Columbia Shuttle Disaster

Investigators: NASA Officials Share Columbia Blame
Columbia Shuttle Disaster

Florida Today reports: "Failures in management and safety programs at NASA deserve as much blame in connection with the Columbia disaster as the piece of foam that struck a wing after takeoff, investigators said Friday. "We've now decided that these things are equal," retired Navy Adm. Harold Gehman, chairman of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, said at a news conference. Gehman's comments mark the first time he has put NASA's systemic problems on equal footing with the foam strike as a contributing factor. The board's final report, expected in late August, will stop short of assigning individual blame for the Columbia accident that killed seven astronauts, Gehman said."

Could the Columbia Crew Have Been Rescued?
Columbia Shuttle Disaster

Josh Marshall writes: "Tragic. Just tragic. Back on that awful day last February 1st when the shuttle Columbia ripped and burned apart over Texas, I never really believed that some sort of rescue or repair mission wasn't possible -- either an attempt at a repair of some sort, or sending one of the other shuttles up to save the crew. Couldn't they rush another shuttle up to rescue them? Couldn't they do a spacewalk and fix the damage? The conceit of the NASA brass was that there was simply nothing that could have been done -- a claim that took a lot of sting out of the fact that so little was in fact done to find out what damage the ship had sustained. That never sounded right to me. And now it turns out that I and, I'm sure, many, many others who were similarly unconvinced were right... Recently, as part of the investigation, NASA set a similar team to work on devising possible rescue or repair plans -- as though they had known in time that something was wrong."

NASA Deal Closes the Door on Columbia Inquiry
Columbia Shuttle Disaster

"Civilian members of the expert group investigating the Columbia space shuttle disaster have been put on the NASA payroll to ensure much of the inquiry will be carried out in secret. The highly controversial move - which has prompted angry accusations that the inquiry can no longer be considered impartial - will see the five civilian representatives on the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) each receive executive-level salaries of up to $134,000 a year. If the civilians - who were supposedly recruited to ensure the investigation was independent from NASA - had not been hired by the agency, the board would have had to meet publicly, justify any closed-door sessions and keep transcripts and minutes that would ultimately become public records. However, the CAIB has exploited a legal loophole which allows boards composed entirely of 'federal employees' to conduct their business in private."

Shuttle Rescue Might Have Been Possible
Columbia Shuttle Disaster

AP reports: "NASA could have launched another shuttle to rescue the Columbia astronauts if it had realized the severity of the wing damage early on and decided it was worth the extreme risk to the second ship and crew, the chief accident investigator said. Retired Navy Adm. Harold Gehman Jr., chairman of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, said Friday that the question was put to NASA earlier this month and that the space agency's preliminary findings indicate that such a rescue would have been technically feasible. But he added: 'I've got no idea if it would have been successful or not.'"