February 24, 2003

Thought Experiment

NASA has continued to dismiss warnings from engineers concerning possible tile damage that may have occurred on liftoff. Even if fatal damage had occurred, NASA asserts, there was nothing that could have been done about it. Whether such damage actually occurred is therefore moot.

It is surely true that Space Shuttle Columbia was not equipped for making tile repairs or even for retreating to the International Space Station. Nonetheless, one can at least imagine possible rescue scenarios. I propose a thought experiment. Supposed that, while Columbia was in orbit, NASA concluded that the shuttle’s tiles were fatally damaged, and the shuttle could not return successfully to earth. Do you think that Mission Control would have sent the shuttle into its re-entry on schedule anyway?


If you haven’t done so, you may want to read my poem on the Columbia disaster, “Columbia Homecoming.”