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STS-107 MCC Status Report #20

STS-107 MCC Status Report #20 
Sunday, February 2, 2003 - 8:30 p.m. CST 
Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas 

Aided by federal and local agencies, NASA stepped up its inquiry into the
loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia and its seven astronauts. Multiple
investigative teams continue to pore over engineering data in an effort
to uncover the cause of the breakup of the orbiter over Texas on Saturday
16 minutes from landing. 

Space Shuttle Program Manager Ron Dittemore told an afternoon briefing
that a Mishap Response Team is gathering data from numerous engineering
teams in the early stages of the investigation and is receiving
assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National
Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and
local law enforcement agencies, among others. 

Dittemore said that as Commander Rick Husband, Pilot William McCool,
Mission Specialists Dave Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Mike Anderson, Laurel
Clark and Israeli Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon are mourned, the recovery
of debris from Columbia and human remains is being coordinated at
Barksdale Air Force Base, La. 

Dittemore thanked residents in the areas where debris fell after
Columbia’s breakup for cooperating in the recovery effort but cautioned
them not to handle debris that could contain toxic substances. 

Dittemore reconstructed the final minutes of Columbia’s flight before
communications was lost. He reiterated the failure of four temperature
sensors associated with the shuttle’s left hand elevons at 7:53 a.m. CST
Saturday amidst a 20-30 degree rise in left hand bondline and strut
temperatures over a five-minute period near the left wheel well of the
orbiter. Columbia was flying over California at the time at an altitude
of about 220,000 feet traveling 21 times the speed of sound. 

One minute later, over the region of eastern California and western
Nevada, Columbia’s mid-fuselage bondline temperatures above the left wing
experienced an unusual temperature increase. It rose 60 degrees over a
five-minute period. No such temperature increase was noted on the right
side of Columbia or in the Shuttle’s cargo bay. Columbia was about
212,000 feet above the Earth, flying at Mach 20. 

At 7:58 a.m. over New Mexico, telemetry showed a larger than normal drag
on the left side of the shuttle, and an indication of an increase in
pressure in the left main landing gear tires. Dittemore said the data
suggests the tires remained intact. Columbia’s altitude was 209,000 feet.

At 7:59 a.m. over west Texas, the data showed Columbia continuing to
react to an increased drag on its left side, trying to correct the
movement by rolling back to the right. Dittemore said the response of the
orbiter was well within its capability to handle such maneuvers. 

At that time, seconds before 8 a.m. CST, all communications was lost with
Columbia as it flew at an altitude of 207,000 feet, 18 times the speed of

Dittemore indicated that ground computers may contain an additional 32
seconds of data which could provide additional information in the
analysis of Columbia’s breakup. 

He added that the loss of some foam insulation from Columbia’s external
fuel tank, which struck the shuttle’s left wing about 80 seconds after
launch was “inconsequential” based on video imagery review conducted by
engineering specialists. However, he said nothing has been ruled out as a
possible cause for the accident. 

Robert Cabana, the Director of Flight Crew Operations at the Johnson
Space Center, relayed thanks from the families of the astronauts for the
outpouring of support received from around the nation and the world. 

Cabana said that the Expedition 6 crewmembers aboard the International
Space Station are “grieving” for the loss of Columbia’s crew, but are in
good spirits as they continue human spaceflight and scientific research
aboard the orbital outpost. Cabana said Commander Ken Bowersox, Flight
Engineer Nikolai Budarin and NASA ISS Science Officer Don Pettit are
preparing for Tuesday’s arrival of a Russian Progress cargo ship.
Progress 10 was launched this morning from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in

On Tuesday, Feb. 4, President and Mrs. Bush will join NASA Administrator
Sean O’Keefe at the Johnson Space Center to pay tribute to Columbia’s
astronauts during a special memorial service. The ceremony to honor
Columbia’s seven crewmembers is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. EST and will
be broadcast on NASA Television. The service is not open to the public. 

The next STS-107 Accident Response briefings are on Monday, Feb. 3 at
NASA Headquarters in Washington at 11:30 a.m. EST and at the Johnson
Space Center at 4:30 p.m. EST. Status reports will be issued as
developments warrant. 

NASA TV can be found on AMC-2, Transponder 9C, vertical polarization at
85 degrees West longitude, 3880 MHz, with audio at 6.8 MHz. 

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