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NASA: We have changed since the crash * Bush: Space flights will continue (update)

The director of the space agency responded to the harsh conclusions of the Columbia disaster investigation committee; Claim: We will fix all the deficiencies discovered by the committee and return to launch

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Bush: NASA must study the conclusions of the test; The journey into space will continue

The President of the United States, George Bush, said in response to the Columbia shuttle disaster investigation report, that NASA must carefully study the conclusions. Bush said that "our journey into space will continue. The slavery of the Columbia crew and those who flew into space before them will not be stopped."

NASA: We have changed since the crash

The director of the American space agency (NASA), Sean O'Keefe, said last night that the agency will correct all the deficiencies discovered in the report of the investigative committee that looked into the circumstances of the Columbia space shuttle crash. In an initial press conference he called in response to the publication of the committee's conclusions, O'Keefe said that NASA today is a different organization than it was at the time of the disaster.

It was reported on the IDF airwaves that according to him, the report constitutes a "roadmap" for correcting the deficiencies and returning to launching shuttles into space. O'Keefe added that the safety of shuttle crew members was the agency's top priority.

Yesterday, the report of the investigative committee was published which stated that NASA could have saved the seven astronauts, including Col. Ilan Ramon. The Voice of Israel reported that the members of the committee determined that NASA could have sent the space shuttle "Atlantis" for the mission of rescuing the astronauts.

The authors of the report determined that the disaster occurred due to a problematic management culture at the space agency. "The main problem was defined as "ineffective leadership, which failed to implement the agreement to do everything in its power to ensure the safety of the team". Despite this, the report did not include recommendations for personal conclusions.

Lack of manpower, outdated equipment and failed leadership

According to the report, NASA's activities are dictated by tight schedules and a "hunger" for raising budgets. It is also claimed that the agency has improved its safety procedures only slightly since the disaster of the shuttle Challenger crash, in which seven astronauts were killed in 1986. The investigation team noted that NASA had already had similar failures in takeoffs, but the agency's managers had gotten used to ignoring problems that could cause a disaster.

The authors of the report claim that NASA did not correctly assess the damage caused to the shuttle from the detachment of the insulation foam during the launch, and that there were not enough cameras for more accurate documentation of the launch and the event - documentation that could have possibly saved the astronauts' lives. The approach of "smoothing out" faults also contributed to the lack of interest in obtaining photographs of the Columbia using spy satellites, which might have diagnosed the extent of the damage to the ferry.

The report also details that there is a shortage of personnel and budgets at NASA, and that some of the existing equipment at the agency is too outdated. The committee recommended that NASA establish an independent safety team, the existence of which would be a condition for continued space flights.

The Columbia Report: The management culture at NASA led to the crash

By Natan Gutman, Haaretz, 28/8/03

The external investigation committee presented a series of technical and managerial failures: in the last 20 years, repeated injuries of the insulating foam in the NASA shuttles were ignored

"Haaretz" correspondent in the USA

Shuttle Columbia - Mission 107-STS

Washington. At the end of six months of intensive investigation, the external investigation committee that examined the circumstances of the Columbia space shuttle crash determined yesterday that two main factors were behind the disaster. On the technical level, it is about the impact of a piece of insulating foam on the shuttle's wing immediately after launch, and on the administrative level, it is about the "loss of NASA's control systems", according to retired Admiral Harold Gaiman, head of the investigative committee.

The full report, published yesterday in Washington, severely criticizes the management of the American space agency and the way it managed the space program. "The inefficient leadership of the organization failed to fulfill its commitment to do everything possible to ensure the safety of the staff," the committee stated. The members of the committee pointed out a series of failures in NASA's conduct, both in the way it handled the malfunction in the "Columbia" shuttle after the damage became apparent, both in its ignoring over the years of similar malfunctions that passed peacefully, and in its general policy, which it interpreted as a continuous erosion of flight safety in favor of meeting deadlines, while continuous budget cuts . "We are convinced that the organizational problems are no less important than the issue of the isolation foam," Admiral Gaiman said yesterday.

The space shuttle "Columbia", which was on the scientific mission STS-107, crashed over the US skies on February 1 after completing 16 days in space. The seven astronauts on board were killed in the crash, including the first Israeli astronaut in space, Air Force pilot Ilan Ramon. The committee found that the crew members were killed almost immediately - the crew cabin was destroyed in a process that lasted only 24 seconds and that began a few seconds after the contact with the ground was lost. The cause of death was defined as "severe trauma and loss of oxygen". The committee found that the astronauts did not wear the space suits as required when returning to Earth, but this detail "would not have improved their chances of survival", the report stated.

