View Full Version : The Last Flight of Columbia - BBC2 tonight at 2100hrs

PPRuNe Pop
28th Nov 2003, 01:23
The title says it all but there are new pics and film to be seen. Should be interesting. Please note correction 2100


Shaggy Sheep Driver
28th Nov 2003, 20:55
Very interesting to see the 3 different types of heat protection system for the obiter. I didn't realise that it had those 'hard' protectors on the leading edge - failure of one of which was the cause of the tragedy.

But some of the 'rescue' options discussed involved 'space walks' by the Shuttle crew. I understood that this mission carried no EVA suits or equipment - can anyone confirm?

And it was tad silly to suggest use of obsevatio by ground-based telecopes while showing a shot of a typical astronomical optical 'scope in its dome. Such 'scopes can track objects many light years away which 'move' actoss the night sky as the earth rotates. But no way could such a massive instrument be made to track the Shuttle in orbit, which crosses from horizon to horizon in less than 2 minutes.


28th Nov 2003, 22:24
SSD - I believe all shuttles carry the necessary stuff for spacewalks just in case the cargo doors fail to close properly prior to re-entry. Gives them the option of going outside with a big hammer :)

Shaggy Sheep Driver
28th Nov 2003, 23:50
In that case, instead of setting up rigs to fire lumps of foam at wings on the ground, I wonder why they didn't just say to them "nip outside and take a butchers at left LE, chaps."


29th Nov 2003, 00:16
SSD - The firing lumps of foam at wings on the ground happened after the event, when they were trying to work out what had happened when that piece of foam broke off the tank and hit the wing.

Interesting to note that both Shuttle disasters would not have happened had the Shuttle been an all-in-one design as originally designed before the bean-counters got at it...

Shaggy Sheep Driver
29th Nov 2003, 00:39

Yes, you are quite correct, I remember now. They'd relied on a computer simulation to assess the likely damage caused when the foam was observed to have hit the orbiter on take off. But the simulation was based on much smaller pieces of foam than was actually involved - and at that stage they thought it had hit the underwing tiles, not the LE protection, which was thought to be invulnerable to damage by foam. Until they set up those ground rigs after the disaster and fired some chunks of foam at a wing LE and a big hole was punched through it:(


29th Nov 2003, 00:51
Columbia Report (http://www.caib.us)

The above says it all. I wish I was in the UK - will it be repeated?

29th Nov 2003, 01:44
No mention of a repeat in the Radio Times, but you can at least read the programme transcript (http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/horizon/2003/columbiatrans.shtml).

wet wet wet
29th Nov 2003, 18:11
Interesting programme. But did anyone notice the bit about NASA failing by not considering the "bail-out" option. Apparently the crew could jump out and parachute down from 40k feet. Unfortunately the programme did not offer advice as to how the shuttle was to descend to this height without breaking up. Also I believe that only two EVA suits were carried, so a rescue by another shuttle would have been that much more difficult.

I'm not an expert but I suspect that NASA really did not have any realistic rescue options.

29th Nov 2003, 18:50
Well the programme did mention that had NASA been aware of the damage to the L/H wing L/E tiles, then the angle of entry could have been altered to reduce the heat on the damaged side, but it didn't sound very convincing. And even if it had worked, having reached 40,000ft safely, do you then jump, or just go ahead and land anyway?

Sense of deja-vu here. Before the first Shuttle disaster some NASA staff expressed considerable concern about the seals on the SRBs (Morton Thiokol?), but were over-ruled. This time there was prior concern, by some, about the integrity of the tiles.

Having said that, and whilst fully acknowledging that any loss of life is unacceptable, I suppose one could argue that a 98% success rate in such a hostile environment is remarkable.

Shaggy Sheep Driver
29th Nov 2003, 23:57
Yes, the bale-out option was laughable in this scenario. If they could have got down to 40,000 feet in one piece there would be no need to bail out. I am also very doubtful that any sort of 'skewed' re-entry to take a bit of heat off the LH side would have made any difference - the hole was big and at a point of maximum temperature, right on the wing LE. The exposed structure behind it was ordinary aluminium.

I am also of the mind that there was nothing NASA could have done even if they had known re-entry would be fatal (and maybe they did?). The option of a rescue Shuttle required the crew to stay in orbit for weeks. Mention was made of sending up supplies on rockets in the meantime to extend oxygen and other vital supplies, but no explanation was given as to how these would arrive adjacent to the shuttle like a milkman delivering milk, so all the crew would have to do would be to do a short EVA to bring them on board.


2nd Dec 2003, 21:11
SSD, it would be a fairly simple task to launch a supply rocket into a roughly similar orbit to the shuttle. The shuttle then changes it's orbit, using its OMS engines and thrusters, to rendezvous with the supply rocket.

However, how quickly a supply mission could have been prepared is another matter!

3rd Dec 2003, 05:22
I must be missing something here; The last I heard was that the lab module in the cargo bay was attached to the airlock which therefore could not be used. .

I need enlightenment here please. :confused: