to slow back down and maintain a pace," she says. The 41-year-old Clark was a diving medical officer aboard submarines and then a naval flight surgeon. She became an astronaut in 1996. Clark will help with Columbia’s science experiments, which should have flown almost two years ago. Her hometown is Racine, Wis.

Ilan Ramon, a colonel in Israel’s air force, is the first Israeli to be launched into space. "It’s a very symbolic mission," he says. His mother and grandmother survived the Auschwitz death camp, and his father was a Zionist who fought for Israel’s statehood. The astronaut also fought for his country, in the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and the Lebanon War in 1982. Ramon, 48, was selected as an astronaut in 1997 and moved to Houston in 1998 to train for a shuttle flight. He calls Tel Aviv home.

posted by Espoo2 at 7:42 AM on February 1, 2003


Similar to the above Florida Today link, here's another minute by minute account of the Shuttle.
posted by calwatch at 7:42 AM on February 1, 2003


ABC is reporting that we'll hear from Pres. Bush this afternoon, but "NASA will go first."
posted by Vidiot at 7:44 AM on February 1, 2003


Shuttle disaster? Money in the bank!
posted by rcade at 7:45 AM on February 1, 2003


They've had a pretty amazing safety record. In the early years of the space race we lost quite a few rockets and quite a few lives as well.

This is a time to mourn, but also one in which to reflect on the flawless record since the last lost shuttle. (compared to the 70000 deaths caused by automobile accidents each yet...)
posted by tomplus2 at 7:45 AM on February 1, 2003


Bondcliff, I unfortunately agree with you. This could be an even bigger blow to the space prgram than Challenger was. In the case of the Challenger they were able to determine with some certainty the cause of the disaster and fix it; with Columbia breaking up at 200K feet and 16K mph, there will be little usable evidence. On top of that the space shuttle fleet is aging, there is no replacement vehicle very far along in development, and the government is on a tight budget these days. I hope I am wrong, but I fear it will be a very long time before Americans are in space again. Perhaps China's recent forays into space will spur us on.
posted by TedW at 7:46 AM on February 1, 2003


Live feed from the BBC
posted by Orange Goblin at 7:46 AM on February 1, 2003


WFAA, the Dallas/Ft. Worth television station currently providing CNN with video, has online streaming video of its own coverage that might be easier to access than the NASA TV streams (which are currently being hammered.)
posted by Inkslinger at 7:46 AM on February 1, 2003


Oh, semi-professional opinion (used to be an aero engineer): this will most likely kill the US manned flight program, unless it's considered a matter of national pride. STS are an expensive fleet to keep up and their fixed maintainance costs just went up by 25% (sorry that this sounds terribly cynical).

Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavor are now some of the most expensive means of transportation in the world. NASA has been looking for an STS replacement for years, and nothing came out of that (as the X-30 was cancelled not too long ago). The US does not have a manned capsule program or operational space-planes.

Since this was the worst case scenario from an engineering point-of-view (reentry for the shuttle is an amazing feat of engineering), I can guess that NASA will have to re-test and re-certify the remaining three shuttles all over again, which will add to their enormous cost of operation. I don't think STS will be killed altogether, but effectively this puts it on life support. The bigger question is what happens with the ISS; the Russian Soyuz can't really do much, the STS will be grounded indefinitely... maybe get the Chinese to lend a hand?...
posted by costas at 7:46 AM on February 1, 2003


I live in Dallas. My sister-in-law called me and I went outside and saw it coming down. It was coming down at a high rate of speed SE of Dallas. I also saw a jet going very fast toward that area. Did not hear any noise, just saw it coming down. Terrible to see and realize it was the shuttle.
posted by razzuli at 7:47 AM on February 1, 2003


Vidiot, deep within the white house they are apparently furiously programming bush the puppet to tonight attempt to address the `nation.`

he`s gonna have to soften his war tone tonight, isn`t he?
posted by n o i s e s at 7:48 AM on February 1, 2003


for those away from a tv here's a stream from khou [real] in houston. they're are picking up the cbs natl coverage right now.

re: the plane spotted. there probaby was a commercial plane in the area but 170,000 feet closer to the ground.
posted by birdherder at 7:48 AM on February 1, 2003


dhartung made an informative comment regarding Columbia (STS-1) a while back.

"Columbia, the oldest shuttle (it was STS-1), is also the heaviest because the superstructure, especially in the delta wing, was buiilt stronger than needed. This makes it incapable of flying to the roughly 212-mile orbital altitude of the space station."
posted by riffola at 7:49 AM on February 1, 2003


I think the Chinese aren't far along enough, probably -- they still haven't done ANY manned spaceflight. ESA, the European Space Agency, has only done it under the aegis of NASA but is probably in a better position.

rcade, that's depressing that someone thinks to register the domain immediately upon hearing the news.
posted by Vidiot at 7:50 AM on February 1, 2003


There's got to be at least one more space shuttle launch, relatively soon - to take the space station crew back to earth. Surely they're not going to use the escape pods?
posted by Pretty_Generic at 7:51 AM on February 1, 2003


My prayers for the crew.

Furthermore, as before, it's going to be the net that will provide the most source of information: everyone ought to keep their eyes open for that missing shuttle - though apparently one should keep one's distance from the debris.

I bet NASA could use your help down there in the South. It's gotta be somewhere.

This is just awful. I was listening live when Challenger exploded, and I'm just sick about those on board. I hope by some miracle that they survived, though by all accounts, they couldn't possibly.

Ugh. All I could think about in 1986 was that Christa McAuliffe's family was watching.
posted by mirla at 7:51 AM on February 1, 2003


NASA news conference expected at 11:30a Eastern Time.
posted by Vidiot at 7:52 AM on February 1, 2003


Vidiot, the Chinese will put a man in space long before we ever do again.
posted by bondcliff at 7:52 AM on February 1, 2003


this will surely push back yankie designs on iraqi oil beyond february.
posted by n o i s e s at 7:52 AM on February 1, 2003


I heard the explosion this morning (my husband and I live just west of Fort Worth). It literally sounded like someone ran their car into our garage door. It's not unusual for us to hear strange noises, since Carswell AFB is only about two miles away. This was very different though. We got up to see what was going on and saw the trails across the sky.
posted by moosedogtoo at 7:53 AM on February 1, 2003


noises: soften his war tone? au contraire.
posted by mirla at 7:54 AM on February 1, 2003


This is the second failed shuttle out of five. A large portion of the public thinks the manned space program is a waste of money.

Calling the Columbia a "failed shuttle" would be a misnomer. It has been operating since 1981. I just traded in a 1992 Toyota because it was making weird noises. There is a lot more to go wrong in an STS than a Toyota. So, it is far from being a "failed shuttle."

And the space program consists of less than 1% of the total national budget. Even if it was a waste of money (which it most certainly isn't. Thank the space program, in part, for that that itty-bitty computer you are looking at right now), it wouldn't be a significant waste compared to other money-spending programs going on now.
posted by mychai at 7:54 AM on February 1, 2003


Damn. Damn, damn, damn. This sucks so bad.

I honestly think this could bring an end, for a long time, to the manned space program. I certainly hope not.

I hope the President and Congress show leadership, and keep the shuttle program alive. You are right, there probably will be at least some hiatus before another launch ... but I really hope the program is not ended. I know the NASA folks themselves will never want to end it - they have an intense culture, know the risks, and willingly accept them. They would never stop flying voluntarily. If this disaster puts an end to the program, it will be because Congress pulls funding, not because the brave men and women in Houston don't want to fly. But I am fairly certain Congress will not do something as foolish as ending the program.
posted by MidasMulligan at 7:54 AM on February 1, 2003


Vidiot - China though seem to have unlimited resources, and an overwhelming desire to use them.....
posted by edh at 7:55 AM on February 1, 2003


another Howard Stern caller just got through to Dan Rather. Jerk.
posted by Vidiot at 7:55 AM on February 1, 2003


.
(What Prince Vallium said)
posted by daver at 7:55 AM on February 1, 2003


Another crank call... a caller called Dan Rather a "real idiot" and said that they think the debris in their backyard is one of baba booey's teeth....

Man, Howard Stern isn't looking too good right now.
posted by Espoo2 at 7:57 AM on February 1, 2003


NASA is saying that debris has been sighted in north-central texas, and the Kennedy Space Center flag has been lowered to half-staff. Bush is headed back to White House via motorcade.
posted by Vidiot at 7:58 AM on February 1, 2003


What? the next shuttle missions scrubbed?? surely not. Isn't there a big spacestation up there that needs a little maintenance?
posted by tomplus2 at 7:59 AM on February 1, 2003


I heard the prank call, and I pray that CBS has caller id.
posted by konolia at 8:00 AM on February 1, 2003


Shuttle disaster? Money in the bank!

Time for Metafilter to send dwampler@prontix.com a little love.
posted by PrinceValium at 8:01 AM on February 1, 2003


This is so so sad. And now I have a full day ahead of me theatre, somehow I can't help but feel I'm going to be a little distracted. At least I won't be around to watch the thousands of replays of that break up footage on all the cafeterias on campus.

The BBC feed is the best so far, thank you Orange Goblin
posted by nelleish at 8:01 AM on February 1, 2003


CNN at 10:47 EST:

Police in Nacogdoches, Texas, reported "numerous pieces of debris" both inside the city limits and in Nacogdoches County.
posted by anewc2 at 8:02 AM on February 1, 2003


Also coverage on C-SPAN, with family members, and others, grieving on the air. It's also a bit under the radar of Howard Stern, or at least I hope. (Web running about a minute behind of the TV.)
posted by calwatch at 8:02 AM on February 1, 2003


wow, and now I can't even type coherently, my apologies. I need to get away from this computer.
posted by nelleish at 8:02 AM on February 1, 2003


August 2000: Columbia has 3,500 defects in wiring.

CNN, March 2000: "Shrinking NASA budgets and staffing over the years have jeopardized the safety of the agency's space shuttle program, a panel of aerospace experts says. The experts also found signs of overconfidence, complacency and inadequate communication within the program. "
posted by ed at 8:07 AM on February 1, 2003


but mirla, there`s no way a nation in mourning will stomach the bush junta`s war speak right now: sadam & a million iraqi families have just gained another month or so before toxic debris rains upon _their_ homes.
posted by n o i s e s at 8:07 AM on February 1, 2003


Calling the Columbia a "failed shuttle" would be a misnomer. It has been operating since 1981. I just traded in a 1992 Toyota because it was making weird noises. There is a lot more to go wrong in an STS than a Toyota. So, it is far from being a "failed shuttle."

I couldn't agree with you more. Unfortunalty, most of the general public doesn't think like we do.

The Concord made hundreds of flights too. One crash and the majority of the population thinks it's a "death trap."

The media, of course, doesn't help matters.
posted by bondcliff at 8:07 AM on February 1, 2003


oy. that's unhappy news. terribly sad.
posted by mokey at 8:08 AM on February 1, 2003


Could we all politely ask noises to keep on subject or go post somewhere else?
posted by mychai at 8:09 AM on February 1, 2003


Not again.
posted by feelinglistless at 8:09 AM on February 1, 2003


I'd second that motion, mychai.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:10 AM on February 1, 2003


The media, of course, doesn't help matters.

Overweening speculation by ANYONE doesn't help matters. Don't forget that "the media" is helping to get the latest information to you as well.
posted by Vidiot at 8:10 AM on February 1, 2003


Man, Howard Stern isn't looking too good right now.

He is to his idiot fans.
posted by bondcliff at 8:11 AM on February 1, 2003


God bless the crew and their families.
posted by caddis at 8:11 AM on February 1, 2003


This is terrible, and I hope it doesn't scuttle the space program.

n o i s e s et al.: Can we please avoid turning this into another Iraq thread?
posted by languagehat at 8:11 AM on February 1, 2003


We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on friendly skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.

— Robert A. Heinlein, The Green Hills of Earth
posted by harmful at 8:12 AM on February 1, 2003


MyChai:

I third that motion. Can we give the folks who just died and the event a MODICUM of dignity here, and not use it for political point-grabbing?

JB
posted by JB71 at 8:13 AM on February 1, 2003


CNN reports that Ilan Ramon was one of the IAF pilots that took out the Iraqi nuclear reactor back in '81. That was one of the ballsiest attack missions ever (IAF link, other Israeli link). Damn.
posted by costas at 8:15 AM on February 1, 2003


Dan Rather just said they've spotted the possibly toxic debris in North Central Texas.
posted by mirla at 8:17 AM on February 1, 2003


Jay Barbree, some kind of NASA specialist, said on NBC about the toxic fuel that could be covering debris: "The fumes could cause a membrane to coat the oxygen-absorbing cells in your lungs, causing you to suffocate within 48 hours."

In other words, stay away.
posted by mychai at 8:18 AM on February 1, 2003


It is some small consolation to me that the astronauts were doing something they loved and had a passion for, something that was important. Some of their last work and words were positive, inspired and full of promise. May they rest in peace.

Crew interviews with CNN - story 1/21/03
Shuttle astronauts spot ELF - story 1/21/03
Shuttle Astronauts Tend Roses in Orbit - story 1/23/03
Space shuttle astronauts videotape new arc of light - story 1/23/03
Shuttle astronauts focus on experiments - story 1/26/03
A Wee Bit Of Science And Art On Shuttle - story 1/28/03
Racine astronaut finds space to be magical - story 1/31/03
posted by madamjujujive at 8:21 AM on February 1, 2003


According to NBC news -- US spy satellites essentially caught the explosion happening. "No indication of any kind of outside sourse -- of any kind of foul play -- contributing to the explosion."
posted by mychai at 8:21 AM on February 1, 2003


According to NBC news -- US spy satellites essentially caught the explosion happening. "No indication of any kind of outside source -- of any kind of foul play -- contributing to the explosion."
posted by mychai at 8:21 AM on February 1, 2003


Here is a link to the stations that carry Howard Stern-complete with linked email addys. Feel free to express your opinion.
posted by konolia at 8:22 AM on February 1, 2003


I'm stunned. I've been a fan of the space program for my entire life. I watched Challenger go up in person a few launches before its last mission. I can't believe Columbia is gone.

America can't scrap the space program. We need it. We need it because it transcends barriers between people; we need it because it's eternally hopeful; we need it because it makes us proud of what we can accomplish (and if it doesn't make you proud, it should).

This is heartbreaking.
posted by swerve at 8:23 AM on February 1, 2003


:
The impact seems to be showing on the radar around Dallas and Fort Worth.
posted by thadk at 8:23 AM on February 1, 2003


Fires in Texas towns. Most of the debris is said to likely be in the Corsicana area.
posted by mirla at 8:24 AM on February 1, 2003


I live in Nacogdoches, Texas and local news has been reporting debris within city limits. Nacogodoches is a small town of approx 25k people. The town itself is circular with a diameter of maybe 10 miles. Basically, the debris in my town is less than a 3 minute drive from me.

I heard the windows in this 7 story apt. rattle but other than that I didn't hear or see much.

Here's the link to the local paper. They have a picture of some of the wreckage. Daily Sentinel
posted by yangwar at 8:24 AM on February 1, 2003


Homeland Security Spokesman Gordon Johndroe: "There is no information at this time that this was a terrorist incident. Obviously, the investigation is beginning, but that is the information we have now."
posted by ed at 8:25 AM on February 1, 2003


Pseudoephedrine pointed this out in the other MeFi thread, but it bears noting here:

NASA's official Columbia page already mentions "Crew and Vehicle lost during landing 2/1/03."
posted by Vidiot at 8:25 AM on February 1, 2003


Fox News just reported that Barbara Morgan, Christa McAuliffe's "runner up" who has rejoined astronaut training to hopefully become the first educator-astronaut to have a successful mission, was to fly Columbia in November. I can't imagine what may be going through her mind right now.