The committee states, however, that if it had become clear on the seventh day of the mission that there was indeed damage to the shuttle, the astronauts could have been rescued safely by immediately launching the shuttle "Atlantis", transferring the crew members to it and abandoning the "Columbia" in space.
The technical reason for the shuttle crash is clear: the piece of foam that broke off from the fuel tank 81 seconds after the launch, hit the leading edge of the left wing with great force and caused a hole, while returning to the atmosphere allowed hot gas to enter the shuttle's body. The gas caused the wing to fall and the shuttle to disintegrate.

The investigation committee formulated some essential recommendations, before launching the next ferry, to prevent the recurrence of this type of malfunction. She called on NASA to develop a plan to reduce the shedding of pieces of insulation during takeoff, to strengthen the shuttle's body so that it can withstand this type of damage, to require every flight into space to include satellite images that will examine the shuttle's body during flight, and to develop methods for repairing damage and rescuing crew members in the event of damage to the shuttle.

But beyond the one-off malfunction that led to the loss of the "Columbia" and its crew members, the investigative committee gave great weight to the organizational and managerial circumstances at the American space agency. In an analysis of how decisions were made regarding the last "Columbia" space mission, the report notes four cases of poor judgment. The first was dealing with the problem of the insulation foam being damaged and the wrong assessment that it was an insignificant matter that would not cause serious damage. These types of injuries happened on many of the flights and were never handled properly. Another misjudgment was the refusal of the program managers to order satellite images to check the damage to the ferry, even though engineers in the organization urged the management to do so. Another problem was the pressure of the schedule - NASA's management constantly demanded from the professionals to speed up the launch of the shuttle, therefore safety problems and issues that aroused suspicion were not properly addressed. The fourth problem was the lack of a repair and rescue plan, which in the committee's opinion had an effect, if only psychologically, on the way the damage to the ferry was handled. Had such a plan been in place, mission managers might have been more open to discussing the dangers of hitting the foam. The committee determined that no one at NASA took the question of the damage seriously and that even when the calculations were made - which were themselves wrong - none of the managers took responsibility for it.

The investigative committee determined that the culture of ignoring safety issues began twenty years ago and that safety issues were gradually pushed to the sidelines. In the committee's opinion, another accident could occur in the future - "if the technical, organizational and cultural recommendations are not implemented, not much will be achieved to prevent the possibility of another accident happening", the report said.

NASA will respond to the conclusions of the Columbia report

Natan Gutman and the "Haaretz" service, Haaretz, and Walla news!

US Space Agency: We accept the determinations and recommendations of the committee; The report points to a poor management culture that led to the ferry disaster

The American space agency will hold a press conference, in which the director of the agency, Sean O'Keefe, will refer for the first time to the conclusions of the commission of inquiry into the disaster of the space shuttle "Columbia", published on Tuesday.

According to the report's conclusions, the Columbia crash and the death of its seven astronauts, including the Israeli Ilan Ramon, were caused by the problematic management culture of the American space agency. According to the researchers, the failures that led to the Columbia crash were a tight schedule, "hunger" for budgets and insufficient safety measures.

NASA announced that it accepts the investigative committee's determinations and its recommendations, but none of the heads of the agency announced their acceptance of personal responsibility. O'Keefe said that "we received the findings and we will comply with the recommendations to the best of our ability". The committee did not call for the resignation of NASA managers and even made it clear that this step would not help because the problem is in the culture that has taken root in the agency.

In the report, the investigative team presented the organizational history of NASA over the past decades. According to the researchers, the space agency's approach to safety matters has improved but little since the crash of the space shuttle Challenger during takeoff in 1986, and no substantial changes have been made following this accident. It was also reported that the researchers believe that if these systematic failures are not resolved, "another accident can be expected". In the events leading up to the Columbia crash, the report states, NASA mission managers adopted the habit of taking certain failures for granted. "The meaning of these recurring patterns is that the behavior patterns inherent in NASA's organizational system lasted for 20 years and contributed greatly to the two accidents."

"Ineffective leadership"

The report also states that on the last Columbia mission, NASA managers missed opportunities to assess possible damage to the shuttle's heat shield from insulation foam hitting its left wing. Such injuries had already occurred in previous missions, and according to the report, NASA managers began to see them as an unusual but acceptable phenomenon, which does not create any safety risk. This approach also contributed to the lack of interest in obtaining photographs of the Columbia using spy satellites that might have diagnosed the extent of the damage to the shuttle. But most of all, the report claims, it was "ineffective leadership" that "failed to implement the agreement to do everything in its power to ensure the safety of the crew."

Rona Ramon, the Israeli astronaut's widow, refused to comment on the committee's conclusions and said only that she was familiar with them. Ramon, along with the other astronauts' families, received the report for review a day before it was released to the general public. Rona Ramon now lives with her four children in Houston, Texas, not far from the NASA space base.

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