The history of the death of American astronauts "Columbia"

February 1, 2003 in the Mission Control Center, NASA was hard work - had to board the space shuttle "Columbia". The descent from orbit took place in a normal mode. At 8:44 EST, "Columbia" entered into the atmosphere.

The history of the death of American astronauts The history of the death of American astronauts

"On the TV show falling debris!"

Ten minutes later, the operator of the mechanical systems and the livelihoods of Jeff Kling drew attention to the fact that the four hydraulic sensors in the left wing of the plane indicate values ​​below the detection limit. After another five minutes, denied pressure sensors in both the left landing gear tires.

Nobody considers these serious problems - operators exchanged messages with the crew, after which the connection with the "Columbia" was gone. Temporary loss of communication with the passage of the dense layers of the atmosphere is not uncommon, so the experts in MCC remained calm.

But the minutes passed, and all the connection was not restored. For three and a half minutes before the "Columbia", according to the flight plan, it was supposed to land in the Mission Control Center received a message: "The TV show as ship wrecks fall!" In fact, at this point in the air one of the channels showed a dramatic picture: the sky, leaving a bright mark on the ground flew a whole placer "meteorites".

The history of the death of American astronauts

Fourth tragedy

NASA alarm "in connection with the threat of loss of the ship" was declared. However, experts who saw what was broadcast live, have already realized: neither the "Columbia" nor its crew is no more. Prior to February 1, 2003 the history of manned space flight consisted of three cases of destruction of space explorers directly during the flight. April 24, 1967 during landing descent vehicle "Soyuz-1" due to the contingency drawdown parachute system Vladimir Komarov died. June 30, 1971 due to depressurisation "Soyuz-11" died Georgy Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov and Viktor Patsaev. January 28, 1986 as a result of the explosion of the fuel tank space shuttle "Challenger" 73 seconds of the flight were killed Francis Scobee, Michael Smith, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Gregory Jarvis and Christa McAuliffe.

This sad list joins the crew of "Colombia": Richard Husband, William McCool, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson, Laurel Clark, David M. Brown, and Ilan Ramon.

The history of the death of American astronauts

is not a terrorist attack, and internal problems

What happened to "Colombia"? In the first hours there have been numerous versions of the catastrophe, among which figured even a terrorist act. The fact that the crew included the first Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon. Some considered that the religious fanatics this could be the reason for the diversion.

Military and intelligence agencies, however, this assumption quickly denied - no way to carry on board the bomb was not. As for the rocket attack, it would necessarily have fixed tracking funds. This meant that the cause of the tragedy became some problems with the "Colombia". But what?

"Columbia" was the first ship of the project "Space Shuttle". April 12, 1981, John Young and Robert Crippen opened the flight of the shuttle era, the shuttle manned. "Columbia" space shuttle was heavier built later, so she did not have the docking module. For this reason, it did not participate in the program of docking with station "Mir" and the ISS and perform only autonomous flight. So it was with the last expedition, the 28th in a row in the history of "Columbia".

The history of the death of American astronauts

The heat issue

Various failures and malfunctions in the flights were hundreds, but no fatal consequences they had not. Even in the very first flight, the astronauts noticed that the part of the heat-shielding tiles at the start gets damaged, and some simply lost.

Heat-shielding tiles on the shuttle - the most important element. They rescue the spacecraft from fatal injuries during the descent from orbit, when he literally lights up when braking in the dense layers of the atmosphere.

This effect is used for the disposal of spent satellites and their cargo ships - without thermal protection, they are burned during the descent from orbit. A minor part of the unburned debris usually falls into the ocean.

NASA experts who have studied the problem of loss of and damage to shuttle thermal protection from the very first flight, came to the conclusion - a serious threat to it can not be held due to the insignificance of the damage. Indeed, before the fatal flight "Columbia" ship safely back to Earth.

The history of the death of American astronauts

But now, after studying the telemetry data and found the wreckage, experts realized that the crash occurred just because of the heat shielding damage.

In order to get a complete picture of what happened, it took a few years, hundreds of dozens of various examinations and experiments. As it turned out, the countdown to catastrophe began for another 82 seconds of flight. External fuel tank covered shuttles thermally insulating coating intended to prevent the formation of ice on the tank shell, filled with liquid oxygen and hydrogen.

After 82 seconds of a piece of insulation separated and slammed on the composite panel in the left wing of the "Columbia". As a result, the impact was formed hole diameter of 15-25 cm.

Even during the flight experts analyzed start recording and drew attention to this point. NASA management, receipt of the report, waved his hand before such cases were? It was! Serious consequences come? No! So, there is no reason to raise a panic.

The history of the death of American astronauts

No chance of using

There was another reason that NASA decided to ignore the incident. The fact that help the crew was almost impossible.

On board the "Columbia" was not the suits in which it was possible to go into space, so that repair alone would not have happened. Not to mention the fact that there was also the necessary materials and tools. Shuttle to dock with the International Space Station could not due to lack of a docking station. Wait for help astronauts in orbit, too, could not - water supply, air and food were limited and not enough for the time needed to prepare yet another flight of reusable spacecraft.

Surprisingly, with the "Colombia" repeated the story of "Challenger" - and in fact, and in another case, the bosses of NASA simply shrugged off the information about the presence of dangerous problems, counting on the US "maybe".

The history of the death of American astronauts

February 1, 2003 it did not work. During the descent from orbit to the front edge of the wing has to a very large heat load. At a time when "Columbia" was included into the zone of the heaviest loads, thermal protection in the area of ​​the damage became simply crumble. In the area of ​​the wing landing gear were hidden. Failure Pressure sensors in tires meant that they simply exploded from overheating. From the niche where the chassis located, struck a powerful jet of hot gas, the wing completely collapsed, and after that, and the whole ship.

Having lost a wing, "Columbia" began to spin and lost control. From now until the collapse of the cab and the death of the crew took 41 seconds.

The history of the death of American astronauts

Failure to comply with the crew freed from suffering

Since the connection was disconnected before, how to behave at the moment astronauts unknown. According to the NASA report, cabin depressurization occurred so quickly that the crew lost consciousness before they had time to join their existing remedies.

This is another "maybe". According to the rules during the descent from orbit and landing of all crew members had to be fully dressed in suits to go in an emergency situation on the supply of oxygen from the autonomous systems. In fact, the investigation has shown - none of the seven astronauts spacesuits guards were not left out, as one does, and sat without a helmet. Three did not wear gloves, and this, too, is the explanation - they are difficult to work with the instrument panel, and the astronauts would prefer the convenience of executing instructions.

No matter how badly it sounds, but it's sloppiness helped the crew avoid suffering. Theoretically, each of the astronauts was a personal parachute, which he could use. But experts say - at the altitude and the speed at which destroys the "Columbia" crew members would still have died from mechanical damage.

The project is closed

The only people who survived the crash - this worms-nematodes Caenorhabditis elegans, which put in orbit experiments. They were found in aluminum containers in the wreckage "Columbia".

measures were taken to investigate the results - remaining shuttles are equipped with everything necessary to repair in orbit in case of similar damage. At the launch site now began to put on watch another ship with a reduced crew as "emergency" mission.

But the second catastrophe finally undermined the credibility of the program "Space Shuttle", and it was closed. July 21, 2011 the ship "Atlantis" has finished the last expedition in the history of the project. The manned space program in the United States was put on pause, and the ISS US astronauts began to fly in single-Russian "Soyuz".