On another note, photos are now being broadcast of a large (perhaps 3' x 2') piece of metal debris sitting on what looks like a city sidewalk, somewhere in Texas. The area is cordoned off with police tape and a nervous looking officer is visible in the background, arms outstretched, trying to move onlookers away.

G-d shed grace and comfort on the astronauts' families and all who mourn.

Worth revisiting: "...they 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God.'"
posted by Dreama at 8:27 AM on February 1, 2003


I agree about needing the space program. We just need to do a better job. 2 out of 5 shuttles lost is pretty crappy as statistics go. And as for the human lives lost, even one is too many, in my opinion. We need to do a better job.
posted by mirla at 8:29 AM on February 1, 2003


Perfect, Brennan. Exactly the sentiment I was looking for.

I'd like to suggest that everyone on here who has the "we must continue on" opinion--like me--should run, not walk, to their telephone, and call the White House Comment Office; 202-456-1414. Tell them you'd like to make your opinion known to the president. Make sure you tell them which US Congressional district you live in; it's on your voter registration card if you have one, usually... I'm in the Florida tenth; a phrasing that will be familiar to West Wing fans.

You would be absolutely *amazed* how much impact 500 calls to the White House this morning will have.

And to the astronauts:

<hand salute>

<two>
posted by baylink at 8:29 AM on February 1, 2003


Along the lines of what thadk is reporting, CBS is showing a Doppler radar picture clearly showing the shuttle's smoke plume.
posted by Vidiot at 8:29 AM on February 1, 2003


ok, my apologies for bringing up bush & iraq. i`m glued to cnn international. excuse my ignorance, i`m not american & don`t usually get a chance to watch cnn, but is that dan rather?? whoever he is on cnn, he`s good. i`d recommend cnn over bbc.
posted by n o i s e s at 8:32 AM on February 1, 2003


Here's a radar pic of the area right above my head. Nacogdoches is just north of Lufkin on the map.
posted by yangwar at 8:33 AM on February 1, 2003


Here's a map of where the debris is in relation to other places in Texas.

On preview: the man on CNN America is Miles O'Brien, the normal Saturday CNN morning anchor.
posted by calwatch at 8:34 AM on February 1, 2003


Dan Rather's on CBS. I'm assuming that the person on CNNI is Miles O'Brien, CNN's space correspondent. CNNI is most likely simulcasting CNN/U.S. at the moment. (I work for CNN, but don't have cable at home. Which is why I'm headed into the office soon.)
posted by Vidiot at 8:35 AM on February 1, 2003


thadk --
That's a fantastic link. I just can't tell the difference in what is ground clutter and what is actual -- if it truly is -- falling debris. I work in an NBC-affiliate news station (I'm working right now), and so I see radar screens like this all the time. I never could figure them out. Great link, though.

yangwar -- yours was the first, as far as I'm concerned, to show me actual debris on the ground. Mefi beats NBC news any day when it comes to breaking news.
posted by mychai at 8:35 AM on February 1, 2003


spacefacts (germany) has portraits and brief bios, including marital status and number of children.
posted by steef at 8:35 AM on February 1, 2003


noises: I'm of your mind. But i know better than to expect too much of the idiot in the White House. Apologies to all - I don't want to turn this into an Iraq thread either.
posted by mirla at 8:35 AM on February 1, 2003


"...There's a coincidence today. On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died abroad ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and a historian later said, "He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it." Well, today we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake's, complete...

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved good-bye and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God..."


Excerpt from the Address to the Nation on the Challenger Disaster
Oval Office
January 28, 1986

President Ronald Reagan's televised speech 1/28/86
courtesy of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
posted by azul at 8:37 AM on February 1, 2003


I grabbed the image too, the debris seems to be disappearing from the current radar. When I first saw it (linked from arstechnica forum by vanillicat for proper credit) it looked like this.
posted by thadk at 8:43 AM on February 1, 2003


Captures the magic of space travel for those who find it so.
Never mind the knock at cyberspace...

The Space Race Is Over - Billy Bragg

When I was young I told my mum
I'm going to walk on the Moon someday
Armstrong and Aldrin spoke to me
From Houston and Cape Kennedy
And I watched the Eagle landing
On a night when the Moon was full
And as it tugged the tides, I knew deep inside
I too could feel its pull

I lay in bed and dreamed I walked
On the Sea of Tranquility
I knew that someday soon we'd all sail to the Moon
On the high tide of technology
But the dreams had all been taken
And the window seats taken too
And 2001 has almost come and gone
What am I supposed to do?

Now that the space race is over
It's been and it's gone and I'll never get to the Moon
Because the space race is over
And I can't help but feel that we've all grown up too soon

Now my dreams have all been shattered
And my wings are tattered too
And I still can fly but not half as high
As once I wanted to

Now that the space race is over
It's been and it's gone and I'll never get to the Moon
Because the space race is over
And I can't help but feel that we've all grown up too soon

My son and I stand beneath the great night sky
And gaze up in wonder
I tell him the tale of Apollo
And he says "Why did they ever go?"
It may look like some empty gesture
To go all that way just to come back
But don't offer me a place out in cyberspace
Cos where in the hell's that at?

Now that the space race is over
It's been and it's gone and I'll never get to the Moon
Because the space race is over
And I can't help but feel that we're all just going nowhere
posted by terrortubby at 8:43 AM on February 1, 2003 [1 favorite]


Sweet Jesus....
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 8:44 AM on February 1, 2003


Wow, this is why I love MeFi..(the facts you get from varied contributors. )

Here's my input: a local tv station (in Oklahoma City) is running a crawl that says [paraphrased] ..."according to the FBI some debris from Space Shuttle Columbia may have landed in parts of the state...if you find any, stay away, and contact local authorities, or the FBI...call.xxxxxxxxx"

Oklahoma City is several hundred miles (about 300) NNW of Palestine Tx.
Also, my South Dallas living sister heard a loud prolonged boom around 8:00 this am.
posted by Cedric at 8:47 AM on February 1, 2003


There is nothing left.
posted by the fire you left me at 8:47 AM on February 1, 2003


i can`t help but think that pieces of debris like the one we`re all looking at & discussing are possibly one day going to make some brave & foolish texans unfeasibly rich.
posted by n o i s e s at 8:48 AM on February 1, 2003


This is why so many of us were so offended by the idea of Lance Bass, et al, going into orbit. We can't take the phenomenon of humans in space for granted - each person-hour in orbit is an incredibly valuable opportunity, paid for, as we've now repeatedly seen, in blood.
posted by stonerose at 8:53 AM on February 1, 2003


NASA news conference will be now at 1pm est.
posted by jasonspaceman at 8:56 AM on February 1, 2003


Apparently Stern has fans with EBay accounts. (mirrored here for when EBay pulls it)
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:57 AM on February 1, 2003


I can't help but think that it's ironic that the first shuttle mission with an Israeli crew member explodes over Palestine, TX.
posted by tetsuo at 8:57 AM on February 1, 2003


What's your vote for who does the investigation: NASA or a Bush-sanctioned blue ribbon group, as occurred with Challenger. Remember the O-ring problem coverup?
posted by mirla at 8:57 AM on February 1, 2003



is this the shuttles usual re-entry path ?
were they trying to fly over palestine because there was an israeli on board ?
im asking because people are talking about getting the re-entry angle wrong...
posted by sgt.serenity at 8:58 AM on February 1, 2003


Stern and those E-bay folks are pretty crass. The internet now allows for Schadenfreude at light speed.
posted by tetsuo at 8:59 AM on February 1, 2003


Columbia was created and it became the first Space Shuttle to fly into Earth orbit in 1981.
posted by riffola at 9:00 AM on February 1, 2003


This is truly shocking news. I'm sure our thoughts and prayers are all with the crew and their families. We can only hope that this doesn't curtail mankind's journey into space.
posted by prentiz at 9:01 AM on February 1, 2003


sgt.serenity: were they trying to fly over palestine because there was an israeli on board?

That's Palestine, Texas it was flying over. So, to answer your question, no--just a coincidence.
posted by Swifty at 9:02 AM on February 1, 2003


yes, we've established its palestine texas already.
what is the usual re-entry path ?
is this it , or is it a random thing ?
posted by sgt.serenity at 9:04 AM on February 1, 2003


were they trying to fly over palestine because there was an israeli on board ?

Looking at this map the Shuttle flew over a lot of small towns in Texas with Palestine just being one of them.
posted by stbalbach at 9:05 AM on February 1, 2003


Some comments on coverage:

C-SPAN is running the WFAA coverage, and WFAA seems to be doing a good job. They are going between experts, radar footage, and footage of debris. No reporters at the debris sites yet, though.

Fox News Channel has Shepard Smith basically trying to fill time, although he did get the UN ambassador from Israel to talk about the pride that Israel had for Ilan Ramon.

CNN Headline News was running the normal CNN feed for some time, but have now broken away from regular CNN. Stephen Frazier seems to be using his contacts well, with a minimum of blabber from the anchor.
posted by calwatch at 9:05 AM on February 1, 2003


sgt.serenity, if the re-entry was wrong, then it was equiptment failure not human error.
posted by jasonspaceman at 9:05 AM on February 1, 2003


Sgt. Serenity: It is apparently one of two usual re-entry paths for the shuttle. A Louisiana weatherman was interviewed on CBS earlier today, and he said that the shuttle frequently passes over his home, where he watched the accident this morning.
posted by Zonker at 9:06 AM on February 1, 2003


Every time a tragedy like this makes the public skittish about "risky" enterprises like the space program, I think it insults the memory of those whose courage led to them be in the place that killed them. I am sure that everyone of those astronauts thought of the possibility of tragedy when they joined the program. (I can't even take off in a commercial airliner without imagining newsreels of the "debris field" I could become a part of.) They know the risks, but they have the courage to go up anyhow because they see themselves working toward something bigger than themselves. That's what makes them heroes. For the public to recoil fearfully from bold programs like the shuttles or the space station insults the character of those who put their lives on the line for science and innovation and exploration. Their bravery should be admired rather than scoffed at by cynics (none of whom have posted here yet, thankfully) and their names should conjure feelings of pride and admiration rather than the pity one feels for victims.
posted by jlynford2 at 9:07 AM on February 1, 2003


Sgt Serenity - "is this the shuttles usual re-entry path ?"

I live in Dallas. To my knowledge, shuttles landing in Florida typically fly over North/Central Texas. I have witnessed nighttime landings by just standing outside and facing south.
posted by LeiaS at 9:07 AM on February 1, 2003


Fox is now on the phone with the manager of the Nacogdoches, TX airport, who reports a large steel tank "with hoses and tubes on it, with shrapnel holes, about five feet around" was found on a runway at the Nacogdoches airport. Stupidly, it sounds as if airport workers loaded the thing on a pickup truck to move it off of the runway, and now they're waiting for someone "from Houston" to come have a look. My word.
posted by Dreama at 9:10 AM on February 1, 2003


the map seems to indicate the explosion was around palestine.
im just trying to get my head round this.
obviously not a terrorist attack, but i guess we'll have to wait awhile to hear more information.
flags at half mast at nasa site.
posted by sgt.serenity at 9:10 AM on February 1, 2003


the map seems to indicate the explosion was around palestine.

What map?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 9:12 AM on February 1, 2003


http://food.dhs.org/shuttlemap.gif
posted by sgt.serenity at 9:13 AM on February 1, 2003


me_crash_davis: the eBay shuttle debris is obviously fake.

the seller is in Germany. and that thing looks like a nozzle from a garden hose.
posted by titboy at 9:14 AM on February 1, 2003


I live in Michigan; am currently watching CBC. Canadian astronaut Marc Garneau doing a press conference partly in French, partly in English.

This was the first time I heard about a major tragedy while I was on the Net (rather than from TV/radio/another person).

I note from news reports that the astronaut Laurel Clark has an 8-yr.-old. God.
posted by NorthernLite at 9:15 AM on February 1, 2003


hehe the eBay description even reads "I do not know if this item has ANYTHING to do with the SPACE SHUTTLE COLUMBIA nor do i claim it being genuine."
posted by titboy at 9:16 AM on February 1, 2003


I wish I could remember where I read this, but I have read reports that people watching in California saw pieces falling off. Was it so much an explosion as a disintegration?
posted by LeiaS at 9:16 AM on February 1, 2003




Someboyd has already registered the domain name columbiadisaster.com

And, was pretty quick to do it, too. Record created on 01-Feb-2003. Database last updated on 1-Feb-2003 12:17:33 EST.
posted by Corky at 9:20 AM on February 1, 2003


Here are the planned landing paths for the mission, from the NASA website. They're pretty typical of a flight landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, from what I understand.
posted by Inkslinger at 9:21 AM on February 1, 2003


News Conference postponed to 1 pm EST.
posted by calwatch at 9:21 AM on February 1, 2003


Holy cow. Anyone watch the video of the breakup on CNN just now?
posted by mirla at 9:21 AM on February 1, 2003


God Bless them.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 9:21 AM on February 1, 2003


Y'all you have to remember that after loss of fuselage integrity, a) Columbia basically disintegrated, b) each and every one of the thousands of pieces created had more or less the same airspeed as Columbia did just prior to explosion. Since those pieces couldn't glide down anymore the followed natural ballistic paths down to earth. Bottom-line: there will be debris for thousands of miles around... Sad, sad, sad...

On preview: LeiaS: everything points to a disintegration. Probably they lost too many thermal tiles, part of the fuselage melted down (at Mach 16, ~15,000kph naked aluminum/titanium will melt pretty fast), vibrations took over and then the fuselage "lost integrity", i.e. basically disintegrated. Can't imagine much worse ways to go...

Remember: pilots wish each other "good landings"; that's always the hardest part.
posted by costas at 9:22 AM on February 1, 2003



posted by Corky at 9:22 AM on February 1, 2003


I note from news reports that the astronaut Laurel Clark has an 8-yr.-old. God.

It seems that at least five of the astronauts were married, Clark, Ramon and Husband are all reported to have children; Ramon and his wife Rona had 4 children, Husband was father of 3 little boys.

Mike Huckabee, governor of Arkansas, has reported debris in 3 counties there. Containment management has been in contact with authorities in Oklahoma, Louisana and Arizona, as well. Given that, we can only hope that the seeming magnitude of the destructive incident was such that there was no suffering on board.
posted by Dreama at 9:26 AM on February 1, 2003


For some reason (probably me) the link doesn't work.

columbiadisaster.com domain registered with Network Solutions.
posted by Corky at 9:28 AM on February 1, 2003


offended by the idea of Lance Bass

True, it is base. However, there are a lot of people who think humans need to spread off from Earth (I'm still on the fence). I figured the recent space tourist fad was just the first steps toward normalizing space travel. Obviously, though, we are a long way from that.
posted by piskycritter at 9:31 AM on February 1, 2003


The families have my deepest sympathies.

I hope that we can learn what went wrong and prevent such a terrible tragedy from happening again. I hope that the exploration of space continues, more safely, and more wisely.

I hope that Howard Stern and his bottom-feeding ilk lose all the ears, interests, and patronage of even their most simpleminded fans.
posted by Songdog at 9:31 AM on February 1, 2003


from the still posted washington post article:

Some of Columbia's crew members didn't want their time in space to end.

