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NASA rejects criticism of it: Columbia was in excellent condition

NASA issued a correction: no remains of the bodies of all the astronauts were found; An investigative team headed by an admiral was established

Israelis place the Israeli flag near the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the space shuttle Columbia was supposed to land yesterday
Two days after the Columbia space shuttle crash, various experts claim that poor maintenance of NASA's shuttle fleet, and of Columbia in particular, can point to the cause of the malfunction. Richard Bloomberg, who used to be one of NASA's senior officials, was quoted yesterday (Sunday) in the "Washington Post" as saying that the budget cuts prevented adequate maintenance of the shuttle. Some critics made claims that Columbia remained in use despite its advanced age, more than 20 years, and despite its problematic state of maintenance.
The heads of NASA rejected these claims and said that the shuttle was in excellent condition and that it underwent a comprehensive overhaul in 1999.
5 safety experts who predicted problems with the space shuttles - were fired from NASA

The "New York Times" publishes that the five were part of a team that advised the space agency; NASA rejects the criticism: the layoffs are not related to the warnings, Colombia was in excellent condition
Yesterday (Sunday), Richard Bloomberg, who used to be one of NASA's top executives, was quoted in the Washington Post as saying that the budget cuts prevented adequate maintenance of the shuttle. Some critics made claims that Columbia remained in use despite its advanced age, more than 20 years, and despite its problematic state of maintenance. The heads of NASA rejected these claims and said that the shuttle was in excellent condition and that it underwent a comprehensive overhaul in 1999.
Five of the team of space safety advisors at NASA, which consisted of nine experts and who warned last year about safety problems that may arise in the shuttle fleet following the cuts in the space agency's budget, have been dismissed from their positions - as the "New York Times" publishes today. The newspaper added that in protest of the dismissal, a senior staff member, Admiral Bernard M. gloomier The spokesperson for NASA in Washington, Sonja Alexander, said in response that the reason for the layoffs is not related to warnings but to the fact that there was a need to replace them with younger and more skilled people.

The team had extensive experience and a deep familiarity with the shuttles and the systems that operate them, and with the problems with them. Yesterday, some of them said that NASA had developed "organizational myopia" in reference to the expert team's warnings and its criticism.

The last report compiled by the team of experts, last March, included an assessment of six of those who were fired or resigned from the agency, according to which "the long-range safety work on the space shuttles has deteriorated. The cut in the budget forces the emphasis to be placed on short-term planning, and delays the implementation of the planned improvements to the ferries," reads the report, which called for sweeping changes in the order of priorities for work on the ferries.

Members of Congress who heard testimony from NASA safety advisers last spring said yesterday that they would reexamine whether budget restrictions compromised safety. The Bush administration announced that they would offer NASA an additional spending of 470 million dollars and added that the amount of the increase was determined before the Columbia crash.

NASA had to publish last night a correction to a previous announcement on their behalf according to which the remains of the bodies of all seven astronauts were found. At a press conference late yesterday, Bob Cabana, who is in charge of operations at the American space agency, said in response to a question that: "We have remains of all the astronauts." He also noted that NASA is working in full cooperation on this matter with the Israeli government.

It was the first time since the disaster that NASA confirms that it has managed to locate the remains of all the astronauts, although the identification process has not yet been completed. Later, a spokeswoman on behalf of NASA issued a correction notice stating that there is no confirmation that the remains of the bodies of all the astronauts have been found, but only some remains that have not been identified at all. The Israeli delegation that arrived in Houston reacted with surprise to the first NASA announcement, this after the Israelis were told in a meeting with the heads of NASA that no remains of all the bodies had been found yet. In phone calls later, NASA representatives clarified to the Israelis that it was indeed a mistake in the first message.

NASA researchers do not yet have a satisfactory explanation for the circumstances that led to the disaster. The investigation is now focused on the left wing of the shuttle, which was probably the source of the malfunction. Another line of investigation is checking whether there was human error when the shuttle landed.

The New York Times published today that former safety advisers at NASA claim that last year NASA fired advisers who warned of safety problems that would require an additional budget to fix.

