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NASA knew Columbia crew would die but chose not to tell them

Solstice Goat

Frater Aegagrus
Aug 7, 2012
Seattle, WA
A NASA flight director has revealed that personnel on the ground knew in 2003 that the Space Shuttle Columbia would not survive re-entry, but chose not to inform the vessel’s crew. According to an ABC News report from Thursday, when faced with the choice of letting the astronauts die trying to come home or leaving them to orbit until their air ran out, high-ranking NASA officials chose to let the Columbia crew die in ignorance of what was to befall them.
Wayne Hale, who became a Space Shuttle program manager in the years after the Columbia disaster, wrote on his blog Thursday about the meeting among ground personnel at Johnson Space Center as they grappled with the decision. Video of Columbia’s takeoff showed a briefcase-sized chunk of foam breaking off an engine and colliding with the shuttle’s wing, gouging a hole in the shield designed to protect the craft from the furious heat generated as it crossed from the vacuum of space into the atmosphere.
When it became clear that the orbiter was seriously damaged and likely wouldn’t survive re-entry, Flight Director Jon Harpold said to Hale and others at the meeting, “You know, there is nothing we can do about damage to the TPS (Thermal Protection System). If it has been damaged it’s probably better not to know. I think the crew would rather not know. Don’t you think it would be better for them to have a happy successful flight and die unexpectedly during entry than to stay on orbit, knowing that there was nothing to be done, until the air ran out?”
I can remember the early launches when the ice from the fuel tank would break tiles off, so they would go outside the shuttle and repair them before re-entry.

Forget the gal's name who was head of NASA. She said, "I take full responsibility for what happened!" Really? Why wasn't she charged with seven counts of manslaughter?

The guy second from the right in the front row is Willie McCool (I know, sounds like a fake name). He is (was?) a Navy pilot. He could tell the craft wasn't handling properly, so he took it out of autopilot in an attempt to try and save it. Nearly an impossible feat, he still gave it his best shot. RIP.:(

Mad Scientest

New member
Apr 11, 2006
That would be a real hard call to make, but it wouldn’t surprise me that the ground controllers knew about it as they would have had access to the high definition filming of the lift off.
Do we let the crew die in space from lack of air or do we do we try a landing even thought the chance of survival is nil? Do we tell the crew or not? :(

The real problem is with the use of these tiles in the first place. It is like yes they can withstand extreme heat and they are apparently quite light however they have virtually no strength. Many are cracked in the process of gluing them onto the shuttle simply by being handled. If the tires on your car were made from a very high temperature rubber but were only the thickness of a balloon would you feel safe driving it?

Dragon Lady

New member
Mar 13, 2013
Virginia Beach
That would be a very hard judgment call.. on one hand, there is nothing anyone could do and you dont want to panic them.. on the other hand.. you could have given someone time to make peace with the almighty..

D Bergy

Apr 16, 2006
I am pretty sure the crew had some idea of how serious the situation was. M

They know every inch of the shuttle and what is critical to it.

I am sure they knew their chances were slim.



In seaerch of spicy food
Aug 8, 2009
It is awful to think that us or the Russians could send a repair or resuce vehicle up there or at least some extra oxygen until they could send a rescue shuttle.