"Do we really have to come back?" astronaut David Brown jokingly asked Mission Control before the ride home.


i'm in austin. i found out driving to get some coffee. turned on NPR to hear breaking news of people talking about large explosions above their house early morning ...this is way strange.
posted by Peter H at 9:35 AM on February 1, 2003


Dan Rather just asked one of the scientists (Parese? sp?), who had an experiment on board, the question why use humans rather than robots for these experiments.

The scientist isn't saying anything about the necessity of humans tending these experiments, his response is primarily about the human desire for exploration.
posted by mirla at 9:36 AM on February 1, 2003


.
posted by ColdChef at 9:39 AM on February 1, 2003


Dan Rather is stupid for asking that....
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 9:39 AM on February 1, 2003


NASA calculated that one in 100 missions will fail. Now the odds are about one in 75.
posted by stbalbach at 9:43 AM on February 1, 2003


Robert Heinlein wrote an extra verse for the "Traveler's Prayer" for one of his stories. It seems appropriate:

Almighty Ruler of the all,
  Whose Power extends to great and small,
  Who guides the stars with steadfast law,
  Whose least creation fills with awe,
    O grant thy mercy and thy grace,
    To those who venture into space.


(Found on Jerry Pournelle's page.)
posted by Zonker at 9:47 AM on February 1, 2003


Checked my e-mail, clicked over to MeFi, and found out the horrible news. Day's ruined. :(

My thoughts and prayers are with all affected.
posted by thatweirdguy2 at 9:50 AM on February 1, 2003


The most hopeful effect that this could have on the space program is the increased drive and funding for "next-generation" payload and research vehicles. This is a crucial time in human history where we need to learn from, and through, the universe. I hope that this tragic loss does not deter our collective need to explore, and understand, the eternity that exists beyond our atmosphere.
posted by moonbird at 9:53 AM on February 1, 2003


Another... (the poem quoted by Reagan after Challenger):

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings.
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, and done a hundred things
you have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
high in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
my eager craft thro' footless halls of air.

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
where never lark, nor even eagle flew.
And while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
the high, untrespassed sanctity of space,
put out my hand, and touched the face of God

posted by LMG at 9:54 AM on February 1, 2003


Tears streamed down this morning as I watched this disaster unfold and as I thought about the families, my memories of the Challenger disaster came flooding back. Space flight seems to become almost routine and then something like this happens to remind us all just how dangerous it actually is.

My thoughts and prayers go to the family, friends and co-workers.
posted by Plunge at 10:08 AM on February 1, 2003


"High Flight" was a poem written by RCAF Pilot-Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr., during WW II, months before he was lost on a mission. Of him, astronaut Michael Collins (the third astronaut of the Apollo 11 mission), in his memoir Carrying the Fire, noted, "And this, from the cockpit of a Spitfire! I cry that he was killed."
posted by alumshubby at 10:08 AM on February 1, 2003


Will we ever be able to witness a disaster again and NOT say 'terrorism' and 'sabotage' first? I know it was my first thought. I'm a bit scared to see what Bush says. I wonder if he'll address the fact that people are half-assuming foul play.
posted by Hildegarde at 10:09 AM on February 1, 2003


This is so damn tragic. This is a sad day.

leaving China to take up the baton....?

Don't forget India, which is in its own space race with China and wants to beat them to the moon. But one of the astronauts, Kalpana Chawla, was an Indian-American, and the Indian media is all over this. I wonder if this tragedy will affect India's space ambitions.
posted by homunculus at 10:17 AM on February 1, 2003


Concerning the astronauts' experience through the disaster... Someone interviewed on NBC News said that, in all likelihood, they were fully aware what was happening and were probably aware of their fate. Truly sad.

About Dan Rather --
He has proven to me continuously that he can not present the news to me in an intellectual and unbiased manner. I quit accepting CBS news's validity years ago. But then again, I quit accepting much of broadcasting news's validity ever since.
posted by mychai at 10:18 AM on February 1, 2003


Steve - is everyone else on earth who has been asking the very same, very valid question also "stupid"?

But what I really wanted to say is that Rick Husband, Commander of this mission, made a very moving speech last week on the 28th, during the anniversary of the Challenger disaster. Sad audio to listen to.
posted by mirla at 10:20 AM on February 1, 2003


NASA has officially announced that the crew is dead.

I've never seen a "FLASH" on the AP wire before.
posted by Vidiot at 10:29 AM on February 1, 2003


.
posted by adampsyche at 10:35 AM on February 1, 2003


We just got network information from NBC saying that all local syndication and sports specials have been cancelled for the entire day -- save for a "local early news" -- so that they can report. Just fyi in case you were hoping to catch x-games related stuff.
posted by mychai at 10:37 AM on February 1, 2003


NASA press conference just ended. The reports are that the families of the astronauts are holding up with incredible dignity. NASA says that they will find out what happened, fix it, and move forward.
posted by footballrabi at 10:40 AM on February 1, 2003


India mourns Kalpana Chawla
posted by homunculus at 10:41 AM on February 1, 2003


I palpably felt Bill Readdy's pain when he spoke. Very sad. I wish to voice my condolences to the families of the astronauts, and to NASA.
posted by Wulfgar! at 10:43 AM on February 1, 2003


Dan Rather is stupid for asking that....

As Rather himself said, yes he's an idiot but that's beside the point.
posted by Wulfgar! at 10:52 AM on February 1, 2003


The things you find out late when you wake up past 1pm... Wow, this is very sad.
posted by swank6 at 10:53 AM on February 1, 2003


Space.com's STS-107 thread... from launch to today....
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 10:53 AM on February 1, 2003


.
posted by yhbc at 10:56 AM on February 1, 2003


Bush will speak from the White House Cabinet Room at 2pm ET.
posted by Vidiot at 10:57 AM on February 1, 2003


watching MSNBC and they brought up an interesting point: what to do about the astronauts on the space station who are scheduled to return in march.
posted by poopy at 11:01 AM on February 1, 2003


Bush is speaking. He's the president?
posted by feelinglistless at 11:06 AM on February 1, 2003


Poopy, what to do? Go up and get them. By March, we ought to know what happened and how to prevent it.
posted by mikewas at 11:07 AM on February 1, 2003


getting the astros on the ISS back down isn't a problem -- there's a Soyuz on the ISS for just that purpose. Russia can launch more Soyuzes if necessary. I've seen a report saying that they're planning to launch one next week, but I have not seen that corroborated.

One wonders about the future of the ISS though -- can it be mothballed?
posted by Vidiot at 11:08 AM on February 1, 2003


Did he invoke creationism? It sounded like he invoked creationism.
posted by feelinglistless at 11:09 AM on February 1, 2003


He invoked the Creator, feelinglistless.
posted by footballrabi at 11:13 AM on February 1, 2003


i understand that there are alternatives on how to get the astronauts back, but before today everyone considered the space shuttle to be the safest transportation. correct me if i'm wrong but the Soyuz on the ISS is for emergency purposes?
posted by poopy at 11:16 AM on February 1, 2003


Did he invoke creationism? It sounded like he invoked creationism.

No, he spoke of the Creator, not "creationism". Given his penchant for relgious posturing, I think his speech was surprisingly tasteful and concerned. I was more struck by his avowed commitment to continuing space exploration. We'll see how that pans out.
posted by Wulfgar! at 11:16 AM on February 1, 2003


This is NOT what you want to see after checking your email. My thoughts & prayers to the families of the astronauts. I'm sick to my stomach just reading the news, don't think I could watch it . . .
posted by somethingotherthan at 11:18 AM on February 1, 2003


The Soyuz on the ISS is for emergency escape, but if we can't get a shuttle up, and the occupants are running low on supplies, I think that's a bonafide emergency, don't you?
posted by Wulfgar! at 11:19 AM on February 1, 2003


shuttle_guy
(B)
02/01/03 09:00 AM
Re: re entry visibility [re: astronaut23]

They got some tire pressure messages..........I hope not the left main gear, that is about where the ET foam hit the tiles.........

pulsar4529
(A)
02/01/03 09:01 AM
Re: re entry visibility [re: astronaut23]

Yes! I woke up in time! I wish I could see it re-entering! That would be so cool! Hmmmm, its over Texas now!


astronaut23
(M)
02/01/03 09:11 AM
Re: re entry visibility [re: pulsar4529]


Does it usually take this long to get comm back?
posted by sgt.serenity at 11:20 AM on February 1, 2003


Common, everyday heros on a Shuttle, they knew their life was constantly at risk. They surely didn't make it for money, unlike millions of us, neither for glory because they knew their names were going to be forgotten , their mission wasn't the first one and it will not be the last one.

Their work can't be easily evaluated today, neither can fruits of their work be readily offered to people.

Like every scout does they're helping opening a safe way to a better future, they really are pioneers, both in their mind and in their actions. We can say "thank you" today for their sacrifice, but what they can really use is our support.

Don't let anybody think that what they did and what they will do is useless, don't let the goverment cut more money from NASA spending or cancel Space Station and Shuttle programs altogheter. We may slow down, but we can't stop this. It would be such a waste of precious human lifes and hard work. Space exploration must go on, it's just the best way to really say "thank you" to an astronaut.
posted by elpapacito at 11:20 AM on February 1, 2003


My first news of this: Listening to This American Life on NPR when the sound drops out. I assume there are techincal difficulties of some kind. Then I hear the President "The Columbia is Lost".

I hung on his every word, and couldn't help it - I started welling up. I was one of those kids back in the 80's who got out of class to watch Christa McAullife take off in the Challenger.
posted by aladfar at 11:20 AM on February 1, 2003


Building on what Hildegarde said, it's pretty sad thinking back to my first thoughts after hearing about this tragedy. It really shows what kind of world we now live in:

First Thought: "oh my god - a terrorist attack!"

Second Thought: "what if the secret cartel controlling the world orchestrated this disaster to build support for the War on Iraq?"

(I'm hasten to add that I'm not a major conspiracy theorist but I think I'm like a lot of people are increasingly skeptical about the lengths people in power will reach to achieve their goals.)

Third Thought: "this is a horrible, filled-with-coincidences-but-definitely-an-accident tragedy."

I'm trying as hard as possible to hold onto that last thought...

(If you didn't read the link to Reagan's speech after the Challenger disaster that was posted by Dreama, you owe it to yourself to do so. Very moving.)
posted by Jaybo at 11:22 AM on February 1, 2003


...but if we can't get a shuttle up, and the occupants are running low on supplies, I think that's a bonafide emergency, don't you?

my point exactly. that's why i'm slightly concerned for those on the space station.
posted by poopy at 11:23 AM on February 1, 2003


ed: August 2000: Columbia has 3,500 defects in wiring.

2001-2002: Columbia gets major year-long refit to address these defects.

If the Challenger was an anomaly, this makes it a trend.

As stbalbach says, NASA actually estimates a catastrophic failure (I suppose we have to call it 'contingency' now) every 100 launches. Two in 113 is a little ahead of schedule, but the law of averages is a bugger. And for less than 100 years of flight, as opposed to just over 100 years of automobiles, flight's doing pretty well.

My thoughts with the families. And to all who mourn.
posted by riviera at 11:25 AM on February 1, 2003


Could we please leave the Bush bashing out of this thread? Geez...
posted by gyc at 11:27 AM on February 1, 2003


From what I understand (someone correct me if I'm wrong) unmanned rockets can be used to replenish supplies aboard the ISS. That might leave those three poor astronauts up there for awhile, but after hearing Dubya speak, it doesn't appear that we are going to knee-jerk ourselves away from our commitment to the shuttle program or the space station. The problem is going to be where to get the money to accelerate our developement of second-gen orbiters, while keeping the remaining three we have in service.
posted by Wulfgar! at 11:31 AM on February 1, 2003


Could we please leave the Bush bashing out of this thread? Geez...

Who's blindly bashing the guy? Guess I missed that part. Geez...

Seriously, there are huge questions facing us concerning the future of human expansion into space. Don't you think that the "President" is open to discussion and review on these matters?
posted by Wulfgar! at 11:34 AM on February 1, 2003


The soyuz is an emergency crew-return-vehicle now. they were supposed to have a bigger new one, but funding got cut, thus limiting how many people can be in the ISS at a time. The soyuz isn't untested though, the russians have used it in their space program routinely.
posted by rhyax at 11:36 AM on February 1, 2003


Bush is speaking. He's the president?
For what it's worth, I thought this was a pretty lame Bush bash considering the thread.

A sad day, but I was happy to hear Bush continue the commitment to space exploration - we can only hope congress does the same with their purse strings.
posted by owillis at 11:39 AM on February 1, 2003


Riviera, I may be wrong, but I remember those odds-of-failure statistics only being specific to during launch itself, which is the time of the mission that NASA has always said is, by far, the most dangerous. I don't ever remember seeing odds on a failure across the entire span of a mission...
posted by delfuego at 11:42 AM on February 1, 2003


The crew on the station should have supplies for some weeks, if not months. They were scheduled to be relieved by a new crew in March, and (obviously) would need enough supplies to last that long without visits from a Shuttle. They receive new supplies from Russian "Progress" cargo modules launched by unmanned rockets. So it's not like they're stranded, and there's no pressing need to get them back to Earth today.

That said, it's a virtual certainty that the remaining Shuttles will not fly this year. I expect the ISS crew will be coming down by Soyuz. We'll see if another crew goes up by that route (which is how businessman Dennis Tito paid his visit a few years back, IIRC).
posted by Zonker at 11:51 AM on February 1, 2003


Iraqis call shuttle disaster "God's vengeance."
posted by Vidiot at 11:53 AM on February 1, 2003


That said, it's a virtual certainty that the remaining Shuttles will not fly this year.

? I don't understand why you say that.
posted by Wulfgar! at 11:56 AM on February 1, 2003


From another Reuters wire that I haven't seen on the Web yet:

MOSCOW, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Russian space officials said on
Saturday the weekend launch of a cargo vessel to the
International Space Station (ISS) would go ahead as planned,
despite the destruction of the space shuttle Columbia.
The officials suggested that Russian craft might have to
take over some U.S. supply missions to the space station for a
time if shuttle flights were suspended while the U.S. space
agency NASA investigated the cause of the disaster.
posted by Vidiot at 11:56 AM on February 1, 2003


Agreed, owillis, but with one caveat: Bush was never very committed to space exploration before. That's right. The Bush administration was considering privatization of the shuttle program. Bush was, in short, pretty much the opposite of committed. Curiously, this disaster might lead him to support the program. It would be smart politics.

I'm already turning off the coverage, meantime. These things happen. Technology sometimes fails. The more careful planning sometimes doesn't stave off failure. It's a lesson that no one should wish to have reinforced in such a manner, but it's worth remembering all the same, and especially so given recent circumstances.
posted by raysmj at 11:57 AM on February 1, 2003


For what it's worth, I thought this was a pretty lame Bush bash considering the thread.

I've always thought that it's uniquely in situations like this that we see our leaders for who they are; away from all of the posturing and heavy planning which usually gone on.

When I said 'He's the president?', what I was trying to describe, not very clearly I'll admit, that for once we were seeing Mr. Bush as one of us ... speaking for us, trying to capture how we were feeling. To me, he didn't seem like the president, the man we've been seeing on TV so much in past months and years. I just seemed like a guy trying to come to terms with things. More than I've seen it before. You could see that at the end of the address when he didn't know what to do with himself, whether he should wait for questions or walk away. Some would see that as a weakness. I saw it as humanity.

