[Shuttle] **ANSWER?** Slow-motion video of debris hitting left wing of shuttle
The following link clearly shows a chunk of something hitting the left wing of the shuttle at take-off. As you have probably read, the first indicators of problems were in the left wing. They were doomed from the start.
That's an excellent video clip. I kept watching the slo-mo plays they did on TV today and could never see anything. That hunk of stuff had to have done some damage from size of the disturbance after it hit the wing. I wonder if the crew ever knew anything about that or if they flew on ahead totally unaware of the potential for problems? On TV, NASA said there was no way to repair any damage even if they knew about it. I think if my butt was on that shuttle and I knew about the damage I'd have found a way to fix it even if I had to take a serious chance in order to do it. I don't think they knew anything was wrong. At least, I haven't heard anything to make me think they knew about it.
The chunk that broke off appeared to be fairly good size (concrete block or 2x concrete block size) but what really caught my eye on the video was the size of the "dust cloud" that came out from under the wing after it hit.
That dust cloud was actually HUGE (1/3 to 1/2 the size of the wing.... and was thick enough that one could not see through it. Obviously a LOT of debris was generated by the hit against the wing. I am really surprised that they didn't make a space walk around the wing, though maybe they didn't have any space suits on board (hard to believe).
Like others I couldn't see anything on the video on TV, but on this slow motion video you can really see that there was a lot of debris generated by the strike against the wing.
Heat tile damage seems the most logical explanation now that we know that the telemetry sensors in that wing were having a cascading failure situation starting several minutes before contact was lost with the space shuttle.
Doomed from shortly after lift off it looks like, with maybe nothing they could do about it .... though you have to wonder, if they had discovered it right away if they could have gotten another shuttle up the three week window of time they would have had to transfer the crew off and try to land the shuttle just by computer. I don't know what the availablity of the other birds are, but would have to think that in an all out emergency there is a chance they could have gotten another bird up within three weeks.
We really do need a rescue vehicle. That is the long and short of it.
While you're right that everybody needs to be strapped in for reentry, a shuttle on a rescue mission could be modified quickly to add more seats - a special area of the cargo bay could be modified to hold four astronauts in their pressure suits, or something. It could even try to carry up a "lifeboat" capsule - a box with a big ol' parachute and a small rocket to de-orbit it. An Apollo capsule would fit inside the cargo bay nicely IIRC.
Another possibility, had NASA known that the shuttle was unsafe to land (and assuming that it was) would have been to try to get them to the International Space Station, bring some of them down in *its* lifeboat, and bring the rest down with another shuttle.
NASA, the organization, is no better (and not much worse) than any other large governmental organization: in other words, it's awful. But the *people* at NASA are some of the best and the brightest: if they had known, they would have found a way to get the astronauts down. Of that I have absolutely no doubt.
St Marc, IIRC THAT shuttle did not HAVE a Docking RIng, so the Space Station was out. PLUS, one doesn't just willy-nilly decide to motor on over to the Space Station from their research orbit. The launch required to get to the Space Station is VERY diferent from their research orbit.
SIMPLY not within envelope of their thrusters OR their retro rockets to be able to change the orbit enough.
Just because it has not yet hit you in the face does not mean that it has not hit the fan.
"what really caught my eye on the video was the size of the "dust cloud" that came out from under the wing after it hit"
it was for the left side of the shuttle that nasa control first began losing temp and pressure readings, so it certainly seems that damage there was a factor.
"-- 8:53 a.m.: NASA loses temperature measurements for shuttle's left hydraulic system.
-- 8:58 a.m.: NASA loses measurements from three temperature sensors on shuttle's left side.
-- 8:59 a.m.: NASA loses eight more temperature measures and pressure measures for left inboard and outboard tires. One of the measurements remains visible to crew on a display panel; which crew acknowledges"
Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda .. BEWARE! A few months ago they didn't exist .. now they're EVERYWHERE!
