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Re: Shuttle program to lose Dittemore

No great loss.
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Arthur Z Rowe" <n1orc@surfgate.net>
Sent: Sunday, April 20, 2003 5:28 AM
Subject: [sarex] Shuttle program to lose Dittemore

> Submitted by Arthur - N1ORC
> Previous permission of the Houston Chronicle granted.
> April 19, 2003, 10:16PM
> http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/space/1875313
> Shuttle program to lose Dittemore, some reports say
> Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle
> Space shuttle program manager Ron Dittemore, who became widely known for
> the daily televised briefings he gave after Columbia broke up on
> re-entry Feb. 1, will soon resign his post, according to published
> reports. 
> Dittemore, 51, an aeronautical engineer who has worked at Johnson Space
> Center for 26 years, could announce his departure as early as this week.
> He declined to confirm or deny the reports by the Orlando Sentinel and
> CBS News. "I can't say anything about it," he said Saturday. "I can't
> comment." 
> A source said Dittemore had planned his departure before the Columbia
> mission began on Jan. 16 and was going to announce it after the crew
> returned. He reportedly was going to take a job in private industry. 
> Until a replacement is selected, the program would be in the hands of
> Bill Readdy, NASA's Washington-based associate administrator for
> spaceflight, and his deputy, Michael Kostelnik. Last month, they
> selected James Halsell, a veteran NASA astronaut, to lead efforts to
> return the shuttle program to flight. 
> There is a growing consensus among investigators that Columbia's breakup
> over Texas was precipitated by the impact shortly after liftoff of a
> chunk of insulating foam from the external fuel tank against the
> spacecraft's left wing. 
> In the early briefings, Dittemore said the foam strike was not likely to
> have led to the accident. He supported a Boeing Co.-led assessment done
> during the mission that concluded the impact had hit the underside of
> the wing and was not likely to have created a safety-of-flight hazard. 
> He contended that the in-flight analysis had been carried out using the
> most conservative parameters -- assigning the highest estimate for the
> size of the foam and using a computer software tool that was designed to
> "overpredict" the possible danger. 
> He also noted that shuttles had sustained an average of more than 100
> foam strikes over 112 missions without a safety concern. 
> "For all of these 112 flights, we have never identified damage that
> would be a safety-of-flight concern," Dittemore said at a Feb. 5
> briefing. "And so it's difficult for us to believe as engineers, as
> management, and as a team, that this particular piece of foam debris
> shedding from the tank represented a safety-of-flight issue." 
> His role as NASA's lead accident spokesman ended two days later, when
> the independent 13-member Columbia Accident Investigation Board gathered
> in Houston to take over the probe. 
> Since then, Dittemore has resumed his management role and has no direct
> influence over the probe. 
> Dittemore laid plans well before Columbia's mission to leave NASA and
> planned a public announcement after the seven astronauts landed and
> returned to Houston, according to two associates. 
> "The accident was the wrong time to leave. So he rolled up his sleeves,"
> said one associate, who asked not to be named. "The man is dedicated,
> hard-working and only wants the right thing for this agency. He has been
> going through hell." 
> After joining Johnson Space Center in 1977, he rose from flight director
> to deputy assistant space station program director and manager of space
> shuttle integration. He was named shuttle manager in April 1999 by
> then-JSC director George Abbey. 
> In the weeks following Columbia's breakup, the accident board led by
> Harold Gehman, a retired Navy admiral, has relied on a careful and
> continuing analysis of launch film and video to pinpoint the foam impact
> against the 22 U-shaped carbon composite panels lining the leading edge
> of the left wing. 
> A tape from a flight data recorder recovered from the Columbia wreckage
> has revealed that sensors showed a sharp temperature rise near
> carbon-composite panel nine on the left wing and along the aft fuselage
> within minutes of Columbia's initial re-entry into the atmosphere. 
> Further, a temperature sensor in the same area recorded an unusual rise
> during the first minutes of Columbia's climb to orbit, a finding that
> would add further confirmation the wing was damaged as the spacecraft
> lifted off. That finding is still under review. 
> Teams of experts who work under the direction of the NASA Accident
> Investigation Team and the Columbia Accident Investigation Board intend
> to conclude soon that the foam blow along left wing panels seven, eight
> and nine triggered the breakup, according to one source familiar with
> the probe. 
> A spokesman for the board, however, rejected any suggestion that the
> probe was nearing completion. 
> "The board hasn't made a final determination yet about what caused the
> accident," Laura Brown, the board's chief spokesperson, said Saturday.
> "They are still looking at a lot of issues, including the information
> from the NASA technical teams. 
> By early May, a round of foam-impact testing is scheduled to begin at
> the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. Investigators hope the
> tests confirm their theories that the force of the foam strike was
> sufficient to cause damage to the wing, causing it to break apart in the
> stress of re-entry. 
> In addition to the probable cause, the board is looking into
> contributing factors, including White House space policy, annual funding
> levels, as well as NASA's own safety practices and its supervision of
> shuttle mission preparations and operations. 
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