Sorry if my lack of clarity annoyed anyone. Really wasn't meant.
posted by feelinglistless at 11:58 AM on February 1, 2003


A correction, to myself and to dhartung: the Columbia came out of its latest rehab able to make trips to the ISS. Thus, the entire Shuttle fleet was now able to participate in the building of the ISS, and this was probably going to be the last 100% science mission.
posted by delfuego at 12:00 PM on February 1, 2003


Once again, I live in Nacogdoches, TX where some of the wreckage has been found. My fiancee and I went out and took pictures of some of it. We saw about 4 different pieces but we saw bystanders looking at many, many more throughout town. The largest intact piece was about 4 feet by 3 feet or so. There's a fair amount of white powder near the impact sites. An interesting point is none of the pieces seemed to be very heat damaged; I thought they would be. e.g. There were two metal tubes connected by a bolt that landed in somebody's back yard. The metal didn't appear to have melted and the grass around the metal wasn't burned or anything. I always thought that metal falling from 200K feet up would be pretty damn hot upon impact. I'll see if I can get some pictures hosted soon.

Also, the Daily Sentinel has posted some new pictures. Check my above post for the website.
posted by yangwar at 12:01 PM on February 1, 2003


? I don't understand why you say that.
I think they would ground the shuttles until they find out just went wrong on Columbia, they would also need to go over the other shuttles with a fine tooth comb bit by bit to remedy whatever the problem is.

Since Reagan, really, the commitment to space travel has been iffy from the White House (Bush,Clinton,Bush) and its a shame. We've gone to the moon and repeatedly orbited the earth, but we need to go further - and not with robots or whatever - but with human beings.
posted by owillis at 12:03 PM on February 1, 2003


My apologies feelinglistless for my incorrect assumption.
posted by gyc at 12:04 PM on February 1, 2003


Iraqis call shuttle disaster "God's vengeance."

I think I'll wait for an official statement from the Iraqi government before I get my panties in a bunch over it, :-{

Really, we have folks right here in America that are going to blame this event on "terra-attacks". Why did Reuters think it necessary to publish what an auto-mechanic/Bahgdad redneck thinks of this tragedy?
posted by Wulfgar! at 12:05 PM on February 1, 2003


Zonker, the "Traveler's Prayer" you quoted (from Heinlein) is yet another (beautiful and moving) verse that can be sung to the Navy hymn "Eternal Father Strong to Save," sung in times of tragedy or crisis. Here's one link; apologies for not formatting it properly as a link: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/e/t/eternalf.htm
posted by datawrangler at 12:08 PM on February 1, 2003


Yeah, Wulfgar, the first thing that I heard after reading this thread and leaving my house this morning was a group of men discussing the accident, and one of them saying something about "a missile probably ... just like that." And this is Cambridge, MA (all right, Somerville, but what's the diff?). Lord save me from the ignorant theories probably being spouted in Greenville, SC right now.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 12:12 PM on February 1, 2003


Don't you think that the "President" is open to discussion and review on these matters?

And surely we can discuss the speech. I thought it started out well, but I'm not religious and I found the theological turn he took irritating. I wasn't suprised by it, but I'm tired of feeling ever-so-slightly marginalized by this kind of rhetoric, especially in reference to an event which I am genuinely upset about. Oh well, thanks for nothing, Mr. President.
posted by homunculus at 12:12 PM on February 1, 2003


I think they would ground the shuttles until they find out just went wrong on Columbia, they would also need to go over the other shuttles with a fine tooth comb bit by bit to remedy whatever the problem is.

I agree completely, both with statement and process. What I don't understand is why the grim prognosis? No flights for a year speaks to some hidden knowledge or a damaging cynicism. The government of the US won't fund investigation and renewal of the program if we all (the people) sagely advise lowered expectation. I strongly urge that we learn and grow, and make something meaningful out of this tragedy, and not smuggly sit back and prognosticate what we "think" will be the case.
posted by Wulfgar! at 12:12 PM on February 1, 2003


Condolences to the families, prayers to everyone including ourselves.
When you find the words Palestine, israeli, NASA, explosion, Bush etc on the same thread you know dozens of wacky conspiracy theories will inevitably appear, but the fact is that the whole episode and the timing almost feel like a foreboding.
What it means (if it does indeed carry any meaning at all) , I have no idea. Right now it's like too much noise and not many facts other than a tragic human loss for the world.
posted by 111 at 12:15 PM on February 1, 2003


What I don't understand is why the grim prognosis? No flights for a year speaks to some hidden knowledge or a damaging cynicism.
Well, I think its more realism than cynicism. After Challenger, we didn't have any flights for about 2.5 years if I remember correctly. There's no reason to see this any differently right now.
posted by owillis at 12:20 PM on February 1, 2003


Is it ok to mourn the loss of the pilots while simultaneously finding space exploration kinda needless, or at least over-prioritized? I mean, there's hungry people and, what, 40 million Americans without health care. Is it a crime to think that much of that money may be better spent at home and on the ground?
posted by adampsyche at 12:21 PM on February 1, 2003


Wow. This makes me very sad.

Harmful, thank you so much for that post. That's what I need to hear. Thanks.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:22 PM on February 1, 2003


Here are a few comments from Jeffrey Kluger, Time science correspondent:

"Aerodynamics May Explain Space Shuttle Breakup".

Mostly interesting for his prognosis for the space program's future:

"Following the precedent of the Challenger disaster in 1986, it's unlikely that NASA will undertake any further shuttle missions or any other manned space flights for the next two years. One immediate problem, though, is the International Space Station, which currently has a crew of three on board. They might consider one further flight to bring that crew home — the other option would be for them to return aboard a Russian Soyuz craft, which isn't the most comfortable or the safest ride. Beyond that, however, the space station is likely to be left unoccupied for a long time. NASA won't want to use the shuttle again until it can establish the cause of today's accident, and fix it. Now that we've lost two shuttles out of a fleet of five, it's even conceivable that the shuttle won't fly again. The shuttle was built as a space truck, and then the International Space Station was built to give it something to do. Both programs are likely to suffer as a result of this disaster."
posted by UKnowForKids at 12:24 PM on February 1, 2003


The transcript of Bush's statement, for those who missed it live.
posted by Raya at 12:26 PM on February 1, 2003


Wulfgar: I don't think anyone's being cynical (much less smug) in predicting a long hiatus before the next shuttle launch. After the loss of the Challenger, there was a gap of nearly three years before Shuttle flights resumed. It was difficult enough to determine the cause of that accident, which happened shortly after liftoff and in clear view of a whole host of cameras and other sensors that eventually made it possible to see the failure of the O-ring on the SRB.

Here, there's less data available -- there are conflicting reports about when the Shuttle began to break up, with some observers suggesting that the failure began over California. That seems to indicate a more difficult (and therefore more lengthy) investigation than the Challenger incident, and it will still need to be followed by the same sort of redesign, rebuilding and recertification process that was needed after Challenger. To hope for all that to be completed this year is asking too much, IMHO.

(On preview, I agree with what the guy in UKnowForKids' link said.)

datawrangler: Thanks for the info and the link. I had that hymn in mind, but couldn't remember the title.
posted by Zonker at 12:26 PM on February 1, 2003


Cancelling the space program would be an insult to the memory of these astronauts, to what they lived and died for.

The New York Times' coverage has a not-very-detailed map of the planned flight path and a nice interactive profile of the crew.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:30 PM on February 1, 2003


I posted in my sfbayarea community on LJ yesterday that the shuttle was going to be visible flying over the bay area.

I missed it this morning, but one person said:
"Wow! Bright pink-red glowing spark leaving a contrail across the entire sky -- and it was high enough up that it was above the foglets!"

She is obviously horrified now, as they deleted their comment. She posted about it in her journal, however.

"This morning, around 5:53, X and i were standing at our north facing window, watching the streak of the shuttle re-entering the atmosphere. There was no sound but the crashing of waves and our "oooooh"s of appreciation. (Someone on a mailing list i get had speculated that maybe we'd hear sonic booms.) That fuchsia pink star streaking across the night sky -- how long till most mornings were crossed by re-entering vehicles, how soon till we double, triple our fleet? What about that plan i read about last week of solar power from the lunar surface.... I forget when i gave up my dream of becoming an astronaut, but I have always dreamed toward the stars.

We fed the loud cat (the others looked at us with amusement from their sleeping positions) and went back to bed. I wanted to call my Dad, tell him of the sight, share the beauty of it. But it was warm and cozy with both of us in bed, and even though X offered to get the phone, i knew i could call later.

We slept.

The sun rose and fought through the blinds, the cats clambered across us, we dozed. The phone rang. I bolted from the bed, embarrassed to be sleeping in so late, grabbed the phone in the office and walked back to the bedroom. It's my dad. I want to tell him what i saw, the beauty of it, and he asks if i heard the news.

I crumble."


Very tragic. I can't even wrap my head around it yet, and I feel bad for the people I know who work at NASA -- the next several months will be very hard for them.
posted by insomnia_lj at 12:38 PM on February 1, 2003


Links poached from elsewhere,

Mirror of pulled fake Ebay auction (seller lives in Germany), Animated GIF of problems during launch (article), Photo from someone on the ground,
posted by holloway at 12:39 PM on February 1, 2003


Adampsyche:

"I mean, there's hungry people and, what, 40 million Americans without health care."

And, sorry to say it, but even if NASA were gutted tomorrow, that money would go everywhere but to them - and there'd be the unemployed folk from NASA and its suppliers to add to the total. NASA's a government jobs program - the money does get back into the economy.

Plus - what about the factor of hope? I remember doing computer maintenance in science classrooms in low-class elementary schools. The kids had dreams - and though not every kid could grow up to be an engineer, some of them undoubtedly saw they weren't stuck in a life where the best they could hope for was to inherit their old man's job over at the factory.

Hope is priceless. And I pray what happened today didn't extinguish that hope for a generation.

JB
posted by JB71 at 12:41 PM on February 1, 2003


Exclusive pictures are up of the wreckage in Nacogdoches, TX here.
posted by yangwar at 12:42 PM on February 1, 2003


Another fake eBay auction Can't mirror it, and I'm currently wading through eBay's turgid help pages to figure out how to report it. The seller apparently lives in Toronto, judging from his other auctions.
posted by Vidiot at 12:43 PM on February 1, 2003


The crash on radar. [QuickTime 1.8MB]

(My site, so please be nice with the bandwidth)
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 12:51 PM on February 1, 2003


homunculus: I'm tired of feeling ever-so-slightly marginalized

A small price to pay for a tiny bit of solace to the families who lost loved ones this morning.

Sorry if this marginalizes you ever-so-slightly further, but I, for one, have already and will continue to pray to God for the dead and their families.
posted by turbodog at 12:51 PM on February 1, 2003


Gone now.
posted by Vidiot at 12:52 PM on February 1, 2003


re: adampsyche's comment

In addition to jb's statement, I would also point out the numerous advancements for humanity that have come out of human spaceflight. As we learn more about the world and the universe our planet is in, it increases the knowledge we all have - and benefits us all. If mankind gives up scientific advances like spaceflight, we cease to advance - and that would be the most terrible thing of all.
posted by owillis at 12:53 PM on February 1, 2003


Thanks for the link, S@L. Staggering.
posted by Vidiot at 12:54 PM on February 1, 2003


I'm looking for interesting info to blog about each astronaut and came across this 1997 bio of Kalpana Chawla in an Indian newsweekly. Fascinating life; apparently, she came from a very conservative Indian family:

From the beginning Kalpana was determined to lead her life her own way, the conservative townsfolk notwithstanding. When girls her age were reading comic books and dressing up Barbie dolls, Montu, as Kalpana was fondly called, was out in rugged jeans and shirts on the bicycle.

...all hell broke loose when Kalpana revealed plans to study aeronautical engineering in Chandigarh, with uncles and other relatives joining in the uproar. Her siblings, however, stood by her. "Our family did not allow us to leave home and study elsewhere, but we want you to go ahead," elder sisters Sunita and Deepa advised Kalpana. When the opposition showed no signs of relenting, Kalpana simply packed her bags and told her mother, "I am going to Chandigarh to join."


What a loss.

[Good God look at those trackbacks! Is that some kind of record?]
posted by mediareport at 12:54 PM on February 1, 2003


homunculus: I'm not religious either, and I'm no fan of Bush, but given that this is an overwhelmingly religious country and it was inevitable he would put in some religious reference, he could hardly have done better than this; even I found it moving:
In the words of the prophet Isaiah, "Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing."
(Incidentally, this is one of the very few places where I don't prefer the King James Version, which doesn't really make sense here: "Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.")

On preview: I have to agree with turbodog that the solace afforded the families and others is worth a bit of "marginalization" for the relatively few militantly non-religious Americans.
posted by languagehat at 12:56 PM on February 1, 2003


i am in san diego and early this morning, around 1:30am i heard a disturbingly loud sound - sounded like a jet taking off, but it lasted for about a minute and a half. i live by linbburgh field, but have never heard a sound like that before, especially at 1:30am. probably just a coincidence, but creepy nonetheless, now knowing what happened over texas. anyone else in so-cal hear similar noises this morning?
posted by afx114 at 12:57 PM on February 1, 2003


Ditto on the thanks for the radar, Steve. That opening image is incredible. Where did you get the movie? Is there another link in case yours gets overloaded?

The thing that bothered me most in Bush's speech was the "may God continue to bless America" garbage at the very end. Does this guy never stop? Forget the pathetic notion that God would bless particular countries over others; this is an international tragedy, as the sadness in India and Israel demonstrates. Did that final phrase strike anyone else as yet another thoughtless slap at the rest of the world?
posted by mediareport at 1:06 PM on February 1, 2003


No, because practically every President says it.
posted by owillis at 1:09 PM on February 1, 2003


I grabed the static radar images as it was going on, and made a slide show in iPhoto 2!

If someone wants to mirror it, that would be great...

on preview: what owillis said ;)
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 1:11 PM on February 1, 2003


If S@L doesn't mind, here is a mirror of the crash on my server [please also be kind to my server].
posted by plemeljr at 1:13 PM on February 1, 2003


Thanks plemeljr
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 1:14 PM on February 1, 2003


Fri., Jan. 31 NASA’s entry flight director says a piece of what appeared to be foam insulation fell from the shuttle’s external tank and hit the shuttle’s left wing, but says NASA has “no concerns whatsoever” about the wing, and landing

The first indication of trouble was a loss of temperature sensors in a hydraulic system of the left wing at 7:53 a.m., a NASA official said.


Oddly enough, the latter is a sub headline and not in the text linked.
posted by y2karl at 1:15 PM on February 1, 2003


owillis (or anyone, for that matter): I agree that manned space flight gives us immeasurable scientific advances. I'm a huge supporter of the space program and a small part of me would die if we no longer made an effort to explore. However, what are some concrete benefits - technological or otherwise - that most people use in daily life?

I'm going for dinner with my non-scientific friends tonight and I just know they're going to ask, "Why do we even bother?" I'd like to give them a better answer than Tang and the microwave oven.
posted by Monk at 1:16 PM on February 1, 2003


[off topic]
afx114 - I live next to Miramar. They've been doing some seriously loud training this morning. I got woken up by (training) gunfire and jet take offs pretty early. I suspect that's what you heard. When the big planes take off the ground will shake for a couple minutes.
[/off topic]
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:17 PM on February 1, 2003


I hope President Bush is serious about keeping up our commitment to space travel even in the face of this horrible tragedy. Our destiny lies out there.

This is a truly sad day.
posted by mrmanley at 1:17 PM on February 1, 2003


Excellent link, Steve. I was hoping someone would do that. Hopefully your bandwidth survives.
posted by Inkslinger at 1:20 PM on February 1, 2003


More than Tang and the microwave oven.
posted by Vidiot at 1:24 PM on February 1, 2003


Monk: here's a page listing spinoffs born via NASA. Baby food, water purification, solar energy, environmental monitors, breast cancer detection, angioplasty, pacemakers are among the innovations listed.
posted by owillis at 1:25 PM on February 1, 2003


Monk - It's not about Tang and microwaves. It's about looking up at the sky and wondering. It's about not being bounded by circumstance - not resigning ourselves to never leaving Earth, not limiting ourselves to where we started. You want tangible benefits? How about thousands of school kids saying 'I want to be an astronaut when I grow up," and getting inspired. For me, the money going to the space program is more closely related to the National Endowment for the Arts than it is related to the patent office.
posted by krakedhalo at 1:26 PM on February 1, 2003


Steve, as soon as I set up a QuickTime streaming server (downloading now), I'll set up a mirror that streams it.
posted by delfuego at 1:35 PM on February 1, 2003


NASA press conference says sensors in the left wing stopped sending signals before contact lost with Columbia.

Lots of speculation about tile damage on liftoff from a falling piece of insulation striking the left wing, with that allowing a burn through, and resultant loss of aerodynamic integrity.

At Mach 18, shuttle was lost at peak of heating(3000 degrees farenheit on wing leading edge).

No ability to go and inspect for tile damage while in space on this mission. Any one know if they have the ability to go to the space station in case of critical damage, to await rescue, if the shuttle was incapable of returning?

Damn shame.

And I believe those shuttle failure odds were pretty much shown in Feynman's book to have had no basis in any engineering numbers, but were merely guesses.
posted by dglynn at 1:36 PM on February 1, 2003


adampsyche asked: "Is it ok to mourn the loss of the pilots while simultaneously finding space exploration kinda needless, or at least over-prioritized? I mean, there's hungry people and, what, 40 million Americans without health care. Is it a crime to think that much of that money may be better spent at home and on the ground?"

I won't presume to define what is "ok" but I guarantee you that if the space program were cancelled tomorrow, the number of hungry people, people without health care etc, would not change (except that the hundreds of thousands of people who make a living in space related jobs would suddenly also be hungry and not have any health care). That is a false dichotomy because in the real world you would never actually get the fund diversion that is being suggested.

If we are not put on this planet to do amazing things, then we should all just plug into life support machines and go to sleep.
posted by anser at 1:42 PM on February 1, 2003


The shuttle design is over 30 years old. I vote we build a new system. If we're going to continue Earth orbit work, let's get on with it, and let's do it right.

Time for some new tools.
posted by dglynn at 1:45 PM on February 1, 2003


"Why do we even bother?"

Think about where we were as a species 300 years ago. As humans we explore. 300 years from now we will look back from space and think that asking such a question was quite simpleminded.

I'm sure 300 years ago people said the same thing about explorers and heros setting off in ships.

I'm sure 3000 years ago people asked the same question about families heading off across the tundra.

I'm hopeful that there will always be people who are willing to explore. And I'm thankful that there will always be governments to fund them.

How could we not bother? How could we sit in our couches and say, "That's it. That's enough. We will explore no more."
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:54 PM on February 1, 2003


y6y6y6, I'm with you all the way. When human beings stop exploring, they stop being human beings.
posted by tommasz at 2:00 PM on February 1, 2003


Every other channel has the NASA News Briefing on... Not CBS, they're playing Golf....
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 2:02 PM on February 1, 2003


Seeing the shuttle disintegrate today took me back to when I was a starry-eyed college student skipping class to watch the Challenger lift off, and the horror I felt as it became a fireball shortly after lift-off. I felt so much sadness for the families and co-workers of those on board, as I do today again. I also felt fear that our space program would be in danger of having to survive further budget cuts and popular opinion turning against further exploration and experimentation, as I do today again.

Reading comments here, elsewhere on the web, and speaking with the people I see on a daily basis, I am appalled at the number of people who think that this should be the end of space study. Someone above stated that 2 of 5 shuttles lost was a "crappy statistic", someone else said that it was a "trend". It is neither. If each of those shuttles had only gone up once and two had been destroyed in the process, then that would be a trend and a crappy statistic. Our shuttles are work horses. They have made multiple trips to orbit and back without failure. Mechanical devices fail. Electronics fail. People make mistakes. Unexpected shit happens.

Automobiles weren't perfectly safe when people first starting tooling about in them, and they still aren't perfect ... they still fail on occasion, and no one seems to think that we should turn our backs on that technology. Same goes for cruise ships, airplanes and military jets. Any technology used long enough and often enough is bound to fail at least a few times to tragic ends. We can't allow that to make us stick our heads in the sand and stop exploring, studying and working towards learning more about ourselves and the universe around us.

We have acquired many useful technologies and medical advances from our exploration in near space, but the most important aspect to me is the dream of exploration ... of "going where no man has gone before". Humans are curious creatures, and even more than that ... we thrive on hopes and dreams.

As I watched the Challenger explode all those years ago, I knew that statistically speaking, I would probably see another space tragedy in my lifetime, if not more than one, and yet ... as it happened today, I realized that I had fallen into complacency, had forgotten that it is still an imperfect science and that accidents will happen. As sad as today's events make me, it would be even more sad if the space program suffered because of it. We are still children learning to walk as far as space exploration goes. We are going to stumble, and we are going to fall, but we shouldn't stop trying.

I only hope that when my time to go comes that like those astronauts today and all those years ago, I will be doing something I loved and something that had been a dream of mine. My heart goes out to the families and all affected by this tragedy. It's a grey day for Texas, the USA and the world.
posted by Orb at 2:03 PM on February 1, 2003


turbodog: A small price to pay for a tiny bit of solace to the families who lost loved ones this morning.

Point taken.

Sorry if this marginalizes you ever-so-slightly further, but I, for one, have already and will continue to pray to God for the dead and their families.

Of course it doesn't. I have no desire to stifle your prayers and I certainly don't wish to belittle your beliefs. But when the President gives a public speech, he is supposed to be speaking to the nation as a whole, believers and nonbelievers alike. I didn't expect him to, but I'm still a bit disappointed.

languagehat: but given that this is an overwhelmingly religious country and it was inevitable he would put in some religious reference, he could hardly have done better than this

I disagree, and I would point to Reagan's speech as an example. His single, poetic reference to God was very moving, even to a nonbeliever like me. It was brilliantly done and succeeded in reaching out to everyone.

But now I'm starting to nitpick, so I'll drop it.
posted by homunculus at 2:03 PM on February 1, 2003


the radar quicktime is on filepile.
posted by tomplus2 at 2:08 PM on February 1, 2003


Vidiot and owilis: Thank you for the links.

krakedhalo: I agree with you completely. Your comparison to the National Endowment for the Arts is perfectly valid. When I was young I used to have a poster in my bedroom showing the most amazing vehicles mankind has ever produced - from Sputnik I to the still experimental Enterprise shuttle - and the men and women that made it all possible. Without the space program, I probably wouldn't be interested in computers and engineering today.

I know that we will all learn from this disaster and continue with our efforts. I just hope it happens soon.
posted by Monk at 2:08 PM on February 1, 2003


Homunculus...

Thank you for stating your viewpoint. I completely agree. I am glad that someone else out there has the same thoughts. It is possible to invoke the name of God without sounding like a frickin' baptist minister giving a sermon.
posted by EmoChild at 2:11 PM on February 1, 2003


My sincerest condolences to the friends and families of all those on board. This event has brought a profound sadness to all those who have witnessed it, directly or indirectly.

I hope that I am not alone, thinking that the most fitting tribute to this tragedy would be the continuation, and the expansion of the space program.
posted by mosch at 2:12 PM on February 1, 2003


If you missed President Bush's speech, the BBC has it in RealVideo.
posted by ahughey at 2:23 PM on February 1, 2003


I'm nitpicking too, homunculus, but you have a point. The problem was that difference between the Reagan speech. Bush ended with "God Bless America-" aside from the fact that one of the astronauts wasn't even an American, the statement doesn't imply an ambiguous general God as Reagan did; it's a reference to the national slogan and the American/Western God- the god the president believes in.

Of course a person has the right to pray to their god for the astronauts- including the Jews and Hindus the president didn't make reference too. The fact that India and Israel are two nations notable for the devotion and diversity of their level and limit of belief in the two elements Bush mentioned- God and Heaven- increases the size of the nit I'm picking. Considering how many people raised a stink about (gasp!) a Canadian singing "God Bless America" at the Superbowl last week, how is it unfair for the reverse to be addressed?

The fact that Bush ends every speech with that near-exact statement is what annoyed me, too- it's like some movie quote someone set to be automatically attached to the end of all their e-mail. It made the statement less personal, less profound- like he didn't even know what he was reading off the teleprompter.

As far as the Space Research issue goes, I'm sort of mixed with everyone's views. I've always felt that it's weird to put so much money into NASA with so many seemingly more-important problems on our current planet... but the idea that we should abandon the space program is ridiculous.

On a horribly morbid note, through the coverage and expert interviews I find it tragically ironic that because of this disaster CNN is teaching the country more about our space program and its technology in the last nine hours than the government has funded PBS to do in the last nine years.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:25 PM on February 1, 2003


I've also put S@L's movie up: http://www.mind-numbing.com/columbia/radar.mov

I'm collecting many of the links from this thread (and elsewhere) on the front page of my site, too.
posted by ahughey at 2:31 PM on February 1, 2003


There ought not to be anything in the whole universe that man can't poke his nose into--that's the way we're built and I assume there's some reason for it.

Source: Lazarus Long in Methuselah's Children
posted by lazaruslong at 2:34 PM on February 1, 2003


This thread at Blogdex
posted by feelinglistless at 2:49 PM on February 1, 2003


Zimbabwe train crash kills 40 and wounds hundreds.

Don't lose your perspective.
posted by knutmo at 2:54 PM on February 1, 2003


Someone asked earlier about how long the crew of the International Space Station could make it without a shuttle resupply. According to the last briefing I heard, NASA specifically said that they had enough supplies to last them until June. That may include a shipment scheduled for next week (using a much simpler rocket) which is still supposed to launch as planned. It's possible that additional (unmanned) supply rockets could be scheduled as necessary. Finally, as someone mentioned before, the ISS does have some sort of reentry vehicle (a Soyuz capsule?) which the crew could use to return to Earth.

Just the same, I hope the idea that "Hey, we have people up there!" adds a bit of pressure to resuming normal shuttle operations as soon as reasonably possible.
posted by harmful at 2:54 PM on February 1, 2003


If we are not put on this planet to do amazing things, then we should all just plug into life support machines and go to sleep.

Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes. The essence of humanity is whatever that strange thing is in us that needs to expand our boundaries whatever their current range is. We don't all have it, but some small percentage of every generation seems to be driven to explore.

Whether it is expansion into new territories outside of ourselves - into the reaches of space or the depths of the ocean - or the inward expansion, of intellect, of knowledge, of our own souls ... it is all rooted in the same essential drive. To my mind, the scientists seeking to map the human genome, the mystic alone in the deep wilderness on a spiritual quest, the men and women that feel compelled to climb Everest (as Mallory said, "because it's there"), and the brave crew of Columbia are all cut from the same cloth.

And while much of what some of them do leads - as an aftereffect - to benefits that disperse among all of us, even if there were very few practical benefits, it would still be essential that these people live the lives they live, face the risks they face, and push the edges of human possibility.

Our race as a whole would be far different - and lesser - thing, were the urge to quest to disappear.
posted by MidasMulligan at 2:54 PM on February 1, 2003


Not to overdo it with the Heinlein quotes, in response to people who are questioning if NASA is worth the cost, I think this is apropos:
When a place gets crowded enough to require ID's, social collapse is not far away. It is time to go elsewhere. The best thing about space travel is that it made it possible to go elsewhere.

— Robert A. Heinlein
posted by IshmaelGraves at 3:00 PM on February 1, 2003


I'm looking for interesting info to blog about each astronaut and came across this 1997 bio of Kalpana Chawla in an Indian newsweekly.

Great article, mediareport, thanks for finding it. A fascinating life indeed! Both The Times of India and The Hindustan Times have several articles about her.

Perhaps this shared tragedy could lead to a closer relationship between India's and the U.S.'s space programs.
posted by homunculus at 3:05 PM on February 1, 2003


A few thoughts.
Each day we experience a world of governments in conflict, the brighter those inventions of cartography that we imagine separate nations burn in our minds. Space exploration is one of those transcendent human endeavors where those boundaries visibly fall away; all of humanity in one place, save several men and women. We owe this vision to the astronauts. Until that day that human affairs are settled, we have the gift of that vision.
posted by eddydamascene at 3:06 PM on February 1, 2003


I live east of Dallas, and this morning everyone in our neighborhood heard a big ol' boom. My husband described it as like hearing a cannon in the next block being fired while you were swimming underwater. Apparently, a lot of our neighbors came outside to see if they could figure out what the noise was. (I slept through it, having been up all night with the baby.)

The last week in January seems a cursed week for NASA.

Jan. 27, 1967: Astronauts Gus Grissom, Edward H. White and Roger B. Chaffee die when a fire sweeps their command module during a ground test at Kennedy Space Center.

Jan. 28, 1986: The space shuttle Challenger explodes 73 seconds after launch, killing all seven astronauts aboard, including Christa McAuliffe, intended to be the first teacher in space. Other astronauts killed were Francis "Dick" Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Ellison S. Onizuka, Judith A. Resnik, Ronald E. McNair and Gregory B. Jarvis.

And then today. Which granted is the first day of February, but still within a week's span of the other accident dates.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the crew, especially the children.
posted by dejah420 at 3:15 PM on February 1, 2003


Clearly, we've seen the last of Zimbabwe's train program.
posted by aaronetc at 3:22 PM on February 1, 2003


.
posted by SweetIceT at 3:23 PM on February 1, 2003



"Farther along we'll know all about it.
Farther along we'll understand why
Cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine
We'll understand it all by and by."


My prayers are with the families, friends and co-workers of the lost ones. I still pin my hopes for the future on the continued exploration of space.
posted by Lynsey at 3:23 PM on February 1, 2003


Crash on Radar. Another mirror of Steve's link, this time on an Apple server so it's reasonably survivable (up to my bandwidth limit)
posted by nathan_teske at 3:25 PM on February 1, 2003


"Clearly, we've seen the last of Zimbabwe's train program."

aaronetc, that's the first time I've smiled all day. I'm guessing that makes me a bad person.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:30 PM on February 1, 2003


NASA considered retiring Columbia in 2001
posted by Vidiot at 4:01 PM on February 1, 2003


.
posted by jammer at 4:01 PM on February 1, 2003


y6y6y6 made the point that I wanted to make.

Ever notice the number of buildings on the eastern seaboard that have "Widow's Walks"? The flat platform along the roof of a captain's house wasn't just there for show. The wives of captains and other sailors would sometimes maintain a vigil for months along the walk, waiting for their husbands to return from an ocean that was unknown, unforgiving, and unimaginably vast to the people of the 1500's to 1800's.

The invention of the radio, and the development of steel hulls and steam engines made sea travel a regular and relatively safe part of many people's lives. But before those developments were made, you have thousands of years of history... history that predates Christ by an unknowable amount... of tenative and heroic sailings.