Someone from NASA on c-span this morning said it was foam insulation that hit the wing on takeoff - created a big cloud of dust and they checked the video over many times and did not think it would be a problem. He also said that everything that happened prior to loss of contact was in the normal range - sensor readings, etc. no alarm bells, since none of this was unusal. They had these types of readings occur with other landings, at least that was my understanding of what he said. In other words - they did pick up some problems, but nothing alarming.
Originally posted by night driver St Marc, IIRC THAT shuttle did not HAVE a Docking RIng, so the Space Station was out. PLUS, one doesn't just willy-nilly decide to motor on over to the Space Station from their research orbit.
SIMPLY not within envelope of their thrusters OR their retro rockets to be able to change the orbit enough.
I don't know if Columbia had a docking ring or not. All the astronauts on board have pressure suits, so they could - in the gravest extreme - have EVA'd to the station, assuming some way existed to get them *into* it. (Station crew in Soyuz, evac the station, open outer door, Orbiter crew into station, close door, repressurize?) And while I'm sure there wouldn't have been enough fuel aboard to reach the station's orbit *and* get down, I'm not sure that they couldn't have ditched everything not welded down and made a Hail-Mary burn to the station. I'm talking desparation measures here.
Quite possibly none of that would have worked, either. But I *know* NASA would have tried. They've done the impossible before. They might have failed, but they would have found some way to try.
I agree that if NASA had known that there was a problem this potentially devastating that they would have CONSIDERED all possibilities.
But as Chuck said, and as I mentioned on one of the other threads, getting to the Space Station was not one of them. You don't just go "motoring over" to the Space Station.
They LAUNCH for such a rendevous because it has everything to do with the initial launch and orbit and very little to do with the "motoring over" capabilities of the shuttle itself. Do a little studying of how launch windows and orbital insertion angles factor into every mission and it will become clear that once up there, they have relatively little control over where they can go orbitally speaking....at least not near enough control to make a run for the space station when they weren't initially launched for such a rendevous.
To get to the Space Station requires an orbital inclination of 51 degrees. This mission was launched on an orbital inclination of 39 degrees.
According to NASA, Discovery has been undergoing Maintenance and Major Modifications since discovery of cracks last year and Endeavour and Atlantis are in various stages of being prepped for their upcoming missions. None of them were anywhere near ready to launch. Because these ARE complex beasts you don't just roll one over to the pad and take off...that in itself would be putting THAT SHUTTLE and ITS CREW in possibly more dire jeopardy than the ones who are already in trouble...then you end up with TWICE the problem. That is one of those risk/reward scenarios that may be briefly considered but would have to be thrown out as too risky.
NASA showed with the saving of Apollo 13 that they ARE capable of minor miracles but even then they worked with what they had available and the hand they were dealt.
This trip, even if they had known the circumstances, they had nothing to work with and were dealt a really lousy hand.
"People are best convinced by reasons they discover on their own."
A San Francisco amateur astronomer who photographs the space shuttles whenever their orbits carry them over the Bay Area has captured five strange and provocative images of the shuttle Columbia just as it was re-entering the Earth's atmosphere before dawn Saturday.
The pictures, taken with a Nikon 8 camera on a tripod, reveal what appear to be bright electrical phenomena flashing around the track of the shuttle's passage, but the photographer, who asked not to be identified, will not make them public immediately.
"They clearly record an electrical discharge like a lightning bolt flashing past, and I was snapping the pictures almost exactly . . . when the Columbia may have begun breaking up during re-entry," he said.
The photographer invited The Chronicle to view the photos on his computer screen Saturday night, and they are indeed puzzling.
They show a bright scraggly flash of orange light, tinged with pale purple, and shaped somewhat like a deformed L. The flash appears to cross the Columbia's dim contrail, and at that precise point, the contrail abruptly brightens and appears thicker and somewhat twisted as if it were wobbling.
"I couldn't see the discharge with own eyes, but it showed up clear and bright on the film when I developed it," the photographer said. "But I'm not going to speculate about what it might be."
(I had just posted these thoughts of mine at the end of the original shuttle thread, but having read this one believe they may be a better fit here, and more likely to be read. In either case, I think they dovetail quite well with what you're discussing here and may be useful information for everyone. Please let me know what you think. CM)
Hope it's not too late to post one more perspective on all this.
I was away from the computer from Feb. 1 noon until now (Feb. 2 almost midnight), but was up late last night (working on sons' Scout uniforms for a dinner this evening) and to stay away was listening to radio,----and heard an interview with Richard C. Hoagland.
Now, whatever you may think of the man re his beliefs about Mars (which I do not share), he WAS formerly with NASA and has an "insider's view" and insider knowledge of how things are done there.
Mr. Hoagland, interviewed by Barbara Simpson on Coast-to-Coast last night and this morning, explained that he was first informed of the disaster when he received a call from a friend he had known and been involved with while still with NASA, said friend being then, and still now, employed in one of the US secret services (he didn't say which one)
This friend informed him of the loss of Columbia, and further informed him that ever since Columbia's launch, NASA had been urgently requesting and following any data the US secret service/military satellites could give them about the actual condition of the shuttle, esp. in relation to possible tile damage on take-off. They had been doing this EVERY DAY since JAN. 16, and this person who knew of what he spoke personally was making sure Hoagland knew about it because now, publicly, NASA was denying they had ever been doing that."
Some of you mentioned earlier in this thread (the ori. shuttle thread) about the reports from "MILITARY SATELLITE IMAGERY" of a heat flash just before the shuttle explosion. Others of you mentioned that after this initial statement, no more statements were made regarding the use of military satellite imagery in conjunction with the shuttle, and that the silence was odd.
One of you posted this earlier in this same thread (ori. shuttle thread): Feb 1, 2003
Columbia's Problems Began on Left Wing, the Same Wing Where Debris Hit It During Liftoff
By Marcia Dunn
The Associated Press
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - Investigators trying to figure out what destroyed space shuttle Columbia immediately focused on the left wing and the possibility that its thermal tiles were damaged far more seriously than NASA realized by a piece of debris during liftoff.
Just a little over a minute into Columbia's launch Jan. 16, a chunk of insulating foam peeled away from the external fuel tank and smacked into the ship's left wing.
On Saturday, that same wing started exhibiting sensor failures and other problems 23 minutes before Columbia was scheduled to touch down. With just 16 minutes remaining before landing, the shuttle disintegrated over Texas.
Just the day before, on Friday, NASA's lead flight director, Leroy Cain, had declared the launch-day incident to be absolutely no safety threat. And an extensive engineering analysis had concluded that any damage to Columbia's thermal tiles would be minor.
"As we look at that now in hindsight, we can't discount that there might be a connection," shuttle manager Ron Dittemore said on Saturday, hours after the tragedy. "But we have to caution that we can't rush to judgment, because a lot of things in this business that look like the smoking gun but turn out not to be close."
Dittemore said there was nothing that the astronauts could have done in orbit to fix damaged thermal tiles and nothing that flight controllers could have done to safely bring home a severely scarred shuttle, given the extreme temperatures of re-entry.
The shuttle broke apart while being exposed to the peak temperature of 3,000 degrees on the leading edge of the wings, while traveling at 12,500 mph, or 18 times the speed of sound.
Dittemore said that even if the astronauts had gone out on an emergency spacewalk, there was no way a spacewalker could have safely checked under the wings, which bear the brunt of heat re-entry and have reinforced protection.
Even if they did find damage, there was nothing the crew could have done to fix it, he said.
"There's nothing that we can do about tile damage once we get to orbit," Dittemore said. "We can't minimize the heating to the point that it would somehow not require a tile. So once you get to orbit, you're there and you have your tile insulation and that's all you have for protection on the way home from the extreme thermal heating during re-entry."
NASA did not request help in trying to observe the damaged area with ground telescopes or satellites, in part because it did not believe the pictures would be useful, Dittemore. END QUOTE
Hoagland agreed with, and explained in detail why, if there HAD been extensive damge, there really wasn't anything NASA or the shuttle astronauts could have done about it anyway. They didn't have the materials to fix it. They weren't in the right orbit to enable getting to the space station. Another shuttle might not be able to be gotten ready in time to get to them, and even if it did, it would take a minimum of 2 crewmen to fly it up there, and they wouldn't have the capacity to off-load ALL the remaining astronauts---so (without his stating it, the implication was) who shall we elect to stay and die? He discussed the possibilities of in-flight shuttle-to-shuttle re-fueling and re-stocking to keep the occupants alive long enough to rescue, and the difficulties of doing so.