NASA announced last night that the independent investigation team that will look into the circumstances of the crash will be headed by Harold Gaiman, a former admiral in the US Navy. Gaiman was previously involved in investigating the circumstances of the explosion of the American destroyer Cole.
In an unusual step, yesterday NASA agreed to share with an Israeli body identification expert in the process of examining the remains found in recent days. The representative is a member of the military rabbinate, an officer with the rank of lieutenant colonel, who specializes in the issues of identifying victims and burials.

At the same time, fragments and parts of the shuttle were found yesterday in an area of ​​hundreds of square kilometers from the crash site near Dallas. An intact and sooty astronaut's helmet was found in the city of Norwood; In San Augustine, citizens discovered a piece of debris with the symbol of the space shuttle Columbia and the STS-107 mission on it. Law enforcement authorities in Texas, with the help of NASA units and US Army helicopters, continued to search for pieces of the shuttle.

The astronauts' families held an informal meeting last night at the widow's home of Rick Husband, the shuttle commander. Eliezer Wolferman, Ilan Ramon's father, who attended the meeting, said that the event was very emotional and that "there was a lot of crying", as he said. Wolferman, who came from Israel with other family members and friends, received from Ilan Ramon's widow, Rona, a photograph that Ilan had left for him before the trip. It is a photograph of all the members of the space team, dressed in flight suits, on which Ilan wrote: "Dear father, we are already in space. On this day I am very proud to be your son." Wolferman said that he still managed to exchange e-mail messages with Ilan before landing.
A memorial service will be held today for Ilan Ramon and his friends on behalf of the Jewish community of Houston. A memorial service for the seven astronauts killed in the disaster will be held tomorrow at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The US President, George Bush, will participate in the ceremony. Israel was represented at the ceremony by Finance Minister Sylvan Shalom.

Flight Experts: We've previously warned about safety issues
The shuttle began to disintegrate before contact was lost.
Part of "Columbia" found yesterday in Texas.

The correspondent of the Haaretz newspaper in the USA reports that the American State Comptroller and a special investigative team of the Congress have warned in recent months of harming the safety level of the flight into space because of budget and management problems at the American Space Agency. "I have never feared for the safety of the ferries as much as I fear now," said Richard Bloomberg, who was the chairman of the congressional advisory team, in April of last year.
Among other things was ignoring a proposal by former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, one of the first to walk on the moon, to set up an escape room for astronauts in the event of a disaster. Senator Bill Nelson, a former astronaut, also warned a year and a half ago about safety problems, but yesterday he emphasized that he did not think there was a connection between the problems he warned about and the Columbia disaster.
Yesterday, three investigative committees began their work to examine the causes of the ferry crash. The first committee belongs to the American Space Agency (NASA); The second belongs to Congress and the third is considered independent and independent of the governing bodies. Experts from the US Air Force and Navy, to which five of the seven shuttle crew members belonged, will also be included in the committees. The purpose of the committees is to try and reach as many conclusions as possible and in the most thorough manner so that the technical problem that caused the disaster does not recur in the future. A similar investigative format was also used after the Challenger shuttle disaster in 86 under the head of the state investigative team Admiral Harold Pantage.
At Barksdale Air Force Base in the state of Louisiana, a special NASA forward command was established, where they will test, among other things, the shuttle's structures and all its systems. The investigation will focus on the analysis of the information provided by the shuttle crew, during the communication that existed during descent from space, before the phase of entry into the atmosphere, as well as recordings from the sensor system that automatically transmitted data.
At the same time, data from military and civilian satellites that operated over the disaster area will be analyzed. Using infrared sensors, these satellites detected flashes from the disintegrated parts of the shuttle, immediately after its explosion. It is still unclear if these heat flashes indicated the cause of the breakup. What was clarified yesterday is that parts of the shuttle began to fall even before the space center in Houston lost contact with it.
Two space shuttle crew members - the French Patrick Beaudry who flew on the Discovery shuttle in '85 and the German Ulrich Richter, who was on Columbia in '93 - said yesterday that age problems are clearly visible in the American shuttle fleet. It seems that in the coming days more critical comments will be heard about the age of the space shuttles And this will be one of the topics of the investigative committees.

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