At this point in the future history of space travel, we're doing the equivalent of putting boards on water and seeing if they'll float. We've got a raft anchored out in the middle of a lake, the ISS, and we've got some boards that we can sit on and paddle out to it (the space shuttles). Occasionally, the board cracks or disintegrates and sinks, with the person on it.
Even today, sea travel is dangerous. Ships are still lost, especially small ones. Ships still disintegrate in the middle of the ocean, as several oil tankers have done in the past year. There is still a lot of stuff we don't know about the ocean. But the public regards sea travel as passe. There's very little fanfare when a ship leaves for an intercontinental sailing ... think of that, crossing a body of water that's a thousand miles wide in the space of days! ... it's amazing, but it's accepted.

Looking at this history, I would be very surprised if space travel reaches the level of acceptance that sea travel has reached. Every time one of our rafts sinks, we're going to have people going, "I told you so, it's a bad idea! Man wasn't meant to do that!" ... but it will still perservere, because we're explorers. And when men looked out over the ocean thousands of years ago, he couldn't help but wonder what was on the other side. He'd try to see with a telescope, but he couldn't make it out. He had to go there and see. And he eventually did.
We can't help but wonder what's on the other side of the blackness we call 'space'. We try to see with telescopes, but we can't quite make it out. Despite setbacks, we'll eventually go there. If not the United States, then some other country will go. Or a private firm of dreamers with money to burn. Or someone who sees an opportunity in space that he can't pass up.

Human nature practically guarantees it.
posted by SpecialK at 4:02 PM on February 1, 2003


You could see that at the end of the address when he didn't know what to do with himself, whether he should wait for questions or walk away. Some would see that as a weakness. I saw it as humanity.

feelinglistless - i just saw this as how he appears whenever he doesnt have months to prepare a comment in front of the mirror and test it in the living room to his folks. he was stiff, reading the prepared statement without any confidence or emotional understanding. very absent seeming.

that said, horrible day...
posted by Peter H at 4:11 PM on February 1, 2003


As much as I dislike Bush, his advisors, and his policies, I saw genuine emotion there. I thought it was well written, and I heard the words crack in his throat and his tone soften, not to mention seeing the tears glistening in his eyes. I felt the same way.
posted by Vidiot at 4:15 PM on February 1, 2003


I wasn't quite sure how I felt about the US space program until now. This latest disaster has clarified things in my mind.

I think The US should terminate the utterly useless Crusader self-propelled artillery program (which was originally designed to stop a Soviet tank attack during the Cold War and is now useless because Air power does the same job quite efficiently) and give the 10 billion or more to NASA to build newer, better shuttles....or whatever NASA deems appropriate.....

Oh, and, yes - plenty of roses for the graves of the astronauts who just died.
posted by troutfishing at 4:19 PM on February 1, 2003


Anyone want to second my proposal? - to kill a few utterly useless programs like the "Crusader" (Don Rumsfeld himelf tried to kill it because he considered utterly useless) and give an extra 10 billion or so to NASA?
posted by troutfishing at 4:22 PM on February 1, 2003


I had picked up a friend at about 9:00 and we were on our way to a workshop together. He was surprised when his cell phone rang - why would his father be calling at that hour? I was confused when my friend started saying "oh no, oh no, was that with the Israeli?" When he finally hung up, my friend said his father had been calling from the roof of his house in Louisiana, where he had both heard and felt the explosion(s).

Truly a tragedy.
posted by etoile at 4:23 PM on February 1, 2003


well said Specialk. i received a toy space shuttle (for xmas i think) quite a few years ago which i completely forgot about until today. it's now sitting on top of my monitor.
posted by poopy at 4:24 PM on February 1, 2003


On another poignant note, Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, in memoriam to victims of the Holocaust, had traveled the mission with several items dating from the era, including a teenager's artwork and a miniature scroll of the Torah.
posted by LinusMines at 4:29 PM on February 1, 2003


Trout: Wholeheartedly agreed. I would gut a lot of the pork spending, and yes, even a lot of the "defense" spending, and give it to NASA. The fact is, we will eventually run out of space on this planet. It's that simple. We need to expand. I can't imagine what NASA could do with an extra ten billion...but I know it would be great, and wouldn't involve killing people in wars.
posted by lazaruslong at 4:29 PM on February 1, 2003


I know how to never have another Challenger. I know how to never have another leak, and never to screw up another mirror, and that is to stop and build some shopping centers in the desert. - J. R. Thompson, NASA deputy administrator

If we die, we want people to accept it. We are in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life. - Astronaut Virgil I. Grissom (On January 27, 1967, astronauts Grissom, White, and Chaffee died from a flash fire aboard Apollo 204 Spacecraft.)
posted by rhyax at 4:30 PM on February 1, 2003


Regarding the merits of manned space exploration versus unmanned probes, here are some comments I made to Slashdot. Robots will be my career, but I strongly believe we should still be sending people into space.

Comment 1

Today, we have the ability to send unmanned probes that can give us detailed information about the various physical parameters of some uncharted frontier. Gone are the days when the only way you could explore something is via physically being there.

It's not as cut and dried as that.

I worked at the JPL last summer with the MER group (MER: the next Mars rovers). It was a great place to be and the technology they had was impressive. Still, there's only so much a teleoperated robot can do with a 20 minute time lag, slow rad hardened processors, and one (sensor-laden) arm. If I recall correctly, the off-the-cuff figure tossed around there was that a human geologist on site could accomplish in 45 seconds what an earth-based team driving a Mars rover could do in an hour.

It has always been more cost effective to send robots to Mars instead of people. Don't think, though, that you can just send one of these guys up and find out everything you want to know!

Comment 2

Addendum:

Lest I be accused of making things a bit too cut and dried myself, I should qualify the 45s/1hr figure by saying that while many of the things MER will do will take a lot of time, some of them would take just as much time for a real person. One of them is holding up a spectrometer [cornell.edu] against a rock for a few hours to learn about its mineral composition. No matter who (or what) does it, it's going to take a while.

One of the big time sinks for planetary exploration robots seems to be manouvering close enough to a terrain feature to deploy analysis instruments. You want to be extremely careful about not running the robot into the feature or any other obstacle, and while MER does have some autonomy in terms of choosing paths for traversal, there will be a lot of communication between Mars and Earth to ensure precise, safe navigation. Improving robot autonomy in this regard is an area of ongoing research. A human being, in contrast, can just walk up to the rock.

Anyway, the fact remains that planetary robots, though cheap and effective science tools, are slower and more limited than human scientists on site.
posted by tss at 4:31 PM on February 1, 2003


Poynter has an extensive section for journalists on Resources for Coverage of Shuttle Disaster - lots of background information and links to news sources, video clips, satellite images, etc. Good info for news junkies, space mission aficionados and people who are blogging the story.
posted by madamjujujive at 4:31 PM on February 1, 2003


I remember sitting in a class room in 1985 watching my fifth grade teacher start crying as she held one of those litle am radios to her ear. She had been one of the two dozen or so finalists in the teacher in space group.

This is truly tragic, but if we've learned anything in the past year and a half, they shouldn't halt anything in the program (IMO), they gotta keep going.
posted by Big_B at 4:32 PM on February 1, 2003


This blows (the accident, not this thread...)

I went to college in Nacogdoches. It's a bizarre feeling when a little burg where you lived that always garnered a "where's that?" ends up on the front page (I grew up in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia and had the same feeling back in 91')
posted by Cyrano at 4:34 PM on February 1, 2003


enhanced baby food , trainers and a voice control wheelchair........that aint worth seven people.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:35 PM on February 1, 2003


Case in point: Spellcheck choked on "Nacogdoches" but not "Dhahran."
posted by Cyrano at 4:35 PM on February 1, 2003


Fantastic links (as always), MJJ.
posted by Vidiot at 4:36 PM on February 1, 2003


I get a little annoyed about the NASA guys saying there was no way to inspect the damage from where the falling insulation hit the wing. After Challenger, you would think they would be a little more careful about saying, "I'm sure it will be fine." They should have figured out a way to do a visual inspection with a spacewalk or from the space station. If the damage was too bad, they could have sent up another shuttle to fix Columbia or worst case just leave it in space. Instead it seems the engineers may have made a bad decision based on poor data. I hope that isn't the case, but it sure looks that way.
posted by quirked at 4:37 PM on February 1, 2003


It ain't a one to one trade, sarge. Never has been.
posted by Wulfgar! at 4:39 PM on February 1, 2003


Sgt. Serenity: Of course it isn't worth seven people. No amount of innovation in the long run is worth human life. The difference, however, is that the people who were tragically killed were completely aware of the risk they were faced with, and chose to go on. They felt it was worth it. Who are you to call them wrong?


Also, if you want to make a statement like that, go ahead and include the entire list of innovations, as was linked here previously.
posted by lazaruslong at 4:41 PM on February 1, 2003


quirked, i was under the impression that the shuttle was in a different orbit than the space station, as in they couldnt have the damage "checked". ...and i don't think they can do space walks w/ every launch - science experiments and labs taking up the bay. ..but i'm just guessing.
posted by tomplus2 at 4:42 PM on February 1, 2003


I hear you all on the exploration, the curiosity, the venturing forth and discovery, I just think that there's other things that deserver attention (and $) more than going up in space. That's all.

And, kudos to ebay for taking the shuttle debris auctions off their site.
posted by adampsyche at 4:46 PM on February 1, 2003


troutfishing: And whose boondoggle is Crusader?

I'll second your idea though I wonder if congressmen benefiting from Crusader will vote to move the money.

SpecialK: well said.

sgt.serenity: the lives of both my parents, the lives of countless friends and numerous strangers I live and work with...

If I knew the work I performed would lead to helping humanity in ways I'd never fanthom, I would be honored to take the chance I would die doing that work.

I am sure at some point many of the men and women who died in the space program said much the same thing.
posted by ?! at 4:47 PM on February 1, 2003


troutfishing: was that really necessary? first you inject something irrelevant to the destruction of the Columbia, then you immediately follow it up with "didn't anyone hear me? why won't anyone agree with me? let's talk about what I want to talk about."
posted by turbodog at 4:54 PM on February 1, 2003


I really did mean to include that link, homunculus. Thanks for cleaning up after my airheadedness.
posted by mediareport at 5:05 PM on February 1, 2003


tomplus2 - I don't know how they could have done it, they just should have found a way. That is what they do.
posted by quirked at 5:14 PM on February 1, 2003


As Einstein once said, problems are never solved at the same level on which they were created. Space exploration is one of the ways we try to get to a higher level. And as has already been mentioned, it's not just about the innovations and discoveries, it is about the sense of hope and amazement and possibility that space exploration represents. It is about inspiration. It is a noble goal, and worth pursuing, and the men and women who risk their lives to further it along deserve our respect and admiration. My heart goes out to the families of the astronauts.
posted by Nothing at 5:40 PM on February 1, 2003


SpecialK, that was beautiful - it's times like this we have to remember not to unhitch the cart from the horse just because the road's gotten rough. Or something like that - I'm no poet. I'm just an optimist.
posted by wanderingmind at 5:47 PM on February 1, 2003


Here's a link to Feynman's appendix to the Challenger report.
posted by starkeffect at 5:48 PM on February 1, 2003


To those who wonder if the space budget is worth it in the long run: My husband always pointed out to me that in proportion to all other government spending, NASA is a drop in the bucket.
posted by konolia at 6:00 PM on February 1, 2003


World leaders give their condolences.
posted by somethingotherthan at 6:03 PM on February 1, 2003


Here's some speculation. While some of it is quite convincing, this piece is largely conspiratorial and not worth considering as fact until we have more evidence of what happened.
posted by crayfish at 6:17 PM on February 1, 2003


Feynman, 1986: (second paragraph)

We have also found that certification criteria used in Flight Readiness Reviews often develop a gradually decreasing strictness. The argument that the same risk was flown before without failure is often accepted as an argument for the safety of accepting it again. Because of this, obvious weaknesses are accepted again and again, sometimes without a sufficiently serious attempt to remedy them, or to delay a flight because of their continued presence.

Dittemore, 2003: (scroll almost to bottom)

don't know how many tiles, can't respond to that hear, today, have no capability to repair tile, only recourse to design so that we don't lose tiles, so we can take impacts without it being a safety concern, we have lost tiles before on bottom of vehicle, have had debris impacts before, they have all been acceptable and don't represent safety of flight concern, would like a harder tile, but it has not to date presented a safety concern and have no recourse if we lose tiles, only effective course is to prevent loss through design and test, and has been perfectly adequate to this point.
posted by anewc2 at 6:29 PM on February 1, 2003


...
posted by bwg at 6:47 PM on February 1, 2003


I hope that everyone extends the same outpouring of grief for any other six American servicemen killed, in combat or otherwise.
posted by mischief at 6:50 PM on February 1, 2003


Well, as long as we're quoting songs, I'll repeat the new and as yet unrecorded one I heard Jonathan Richman sing two weeks back:

Life is danger
There are no guarantees
You and I will not live forever
Life is danger


Lines at random, not necessarily in order and which may look trite onscreen but the song had much more to it as song, I guarantee.

From childhood on, I was always for the space program--in the 60s there's where I parted company with my Viet Nam era counter-culture cohort--when Nixon cut the last few Apollo missions, I was so sad.

When 2001 first came out, that's how I thought now would be.
posted by y2karl at 6:59 PM on February 1, 2003


.
posted by goddam at 7:02 PM on February 1, 2003


Self-link: 1986.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:02 PM on February 1, 2003


What a load of pap that is, crayfish. The author provides no evidence whatsoever -- nor could he at this early point.
posted by Vidiot at 7:03 PM on February 1, 2003


last night, around midnight in japan, mefi broke the news for me with the cnn link. there were just 3 comments in this thread back then. i switched on the tv. bbc world & cnn international were showing the white shuttle streaking & breaking across a blue sky, whilst newsmen made banal, obvious & repetitive comments telling me little i couldn`t see with my own eyes.

so i returned to my computer & this thread. here white _words_ were streaking & breaking accross a blue sky. all these words & links, comments & speculations, questions & answers... and all those trackbacks popping up: metafilter at it`s best.
posted by n o i s e s at 7:05 PM on February 1, 2003


I don't know if it's been said already but i feel like i want to post it for posterity: I'm sure all on board died having attained thier dream, and are damn lucky (more so then most of us) for having gotten that far in life before the end. I doubt you could find an astronaut today who wouldn't be just as willing to take the opportunity to travel to space as yesterday. I hope i'm so lucky as to attain my goals before death.
posted by NGnerd at 7:10 PM on February 1, 2003


metafilter at it's best.
not at all. just metafilter after catastrophic events.
posted by quonsar at 7:10 PM on February 1, 2003


Oh God--

Columbia crew remains found: Texas police
posted by y2karl at 7:25 PM on February 1, 2003


re: the science benefits-whatever.
Im sad for the people that died, mentally im still up there putting parachutes on them, hoping theres an ejector seat or something.
posted by sgt.serenity at 7:33 PM on February 1, 2003


Nice poetry n o i s e s.

When a national tragedy strikes, we all seek community - be it family, friends, coworkers, a net community (especially such a nice one as MeFi) or even millions of individuals watching the networks cover the tragedy. I think you have captured nicely the way in which we collectively mourn. Thank you.
posted by caddis at 7:37 PM on February 1, 2003


sgt.serenity: you do know that parachutes and ejector seats are useless at 200,000 ft, right?
posted by poopy at 7:40 PM on February 1, 2003


I'm certain he knows this. But hope is not always rational, nor should it always be.
posted by litlnemo at 7:44 PM on February 1, 2003


i was struck today by an interview with a former pilot of the space shuttle. asked what to do if faced with an emergency on re-entry, he replied, 'close your eyes'.
posted by poopy at 7:48 PM on February 1, 2003


A concise, speculative interview with NASA adviser John Logsdon.
posted by 111 at 7:50 PM on February 1, 2003


...
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:52 PM on February 1, 2003


When I walked into work today footage of the shuttle launch was on and (not having known that Columbia had already been in orbit) thought, odd, this footage reminds me of the Challenger, I wonder why the television is on.

