Tuesday, December 30, 2008

NASA reports graphic details of Columbia deaths

NASA reports graphic details of Columbia deaths

I'm glad they released this report. The knowledge about what happened to the Columbia astronauts during reentry may help save lives in the future. I was particularly interested in this:

And in the case of the helmets and other gear, three crew members weren't wearing gloves, which provide crucial protection from depressurization. One wasn't in the seat, one wasn't wearing a helmet and several were not fully strapped in. The gloves were off because they are too bulky to do certain tasks and there is too little time to prepare for re-entry, the report notes.

The fact that the shuttle is designed so poorly that tasks necessary to landing (I assume that's what they mean) can't be performed while the astronauts are wearing their gloves is amazing to me. This is an inexcusable design flaw and it boggles the mind how it happened. However, this is just the kind of thing that future engineers need to keep in mind when designing new vehicles. Hopefully, the release of this report will help stimulate conversation and ideas to make the next generation of space vehicles, both government and private, safer.

I remember the day the Columbia burned up on reentry: February 1, 2003 It was my 33rd birthday. Two days later David Horsey the political cartoonist for the Seattle PI published this cartoon:

It not only explains why we go to space it sums up the reasons why we will always push to explore new frontiers and strive to learn all there is to learn. It is part of what makes us human. If we ever lose that impulse because we are afraid or because its too expensive to we have other priorities then we will have started down the road to our own decline as a people.

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