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Pentagon Refused to Take Photos of Damaged Columbia Space Shuttle For Analysis

by Varlet Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2003 at 8:18 PM

The Pentagon and NASA honchos refused to allow NASA engineers' request that high-resolution photos be taken of the damaged, ill-fated Columbia mission so they could see extent of damage to wing of Shuttle.

Why should we leftists care about this? We all know that the Space Shuttle has been used to place Dept of Defense spy satellites in orbit. A great many of the Shuttle missions have been classified military operations, not anything like the "Teacher in Space" public relations scam that was the Challenger mission.

I believe that it is because the Challenger and Columbia "disasters" as well as the Apollo 11 debacle, show quite clearly the callous disregard that the US government has for even its' most staunch defenders. As we are seeing once again in Gulf War II, where the declaration that "the war is over" by the Bush administration was just an excuse to deny the soldiers in the field, and their families, the benefit of "hazard pay".

The official inquiry on the Columbia "disaster" has submitted its report. To me, it reveals that the Columbia crew, while carrying out a mission that was at least partly related to the soon-to-come Gulf War II (the first Israeli astronaut? Studying dust storms?) were about to become the first victims of that war, sacrificed by the Pentagon brass, who refused urgent requests by NASA's "Intercenter Photo Working Group" "that a high-resolution image of the Orbiter on-orbit be obtained by the Department of Defense" after it became clear to this group that the impact of a large chunk of insulation from the shuttle's External Fuel Tank may very well have caused severe damage to the shuttle's left wing. The official report continues: "By the Board's count, this would be the first of three distinct requests [by the Intercenter Photo Working Group to NASA supervisors and the Pentagon ---Varlet] to image Columbia
on-orbit. The exact chain of events and circumstances surrounding the movement of each of these requests through Shuttle Program Management, *AS WELL AS THE ULTIMATE DENIAL OF THESE REQUESTS* [my emphasis---Varlet]
is a topic of Chapter 6."

Why wasn't the Pentagon "able" to redirect its spy satellites to take pictures of the crippled Columbia? Was it because they were too busy imaging every Iraqi tank and sand dune in preparation for Gulf War II? Was it because they didn't want the folks in NASA's "Intercenter Photo Working Group", who didn't have the 'necessary' security clearances, to know what kind of satellites the DoD has?

In this way the Pentagon treats its most stalwart defenders. Ask any veteran alive today about the treatment he has recieved by the Pentagon...as they close down VA hospitals, and cut soldiers' pay and benefits.

----Varlet

The following are excerpts from the official "Columbia Accident Investigation Board - Report Volume I" as transcribed by your humble reporter, Varlet, who is responsible for all misquotes and typos...I have only read 55 pages of this tome, so sequels may follow, or not, if the rest of it deserves no sequel...

----------------------------------------------------------- Columbia Shuttle Disaster -

P. 36 - "Flight Day 8

"Mission Control e-mailed Husband and McCool that post-launch analysis showed foam from the External Tank had struck the Orbiter's left wing during ascent. Mission Control relayed that there was "no concern for RCC or tile damage" and because the phenomenon had been seen before, there was "absolutely no concern for entry." Mission Control also e-mailed a short video clip of the debris strike, which Husband forwarded to the rest of the crew.

P.37 - "Debris Strike Analysis and Requests for Imagery

"As is done after every launch, within two hours of the lift-off the Intercenter Photo Working Group examined video from tracking cameras. An initial review did not reveal any unusual events. The next day, when the Intercenter Photo Working Group personnel recieved much higher resolution film that had been processed overnight, they noticed a debris strike at 81.9 seconds after launch.

"A large object from the left bipod area of the External Tank struck the Orbiter, apparently impacting the underside of the left wing near RCC panels 5 through 9. The object's large size and the apparent momentum transfer concerned Intercenter Photo Working Group personnel, who were worried that Columbia had sustained damage not detectable in the limited number of views their tracking cameras captured. This concern led the Intercenter Photo Working Group Chair to request, in anticipation of analysts' needs, that a high-resolution image of the Orbiter on-orbit be obtained by the Department of Defense. By the Board's count, this would be the first of three distinct requests to image Columbia
on-orbit. The exact chain of events and circumstances surrounding the movement of each of these requests through Shuttle Program Management, *AS WELL AS THE ULTIMATE DENIAL OF THESE REQUESTS* [my emphasis---Varlet]
is a topic of Chapter 6."

