Friday, February 01, 2008

"Columbia, you are Go for throttle-up..."


Space Shuttle Columbia
Heroes all...


Anonymous said...

I always think about that day this time of year. It was sunny here in Houston and we expected that you might be able to see the reentry. We were talking to friends that live in Yantis and they were in the drop zone of the explosion. We were on the phone to our friends when it happened because they said they heard weird sounds and did not see what we expected.

Our local radar had a nice echo of the trail on it. Very odd to watch it dissipate.

We ended up recording the breakup on our seismic spread and turned the data over to Nasa as we were in the track of the explosion. I don't know what came of it, but it took a lot of paperwork between the company and Nasa.

Several of us in the group tried to get time off to take part in the search but we had international obligations. I regret not cancelling and doing our part in the search.

Sad day. It is hard not to think of Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia and wonder about the sacrifice.

Turk said...

I used to do some work for NASA in D.C. This was fifteen years ago now. And a story they told me was shocking and inspiring at the same time.
At launch, the shuttle astronauts sit in two rows, four in one row and three in the other. They wear their full "space suits" with helmets and life support backpacks, but they are using the shuttle's life support. The backpacks are just for emergencies. And, in fact, because of the design of the suit and the backpack, the astronauts can't turn on their own suits: the "ON" switch is located on the back of the unit. So, in emergencies, there is a "buddy system": each astronaut reaches forward and turns on the suit of the unit in front of them. The two crew members at the back are on their own.
Well, the story they told me was that when they recovered the wreckage of the Columbia crew compartment, several of the switches had been thrown to the "ON" position.

Matt G said...

I suspect you mean the Challenger mission, Turk.

But you're right-- it's inspiring.

And absolutely feasible-- they fell for over two minutes after the distintegration. Seems like we could create an emergency parachute system for the crew cabin, doesn't it?

Turk said...

Oops! You're right! I guess it was more than fifteen years ago, too.
The only way out for the astronauts when on the pad, is to slide down a trolley, on a cable, to the ground, where an armored personnel carrier is waiting, with the keys in the ignition. There are no personnel for nearly three miles from the pad because if the thing blows up there will be such a mammoth explosion ... And the APC is to both protect the astronauts and allow them to crash through fencing.
Once they're launched, if they fail to achieve orbit, they have the option to make an emergency landing in Spain, but that's about it.

Anonymous said...

Tam, I think you mean "Challenger, go at throttle-up." That was the last radio transmission during Challenger's launch before the vehicle broke up. Contrary to popular belief, Challenger broke apart from aerodynamic loading rather than an explosion of the ET - picture suddenly sticking your hand out a window flat to the wind with a car going 1600 mph. Columbia broke apart from structural failure caused by atmospheric heating through a breached thermal protection system during reentry. The tragedy isn't any less; the loss is still real, and we're less by their passing. I have to ask though: how many people would have truthfully said they gave their lives while doing something to which they'd lived their lives so fully? They are heroes in the truest and fullest sense.

Tam said...

No, I meant Columbia.

The song "Countdown" by Rush is full of chatter between Young & Crippen and Mission Control from Columbia's first flight. It's an especially poignant thing to listen to now.

Anonymous said...

Your title, while accurate, is perhaps a little too obtuse. Looking at history maybe it would be a good idea to suspend the space program duing the months of January and February.

Bryan said...

I remember that day very well. I had overslept until almost 9am, which is highly unusual for me. I came in here, sat down at the computer and flipped on the radio to listen to Car Talk. Half asleep I remember thinking

"Mmmf. Weekend edition is running long. Shuttle? Oh yeah. Challenger was around this time of year. They must be doing a retrospective story. Re-entry? What the hell are they ... aw $%^&*."


Anonymous said...

Mea culpa, Tam. I didn't catch the reference when I posted my earlier piece.

Byron said...

I admire and mourn the crews of Apollo I, Challenger, and Columbia.

But I envy them too.

Tell you what, I'm go for a shuttle mission if they tell me I have to reenter on a hang glider.