In other words, it sounds like, IF the shuttle tiles WERE damaged on takeoff, then Columbia and its brave inhabitants were doomed from the very start.
What Hoagland is questioning is---WHEN did NASA know this? and WHY are they saying they DIDN'T even bother checking with military satellite info, when his govt. source is saying they were aggressively checking that info EVERY DAY since launch? Did they know Columbia was doomed? Did they ever inform any of the astronauts, if they did know?
That's a horrible thing to contemplate, but before you jump all over me and say Hoagland is just a disgruntled former NASA employee who wants to bad-talk NASA, hear me out and think it through. I well remember Challenger---and the utter HUBRIS that more than anything was the cause of its demise. "Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead!" was their mantra, but in that case it wasn't a courageous act of war but a foolhardy act of human pride over all advice and evidence that disaster would follow if they insisted on proceeding. "Don't confuse me with the facts; my mind's made up!!!" would be a good summation.
I sure do hope this info gets out, and someone digs and gets the hard questions answered---was or was not NASA seeking and getting imagery that told them just exactly WHAT they were working with? And if they were, --- why and for what possible reason would they have kept this silent and just allowed these people to die?
Question: isn't it possible, immediately after launch, up to a certain point (and what IS that point?) to "abort" the launch and send the shuttle off to alternative emergency landing spots in Europe or the MIddle East? I wonder, if there had been just a little less of the prideful, "now how's it going to look if I shut this thing down and then it turns out I'm wrong and I've aborted the mission for nothing?" and a little more of the "hmmm, this thing doesn't look right; better be safe than sorry and not take any chances with human lives", and IF they had, upon seeing the insulation come loose, immediately cried "NO GO, NO GO! ABORT!" and sent the shuttle down to an alternative landing spot before it got too high, if 7 families would still be together right now.
Some other observations from Hoagland, rather comforting actually:
What the shuttle experienced was not so much an "EXplosion" as an "IMplosion", since pressures at that heat and speed can only be compared to the incredible pressures at the bottom of the sea, the area bathospheres work in, known as "crush depth". If an object at the bottom of the ocean failed structurally, the tremendous pressures of the ocean would immediately crush it to bits. Mr. Hoagland said the intense pressure conditions of re-entry crushed the ship INSTANTLY---the astronauts felt no pain, in fact wouldn' have had time to know what was happening to them. Each of the subsequent bright bursts of flame as the shuttle continued to break apart was the evidence of the surrender of some new part of the ship to therse forces as the structure of the ship continued to give way under the pressure.
Mr. Hoagland believes that a tile (or many) may have come loose or off, allowing heat to enter the spacecraft though that opening. Once that had happened, structural failure and instant death were only milliseconds away.
He concurs that, under our current technological framework, nothing could have saved the astronauts. Redundancy (quad-backup), not contingency, was the focus. Backup for current systems to make sure they work, not insurance programs in case they don't. He doesn't necessarily agree with this approach. He feels NASA has slipped too much into the mode of thinking of scaling down safety systems to make them fit existing financial parameters, instead of flatly telling Congress: "We can't construct a spacecraft with the proper safeguards at that level of funding." No, they won't say that because they're afraid that if they do, Congress will pull the plug on the space program entirely. He recommends that we the public, if we want to see the space program continue, must in volume deluge Congress with messages that we think the space program is valuable, and that it must be funded to the degree necessary to provide for safety. He, too, said that some sort of "rescue vehicle" is needed. (just recording his thoughts here)
It seems possibly that once again, human pride winning out over common sense has led to tragic waste. How sad: "pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall"---literally.
edited 2/3/03 by CM to correct Hoagland's name
Last edited by Countrymouse; 02-02-2003 at 11:50 PM.
The only "change" I CAN believe in: I Corinthians 15: 51-52!
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