P 53;

"Foam loss has occurred on more than 80 percent of the 79 missions for which imagery is available, and foam was lost from the left bipod ramp on nearly 10 percent of missions where the left bipod ramp was visible during External Tank separation. For about 30 percent of all missions, there is no way to determine if foam was lost; these were either night launches, or the External Tank bipod ramp areas were not in view when the images were taken. The External Tank was not designed to be instrumented or recovered after separation, which deprives NASA of physical evidence that could help pinpoint why foam separates from it."

P 54;

"FOAM FRACTURE UNDER HYDROSTATIC PRESSURE

"The Board has concluded that the physical cause of the breakup of Columbia upon re-entry was the result of damage to the Orbiter's Thermal Protection System, which occurred when a large piece of BX-250 foam insulation fell from the left (-Y) bipod assembly 81.7 seconds after launch and struck the leading edge of the left wing. As the External Tank is covered with insulating foam, it seemed to me essential that we understand the mechanisms that could cause foam to shed.

"Many if not most of the systems in the three components of the Shuttle stack (Orbiter, External Tank, and Solid Rocket Boosters) are by themselves complex, *AND OFTEN OPERATE NEAR THE LIMITS OF THEIR PERFORMANCE.* Douglas Osheroff, Board Member [My emphasis added between asterisks --- Varlet]

P.53 and 55;

"The precise reasons why the left bipod foam ramp was lost from the External Tank during STS-107 may never be known. The specific initiating event may likewise remain a mystery. However, it is evident that a combination of variable and pre-existing factors, such as insufficient testing and analysis in the early design stages, resulted in a highly variable and complex foam material, defects induced by an imperfect and variable application, and the results of that imperfect process, as well as severe load, thermal, pressure, vibration, acoustic, and structural launch and ascent conditions.

"Findings:

"F3.2-1 NASA does not fully understand the mechanisms that cause foam loss *ON ALMOST ALL FLIGHTS* [my emphasis ---Varlet] from larger areas of foam coverage and from areas that are sculpted by hand.

"F3.2-2 *THERE ARE NO QUALIFIED NON-DESTRUCTIVE EVALUATION TECHNIQUES FOR THE AS-INSTALLED FOAM TO DETERMINE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE FOAM BEFORE FLIGHT.* [my emphasis --- Varlet]

"F3.2-4 *THE BOARD FOUND NO INDICATIONS OF NEGLIGENCE IN THE APPLICATION OF THE EXTERNAL FUEL TANK THERMAL PROTECTION SYSTEM.* [my emphasis --- very important to know --- Varlet]

"F3.2-5 The Board found instances of left bipod ramp shedding on launch *THAT NASA WAS NOT AWARE OF,* bringing the total of known left bipod ramp shedding events to 7 out of 72 missions for which imagery of the launch or External Tank separation is available.

"F3.2-6 Subsurface defects were found during the dissection of three bipod foam ramps [I assume they mean belonging to other active Shuttles --- Varlet] suggesting that similar defects were likely present in the left bipod ramp of External Tank 93 used on STS-107.

"F3.2-7 *FOAM LOSS OCCURRED ON MORE THAN 80 PERCENT OF THE 79 MISSIONS FOR WHICH IMAGERY WAS AVAILABLE TO CONFIRM OR RULE OUT FOAM LOSS.* [My emphasis --- Varlet]

"F3.2-8 *THIRTY PERCENT OF ALL MISSIONS LACKED SUFFICIENT IMAGERY TO DETERMINE IF FOAM HAD BEEN LOST.* [My emphasis, again --- Varlet]

Full report:

http://www.nasa.gov/columbia/home/index.html


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CORRECTION: Apollo 11 should read "Apollo 1" Varlet Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2003 at 8:24 PM
What good would it have done? Rational Normal Person Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2003 at 8:41 PM

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