Press Release

NASA Mission Control Status Report

By SpaceRef Editor
February 5, 2003
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NASA Mission Control Status Report

The search for clues about what caused Columbia’s
breakup during reentry Saturday, and the hunt for key debris
from the orbiter, expanded today with recovery teams
deployed in California and Arizona.

Four days after Columbia broke apart 16 minutes prior to
landing, Space Shuttle Program Manager Ron Dittemore said
the inquiry into the cause for Columbia’s demise is “picking
up speed”. But Dittemore said efforts to draw any new
information from an additional 32 seconds of data acquired
by ground computers following the loss of voice
communications with Columbia have so far been unsuccessful.

In a briefing, Dittemore said the engineering evaluation
teams are focusing their attention on “something other” than
insulating foam on Columbia’s external tank that fell off 80
seconds after launch striking the left wing, as the reason
for the accident.

“It does not make sense that a piece of (foam) debris caused
the loss of Columbia and its crew,” Dittemore added. He
reiterated Columbia tried to compensate for increased drag
on its left wing in the seconds prior to its breakup, firing
steering jets to right itself. But Dittemore said of
Columbia, “It was doing well, but it was losing the battle.”

As the engineering analysis continued, the remains of
Columbia’s astronauts were flown to Dover Air Force Base,
Delaware, where identification of the astronauts will be
completed. At the conclusion of the forensic analysis, the
remains will be released to the families for burial.

Dittemore mentioned that three reports dealing with Space
Shuttle thermal protection tiles were available for review
by the news media. Two of those documents are available via
the Internet. The third is available in hardcopy from the
JSC newsroom. The titles and website addresses for that
information are:


SpaceRef staff editor.