Friday, September 9, 2005
4:00 PM
Physics Building, Room 203
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Note special room.

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"Understanding The Columbia Shuttle Accident and NASA's Challenges Posed by Discovery"

Doug Osheroff , Stanford University
[Host: Craig Dukes]
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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