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Friday, September 9, 2005
Physics Building, Room 203
Note special time.
Note special room.
[Host: Craig Dukes]
"Understanding The Columbia Shuttle Accident and NASA's Challenges Posed by Discovery"
On 1 February 2003 space shuttle Columbia broke up
during re-entry over the plains of East Texas. The speaker was a member
of the board appointed to investigate that disaster. It was ultimately
found that the physical cause of the accident was a piece of thermally
insulating foam that struck the leading edge of the left wing during
launch. This foam had a density of just 1/30th the density of water, yet
it created a hole estimated to be approximately 25 cm square, which
allowed superheated gases to enter the wing on re-entry, consuming the
interior of the wing in a matter of a few minutes. The final report
showed that NASA had that such foam strikes had occurred before, but
continued to fly in the face of clear and persistent danger. The speaker
will also discus the organizational aspects of this accident, many of
which are common to all large organizations, and the future of the
program in light of Discovery's foam shedding.
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