What Media Bias?

High turnout in Iraqi election

Low turnout in Iraq’s election reflects a disillusioned nation

/take your pick

Six Years Ago Today

Columbia Disaster Remembered; Shuttle Future Uncertain

As the nation marks the sixth anniversary of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, questions remain about the future of the space program now that there’s a new president. There is particular concern about the aging fleet of orbiters and proposals to extend the life of the shuttle program beyond its planned retirement next year.

Columbia broke apart while re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere early on the morning of Feb. 1, 2003, bringing a tragic end to what had until then been a successful 16-day science mission. The orbiter suffered a catastrophic failure and broke apart just 15 minutes short of the Kennedy Space Center landing strip. The shuttle’s destruction claimed the lives of mission commander Rick Husband, pilot Willie McCool and mission specialists Michael Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut.

Investigators would later trace the physical cause of the accident to a suitcase-sized chunk of foam that popped free from Columbia’s external fuel tank during launch. The foam punched a hole in the orbiter’s heat shield along its left wing leading edge leaving it vulnerable to the superheated atmospheric gases during re-entry.

Now, just a year from the shuttle program’s scheduled retirement and after six years of safe and successful missions, NASA finds itself defending further use of the aging shuttles.

“It’s not necessarily a question of are they’re old or decrepit or reached the end of their service life,” said Wayne Hale, NASA Deputy Associate Administrator of Strategic Partnerships. “I think there’s an inherent risk level in flying the space shuttle.” Hale is the former Space Shuttle Program Manager and had a key role in the Columbia disaster investigation.

“We know now that the design has some unforgiving characteristics and every time we fly the shuttle we do it at significant risk despite our best efforts to control that,” said Hale during an interview with Newsradio 780 WBBM. “I think every day about Columbia and how that came about and how we can prevent similar events.”

Lessons learned from Columbia have been applied to every shuttle mission since the tragedy.

See also:
STS-107 Crew
The CAIB Report
NASA reports new details of Columbia deaths

/never forget those who have sacrificed their lives for our Country