I walk back 20 minutes later to learn that the shuttle has blown up. My entire body froze with the shiver that says this is something important, that screams this is tragedy.

Shaken, I went and told a friend who happens to work with me.

****
The thing that weirds me out even more though is the weird syncronicities that have happened around this explosion, even personal ones for me. Just the other day I had the black box recordings from the Challenger tragedy. The first person I broke the news to was Josh, whose band has a song about another Challenger-like event with the eerie chorus "It's 1986 all over again." Apparently they also wrote a song pre-September 11 that takes on new meaning in hindsight.



What more is there to say then sadness?
posted by drezdn at 7:56 PM on February 1, 2003


why do people keep posting dots?
posted by mcsweetie at 8:12 PM on February 1, 2003


...
posted by whatnot at 8:18 PM on February 1, 2003


Hey, homunculus, thanks for a brave post. I'm definitely with you.

(As a lifelong atheist, I also happen to think Reagan's cite of the Magee poem was a palatable, even a classy, invocation of "God.")

And knutmo? I doubt there's a child who went to sleep on Planet Earth last night with dreams of riding the mighty Zimbabwean rails to the stars. Let us, indeed, keep perspective. Our hopes and our hearts, as always, are with *all* the lost - but our dreams cindered at 200,000 feet over Texas.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:19 PM on February 1, 2003


mcsweetie, it means "there are no words"
posted by whatnot at 8:21 PM on February 1, 2003


Re: the Crayfish link. - I've been trying to tune out this disaster all day, but I've heard several media reports of eyewitness acounts of damage to the shuttle during launch. Given the crucial nature of the fragile shuttle heat shields, it seems odd to me that this (apparent) possible compromise of the shuttle's heat shield integrity didn't provoke emergency safety measures. But then.....NASA's been under a lot of heat lately, and they are making due with an old shuttle fleet....

Cancel the "Crusader", and give them that 10 billion budget for a new shuttle fleet. If Massachussetts can afford to spend 14 billion (much of it federal $) to beautify Boston, then the US can afford to give NASA money for some newer space shuttles.
posted by troutfishing at 8:23 PM on February 1, 2003


But hope is not always rational, nor should it always be.

laurel clark:

"There were roses in there, and they had been buds, and they had opened up to bloom," she said, "and it was so, so magical to have roses growing in our laboratory in space." In a student experiment, she saw a moth newly hatched from a silkworm. "It was just starting to puff its wings up so that it would be able to fly," Clark said, "and life continues in lots of places, and life is a magical thing."
posted by poopy at 8:33 PM on February 1, 2003


ground control to major tom.
posted by Satapher at 8:42 PM on February 1, 2003


trout: what could have been done? I suppose they could have aborted and flown back or to Morocco / Spain / Whereever. But did the time after the insulation fell allow for them to work the problem, see the risk, and decide on an abort?

Once they're in orbit, they're dead but they don't know it yet. They can't get to the space station -- I'm told the orbits had too different inclinations. They can't stay up long enough to get another set of craft up to bring them down. They don't carry spare tiles because the individuality of the tiles makes that useless. AFAIK they couldn't get out to fix it if they'd had the tools, as the spacelab was in the bay.

I suppose in the future they could only fly with partial crews and always use two shuttles to buddy up, but would that increase or decrease safety?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:17 PM on February 1, 2003


ROU_Xenophobe - If you're correct, well then....my ignorance. But I do think NASA should still get the "Crusader" budget!
posted by troutfishing at 9:34 PM on February 1, 2003


trout: I agree with you about Crusader. But 4 times in this thread, and once in another one is enough. We heard ya. Some of us agree. Yelling it over and over ain't gonna convince nobody.
posted by lazaruslong at 9:43 PM on February 1, 2003


No quarrel there.

I wonder how much money NASA could rake in by making tv companies bid for rights to cover launches, or for tv rights for coolio things like that camera on the external tank a few launches ago?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:43 PM on February 1, 2003


God. Do we even have to commercialize our sky?
posted by slipperywhenwet at 9:51 PM on February 1, 2003


Buzz Aldrin captured it this morning. He tried to read a poem about astronauts on television. He read these words: "As they passed from us to glory, riding fire in the sky." And tough old Buzz, steely-eyed rocket man and veteran of the moon, began to weep.
posted by konolia at 10:00 PM on February 1, 2003


It has been a long day, ending with me reading of one man who lost a brother in the towers and now his cousin on Columbia. The only thing that made the day bearable was spending time with family and friends for our Chinese New Year celebration.

troutfishing- Sounds good to me too. $10B for NASA.

To the sick bastards who put up auctions on ebay, may you burn in hell.

S@L- Great links, especially the one on your blog to the Presidents words.

Let's hope for a much happier tomorrow.

Finally from Heinlein -

...
The arching sky is calling
Spacemen back to their trade.
All hands! Stand by! Free falling!
And the lights below us fade.

Out ride the sons of Terra,
Far drives the thundering jet,
Up leaps a race of Earthmen,
Out, far, and onward yet,

We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on the friendly skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.
posted by Plunge at 10:08 PM on February 1, 2003


If there was serious concern about the tiles, couldn't the shuttle have stayed in space until a rescue attempt could be made? After all, if I remember correctly, the shuttles were designed for just that sort of thing (launching another shuttle to save a stranded crew).
posted by drezdn at 10:42 PM on February 1, 2003


Cancel the "Crusader", and give them that 10 billion budget for a new shuttle fleet.

troutfishing, I agree ... but, each current shuttle cost (aprox.) 3 billion to make, not necessarily including concept and design. 10 billion doesn't go very far when you're designing a spacecraft that is indestructible (as if). As long as we endeavor for space flight, there will be oversights and things the engineers didn't foresee. Yes, mo' money would help, but we can't just throw dollars and expect it to return.

I believe that America needs to recommit itself to space in a manner that transcends our profit model. This we need to fund and accomplish because we are human, and we want to grow. 10 billion would only make a good start.

FWIW, I do think you're making the point with a sledgehammer, troutfishing. Fall back a little, and hope for the best, please.
posted by Wulfgar! at 10:54 PM on February 1, 2003


Both William Gibson and Neil Gaiman make poignant comments.
posted by slipperywhenwet at 10:55 PM on February 1, 2003


mcsweetie, it means "there are no words"

Since the WTC thread, I've taken it to be more 'a moment of silence for the dead', but six-of-one, I suppose. Same intent.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:31 PM on February 1, 2003


My husband was online playing an MMORPG, when one of our guildmates told him about the disaster. He quickly relayed the info to me. When he first said "the shuttle has exploded", my first thought was that he must have accidentally stumbled upon a documentary on the Challenger disaster and had mistaken it for a current news item. Then I realized that he wasn't watching TV and had gotten the news from another source - which meant that a second shuttle had exploded. My head didn't want to wrap itself about that.

I posted some comments in my own blog earlier today about my thoughts on what had happened and looking at how I was experiencing today's disaster as opposed to how I had experienced the Challenger disaster. If anyone is interested, the articles are at different strings.

I think the biggest difference, though, is that on the day of the Challenger explosion, after I got done dealing with the need to get the news out at the college radio station I worked at, I went home and the emotions finally started to sink in - but there wasn't anyone to talk to. Today, there are hundreds, if not thousands, at my fingertips. It makes the grieving a very different process. Not necessarily better or worse, but very different.
posted by thorswitch at 11:55 PM on February 1, 2003


I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
...
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.
--Yeats

Though it doesn't lessen the tragedy, I am so very glad these seven died doing something they loved. The astronaut's comment about not wanting to come back is eerie in retrospect, but oddly comforting.

. . . . . . .
posted by hippugeek at 12:42 AM on February 2, 2003


Subject: [FAQ] Columbia Loss FAQ v1.0
Newsgroups: sci.space.history, sci.space.shuttle
via Robot Wisdom
posted by y2karl at 1:21 AM on February 2, 2003


.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:06 AM on February 2, 2003


Granted, I was only in the fifth grade when Challenger "happened", it seemed to me there was much more general sadness, the will-to sit in front of the tv and watch the wall to wall coverage.

Nowadays, it's kinda like we burned ourselves the fuck out of with 9-11.

I don't know if any of you've noticed, but there's no longer any glory in going to space. There is no longer any awe. There is no longer, it would seem, any dreaminess that glints the eyes of children when they ponder outer space. Life just went eerily on today. Fucking bummer.

There's a noticable lack of emotion in thie mood of people.

Space exploration OUT.

Judeo/Christian invoking wars IN.

Nothing draws our eyes to the heavens above like god who's warning us to not go too far. In a sense warning us we need to be focused only with war on Earth.

Condolences to the astronauts and families. My condolences to the space program.

I wish this had not happened.

May Humans Colonize Space One Day!
posted by crasspastor at 2:27 AM on February 2, 2003


I don't know if anyone here saw this "live," as it happened, if I can call it that; but even now that almost a day has past, I still haven't gotten over how surreally it all unfolded.

I was up early and was flipping between C-SPAN's Washington Journal and CNN's CNN Saturday Morning and had just gotten off the phone with my dad. Right before 9:00 AM ET CNN's medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen ended a segment about the Atkins diet and weight loss with the show's co-host Heidi Collins. Collins, munching off on a strip of bacon and talking about babies keeping her up at night, threw it over to Miles O'Brien, who was on the cell phone with someone near Dallas. He smiled, looked the camera, and said, "Dallas, what you just heard is the sonic boom of the space shuttle Columbia reentering..." As the producer cut to a live NASA map showing the shuttle's path to Cape Canaveral, O'Brien voiced over, "the shuttle is scheduled to land in about fifteen minutes, when we'll take you live for the landing of the space shuttle Columbia." As CNN went off to commercials, I flipped over to C-SPAN, planning to flip back to CNN in 15 minutes. At around 9:16 AM the host on CSPAN said, "We just got word from NASA that they have lost contact with the space shuttle..." I flipped back to CNN. Within minutes they were on breaking news showing footage from WFAA, but didn't speculate on the worse. MSNBC had footage from KSAX and CBS had a man with a model of the space shuttle.

I didn't come to MetaFilter.com. There was no need. At 9:57 AM I put up a notice on #mefi: **BREAKING NEWS** Shuttle Gone Missing Over Texas. For the next couple of hours we did play-by-play of what we saw on our local TV (Pretty_Generic, lazy-ville from Europe, the rest from US) and assorted websites.

"The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth; yet we can pray that all are safely home." - The White House.
posted by tamim at 2:32 AM on February 2, 2003


eh?
posted by fritx at 3:40 AM on February 2, 2003


.
posted by dg at 4:08 AM on February 2, 2003


Now that the ellipsis meme has been explained, what's with just the single period?
posted by mischief at 4:37 AM on February 2, 2003


Variations on a theme, dude.
posted by adamgreenfield at 4:44 AM on February 2, 2003


.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:44 AM on February 2, 2003


Dave Barry's blog post.
posted by Vidiot at 5:18 AM on February 2, 2003


Wulfgar, Lazaruslong - I kept sledgehammering at that point because: there are actually some good federal programs out there - NASA being one - which could use more funding. I have no doubt that there will be a huge amount of finger pointing at and inside NASA concerning the lack of a contingency plan for insulation tile replacement in orbit......and yet - seemingly egregious oversights like this one may just be something to be expected from a large bureaucracy. Furthermore some accidents may be, regardless of bureaucratic inefficiency, unavoidable.

But NASA has, of late, tried to do an awfull lot with a relatively limited budget while, meanwhile, there are a whole range of pork barrel government programs, DOD (like the Crusader) and otherwise, which hoover up dollars from a federal outlay which shrinks every year due to 'bite' out of the federal 'pie' which is the implacably growing yearly interest paid to serve the ever growing federal debt carried from year to year.

Concern over federal deficit spending went out the window after 9-11, but in the long run US wealth isn't endless. So do we have the national will to end some programs which only benefit a tiny constituency in order to free up money for NASA ...or early childhood education programs ...or health care promised (and currently being denied) to many US veterans or.....

Throwing money at problems is not necessarily the answer, but NASA has recently had a string of disasters while trying to do "more with less" amidst it's growing budgetary constraints. Perhaps a bureaucratic shakeup would improve things? Maybe. But I can't believe that funding is unimportant. The shuttles were designed a long time ago, in relative terms, and I can't believe that better designs and technologies don't exist now.
posted by troutfishing at 7:07 AM on February 2, 2003


Today's front pages from the Newseum.
posted by PrinceValium at 7:19 AM on February 2, 2003


That poem Buzz Aldrin read is a song by Dr. Jordin Kare. There's an mp3 of "Fire in the Sky" here, and the full lyrics here.
posted by maudlin at 7:32 AM on February 2, 2003


Willie McCool was a big Weezer fan. For some reason, that makes him all the more real to me. He wasn't just an astronaut—he liked the rock. He had "brought his trusty blue album on the flight not only to listen to, but in hopes of getting a neat picture to contribute to weezer.com upon his return."
posted by elvissinatra at 7:38 AM on February 2, 2003


i have to agree with anewc2 and troutfishing that this tragedy was probably avoidable. i would have to add that, as you suggest troufishing, simply chucking money at the problem wouldn't make nasa neccessarily more effective. i think that the focus on showy, dramatic projects is part of the problem. they are a remnant of what made nasa, the cold war, and as such are redundant. but they make for good tv.
if i remember correctly, feynman had a paragraph in the challenger disaster report which basically blamed nasa's concern for media attention for the previous disaster. i believe it was removed after his death, before the investigation report was published.
'Feynman seemed to feel that some very important issues about the management
structure at NASA were not included in the Roger's report and that
consequently were not being addressed. This does not include items in the
report that have not been vigorously pursued (a debatable proposition in
and of itself).
Do investigations reveal problems and fix them or do they simply serve to
identify scapegoats? What's more, how do we define investigation ground
rules to favor the former over the latter?
These are the critical questions to ask in order to reduce the probability
of another challenger'
condolences to the families of those killed on this mission. condolences also to the families of the 40 people killed in the train crash in zimbabwe, they probably have a much less strong support group, as well as living in a country being driven to rack and ruin by a vicious dictator and are most likely not as prosperous as those killed over palestine, texas. death effects those that die equally, but the survivors unequally. the zimbabweans are unlikely to be receiving condolences from international governments and eulogies from the worlds press.
posted by asok at 7:51 AM on February 2, 2003


on preview, what elpapacito said.
posted by asok at 8:06 AM on February 2, 2003


Did anyone hear anything about the forty, wait, did I say seven?.... no, I distinctly recall saying forty... so did anyone hear anything about FORTY people being killed in a train wreck in Zimbabwe?

Or, how about the "Many dead" in Lagos, Nigeria?

Let's see..... forty.... hmmmmm that's almost SIX TIMES the number of people that were killed in some plane wreck over Texas yesterday, and let's see...... hmmmmm "many", I don't know how much more "many" is than seven, but I'd bet it's a lot!

Shouldn't the death of FORTY (or "many") people get more news coverage (and attention on MetaFilter) than the death of seven people, or are some lives simply worth more than others?
posted by LowDog at 9:10 AM on February 2, 2003


asok - You beat me to it - good job!
posted by LowDog at 9:13 AM on February 2, 2003


LowDog: I suppose we can ignore a single death in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963? Just one person, after all. What's that, compared to 40? How about a death in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968? Just a single person.

Are some lives 'worth' more than others? Who knows.

But some deaths certainly have more meaning than others. If you want your death to be more than a traffic statistic, then make it so.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 9:31 AM on February 2, 2003


'some deaths certainly have more meaning than others'

aha, so, as you know nothing about those who died in zim, they assume the status of statistic, rather than some more emotional response. not that i want to single you out s_t. i echo your sentiment 'If you want your death to be more than a traffic statistic, then make it so.'
for all i know one of those killed in zim could have brought peace to zim, and the rest of africa during their life. they may have discovered the proverbial 'cure for cancer'. who knows?
so they weren't on the shuttle. so what. what is the likelyhood of a zimbabwean getting onto a shuttle mission? i would wager that it is a sight smaller than the likelyhood of a north american getting on. i cannot see how this statistical likelyhood affects the 'meaning' of the deaths.
i am sure their friends and family are pretty sure about 'meaning' of their deaths. i am sure that some of the zimbabweans worked as hard as those who got into the shuttle. the world is not a level playing field.
posted by asok at 9:49 AM on February 2, 2003


Let's see...

40 people died in a train wreck. That's sad. It's a tragedy for their friends and families.

7 people died who symbolized for a whole lot of people, both here and abroad, the aspriations and hope that maybe we can transcend nationality and reach for the stars... And I think it's a tragedy for the country.

People die every day. In accidents, from disease, from sheer old age. Whether you think so or not, I believe the lives of the seven who died WERE more important than the lives of the 40 who died in a train wreck, or the thousands who will die today and tomorrow and the day after that from hundreds of other causes. And they'll die whether or not we pay any attention to them here, or to the Columbia crew.

We can sit on our hands, meeping about how unfair it all is that a very few astronauts can do what virtually all of humanity will never be able to - but I'm damn glad we've got the engineering expertise and the drive to build shuttles and a space program, and people eager and glad to take the chance of flying in them - and that they can serve as examples that there CAN be something more than a day-to-day grind. That people from THEIR country, be it India or Israel or Argentina or Japan or Saudi Arabia, can go into space.

We need something to aspire to. If there wasn't anything to aspire to, to get people to think "we can do something better than this" or "What if we could do this..." - we'd still be living in caves doing the hunter-gatherer thing.

Just my opinion - your mileage may vary...

JB
posted by JB71 at 9:49 AM on February 2, 2003


ASOK:

The world is not a level playing field.

You got that right. It never was. Neither is it level on how we affect the world, and again, it never was or will be.

JB
posted by JB71 at 9:55 AM on February 2, 2003


Why do people care more about the shuttle than the 40 dead in the train crash?

News wise there are several reasons the shuttle is the bigger story 1) proximity- the shuttle event happened in the US the train wreck didn't. 2) Novelty- Shuttle tragedies have happened twice- ever, while deadly train crashes happen often (at least far more often than twice ever) 3) The symbolic nature of the space shuttle- It is one of the greatest technological achievements of the united states and to see it fail is to watch the heart break of a nation.

It is a tragedy that forty people died in train crash, and many such tragedies are overlooked everyweek, but that doesn't mean we can't mourn the lost of seven brave souls who dared to reach beyond the sky.
posted by drezdn at 9:55 AM on February 2, 2003


'7 people died who symbolized for a whole lot of people, both here and abroad, the aspriations and hope that maybe we can transcend nationality and reach for the stars... And I think it's a tragedy for the country.'

perhaps. or perhaps people aspire to reach for each other, to manage and utilise the amazingly robust and effective life support system that has evolved on this planet together. perhaps they see the idea of space colonisation as an expensive and blatant act of escapism from the man-made problems we live with everyday.
don't get me wrong, i am all for scientific advancement, i just don't see nasa 9as it's presently managed) as a good example how to go about improving the lot of the human race.
notwithstanding that, i wish the north american military/industrial complex focussed more on space exploration (no matter how unsustainable) instead of imperial expansion.

drezdn - 'It is a tragedy that forty people died in train crash, and many such tragedies are overlooked everyweek, but that doesn't mean we can't mourn the lost of seven brave souls who dared to reach beyond the sky.'

i agree, mourning is not a zero sum game.
posted by asok at 10:09 AM on February 2, 2003


Good question LowDog.

Perhaps the answer lies somewhere between your mother dying when she is a few feet away to untold numbers of strangers dying daily on another part of the planet.
posted by Dick Paris at 10:11 AM on February 2, 2003


Perhaps.
posted by LowDog at 10:44 AM on February 2, 2003


I think the difference between the shuttle and train wrecks has less to do with the number - or relative "importance" - of the lives lost, and more to do with the number of people with an emotional investment in the event itself.

For many Americans, and for people around the world, space travel in and of itself taps into any number of feelings, from hope for the future to national pride to wonder and amazement at the technological achievement to the dreams of what they may want to try and do someday to who-knows-what else. When a space-travel related disaster occurs, it does more than destroy the space vehicle and kill the astronauts aboard - it also serves as a blow to each of those thoughts or feelings in each person who has them.

When we get hit with such a blow, we tend to have a need to try and comprehend what has happened - some kind of reassurance that our hope for the future, national pride, wonder and amazement, dreams and, well, who-knows-what else were not misplaced, and that they still have meaning and relevance. As such, we tend to want to gobble up all the news we can get on it, so we can make sense of it.

The loss of 40 lives in the Zimbabwean train wreck is tragic, and they deserved to be mourned as well. The event itself, however, doesn't have the same depth of impact because we don't have that many thoughts, feelings or hopes tied up in our vision of Zimbabwean train travel as we do in our vision of space travel in general.

We tend to focus on the individuals killed in something like the shuttle tragedy because that is the human connection, and what each of those astronauts represents is the embodiment of all our feelings about space travel in general. It isn't that their lives are somehow more important or worth more in some way - its that they have a symbolic value that we want to find a way to relate to.
posted by thorswitch at 12:44 PM on February 2, 2003


My take: Humans can only do so much mourning. Especially in this CNN age, when events in one place are reported the world over...if we grieved equally over every death and sadness all we would ever do is cry. As it is, the sensitive among us have to watch our media intake.

To the people in Zimbabwe, I doubt seriously the loss of seven souls in a fancy tin can in the sky warranted a whole lot of attention.
posted by konolia at 12:58 PM on February 2, 2003


I have had the same thoughts as some above, particularly given the "tragic disaster" status given to the recent train crash in Sydney that killed 8. There are more than that killed every hour in far greater tragedies that we never hear of.

The conclusion I came to was that, while no one life is worth more than another, one group of lives can mean more to the collective communities of the world than another group. Not because of proximity or because we knew them or anything like that, but because they were carrying our hopes with them and these hopes die a little bit every time something like this happens. What young child has not had the dream of being an astronaut when they grow up? I think that those childhood dreams never die, they are only supplanted by the realities of life and we see our dream broken a little when things go wrong.
posted by dg at 2:49 PM on February 2, 2003


-
posted by fishfucker at 3:15 PM on February 2, 2003


When I was 5 my parents brought me back from America a model kit of Columbia. It was almost as big as I was. It was the coolest thing, ever. Nothing could top the shuttles - they could outfly and outfight both X-wings and Tomcats.

Somehow the Challenger tragedy never dented this - but when I heard the news, I thought "Oh no! Not the Columbia". Somehow, that shuttle meant more to me than the brave souls on board. I never knew of them, but the Columbia was in my childhood dreams.

Poor gal, she served well.
posted by cx at 3:42 PM on February 2, 2003


Last summer I went to the Science Museum in London for the first time since I was a kid in the 80s. Back then I'd loved the Space Exploration exhibit, especially the extensive Space Shuttle part. 20 years on it's exactly as I remember it - same videos, now all faded, same models wearing the same uniforms.

This really brought home to me the fact that nothing has happened in space exploration in the last 20 years. Or at least nothing of any major significance. And this really saddened me. The equipment on display looked antiquated, as antiquated as the 19th century machines on display elsewhere. Not new and exciting as it once seemed.

FWIW, I think we (and I mean "we" in an international sense) should have a pointless, non-political, space program for the sake of it. And we should have lots of other pointless endeavours too. Maybe then we'd remember that we're alive.
posted by peteash10 at 4:06 PM on February 2, 2003


this is really starting to feel like the age of the loss of innocence.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 5:30 PM on February 2, 2003


Lady, whose shrine stands on the promontory,
Pray for all those who are in ships, those
Whose business has to do with fish, and
Those concerned with every lawful traffic
And those who conduct them.

Repeat a prayer also on behalf of
Women who have seen their sons of husbands
Setting forth, and not returning:
Figlia del tuo figlio,
Queen of Heaven.

Also pray for those who were in ships, and
Ended their voyage on the sand, in the sea's lips
Or in the dark throat which will not reject them
Or wherever cannot reach them the sound of the sea bell's
Perpetual angelus.

- T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets
posted by UKnowForKids at 8:37 PM on February 2, 2003


apollo 13 was on movieplex tonight. i think it was already scheduled to be on. i couldnt believe it, i had to watch it.
posted by tomplus2 at 9:26 PM on February 2, 2003


I'd noticed that Apollo 13 was on, also... it was previously scheduled, and I was glad that they didn't cancel it. It did, however, give me a feeling of "See! We CAN do it right at times!", which, even though it was kind of sadly amusing, was also something I sort of needed to be reminded of.
posted by thorswitch at 10:02 PM on February 2, 2003


To the people in Zimbabwe, I doubt seriously the loss of seven souls in a fancy tin can in the sky warranted a whole lot of attention.

konolia, I think that's a bit patronizing. Zimbabweans, too, dream. Oscar Wilde said it best: "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."
posted by adamgreenfield at 10:30 PM on February 2, 2003


I was reading this thread, wondering if I had anything, anything at all beneficial to contribute, when I remembered a poem I wrote years ago about the Challenger disaster. This poem had slipped my mind for quite a long time, but I think it's some of my better work and I'd like to humbly offer it. I think it still does a good job of trying to express how I feel in times like this.

Challenger

When I remember gloriousness of yore
How men, grown dull of late, alone in space
To search for God sent sailing from this shore
These heroes, the most blessed of our race;
In brilliant armor dressed, and without fear
They climbed atop the gleaming ship of fire,
And all who could not be wished they were there
To soar with them through oceans of desire
Ah! Even now I weep upon the day
When bright their candle rose towards majesty,
When seven heroes boldly sailed away,
And in an instant, bravely ceased to be.
They sailed the sky to search the face of God;
Still gladly would I tread where they have trod.

jonas miller
November 8, 1994
posted by Jonasio at 11:07 PM on February 2, 2003


Very nice, Jonas. Thank you for sharing that.
posted by bwg at 2:16 AM on February 3, 2003


Zimbabweans, too, dream

Of course they do. But they have their own grief to deal with at the moment, and in context our grief is nowhere near as important to them.
posted by konolia at 3:35 AM on February 3, 2003


I haven't been able to say anything until now. I feel much as I did in 1986 when the Challenger exploded, much as I did the morning of September 11, 2001. I watched the videos, then as now, over and over again. Shock, sadness and disappointment mixed in a swirl of emotions. As a lifelong advocate of the space program as a great and necessary human endeavor, I took this accident personally.

As I mourned the deaths, I also mourned the disaster, for I feared it could end the already crippled space program.

Then I saw on C-SPAN the group interview of the seven astronauts, recorded January 29 from the Columbia, and a weird, bittersweet joy overtook me. My eyes grew misty again, not just out of sadness this time, but also out of a sense of rightness. As I watched these magnificent seven bob about as if trying to sit on the bottom of a swimming pool, their emotions overshadowed mine. They were happy, and joyously so. They were contributing to the font of human knowledge and experience, and they knew it, but they were also just having fun. The rapture one must feel as he or she looks out a window to view something as miraculous as the Earth from space, to see the Milky Way, as Kalpana Chawla described it, as a great silver cloud.... They were enjoying one of the greatest of human achievements, and I envy them for it.

They died serving their countries and all of humanity, and they died doing what they best loved. Neither they nor their efforts should be forgotten, and we should honor their memories by continuing to honor their dream. Voice what is in your heart. Tell your elected representatives that the human reach into space must not be slowed, that we should rather redouble our efforts to bridge the gulfs between our nations through this renewed common goal.
posted by Steve Hight at 5:21 AM on February 3, 2003


I just want to mention where/what I was doing when I first learned about the Columbia accident. Why? Because I seem to have a problem remembering these things later and it would be nice to know that it's stored somewhere/someway.

I had just finished watching some extra material on the "North by Northwest" DVD with my father when I turned on the cable TV. They were showing some debris contrails, and had the text "Shuttle Tragedy" on the bottom of the screen. I said "This is a weird time to have a Challenger disaster rememberance piece. That was 4 days ago." Then I said "And they screwed it up by putting the word 'Columbia' instead of 'Challenger' as the name of the shuttle." But when they finally showed the talking head describing the "tragedy", and she had a "modern" hair style (and not some 1980's coif), it finally started to sink in. I flipped to CNN and they were showing the exact same footage.

That's when it got really disturbing and I knew things just weren't right.
posted by grum@work at 5:52 AM on February 3, 2003


Photos show odd images near shuttle (San Fran Chronicle). I imagine this is one of the eyewitnesses on the West Coast NASA has spoken with.
posted by steef at 7:30 AM on February 3, 2003


A Russian Progress 10 resupply craft lifted off today from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying supplies and new scientific systems hardware to the International Space Station.

the work goes on.
posted by grabbingsand at 9:21 AM on February 3, 2003


Just to add a more positive note (from a CNN article):

The shuttle disaster also destroyed the silkworm experiment of three students from South Central Los Angeles's Dorsey High School, in a poor, violence-plagued area. The students said Sunday they want to continue pursuing careers in science despite the tragedy.

"I told my sister, I want to go to space," said Atiabet Ijan Amabel, 16. "No matter what happens, I know people (can) die but you just tell me to go tomorrow, I'm going."


I think that's why there will always be a space program.
posted by grum@work at 10:11 AM on February 3, 2003


With all due respect to Kalpna Chawla's achievements, I'd just like to point out that contrary to the reports, Rakesh Sharma was the first person of an Indian origin in space.
posted by riffola at 10:21 AM on February 3, 2003


It seems a bit odd that we mourn the losses of seven astronauts while 4 special forces operatives were killed the other day in a helicopter crash with little continued coverage. Not that my reaction was different than most of the others here, I guess our (U.S.) national identity will always be wrapped up in the space program.
posted by rotifer at 12:04 PM on February 3, 2003


Riffola, they reports have been that Kalpna Chawla was the first Indian-born woman in space. At least that's the way I've consistently heard it stated.

Something that I've heard mentioned several times in the reports being broadcast is that the families of the astronauts killed Saturday support the continuation of the manned space program. I know that it gives a lot of people comfort to know that the families are in favour of America continuing to pursue the dreams their loved ones lived, but at the same time, it seems to me like that's a awfully callous question for a reporter to be asking. I mean, it's like "Hi - you're [fill in relationship here] just got blown up with the shuttle. Y'think we oughta send more people up there anyway?" I dunno, I just can't imagine that I'd have a real good answer to that question this soon after that kind of a loss.
posted by thorswitch at 12:34 PM on February 3, 2003


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