View Full Version : Discussion: NASA Could Have Rescued Columbia ...

2003-Jul-08, 11:11 PM
SUMMARY: NASA now believes they could have launched the space shuttle Atlantis and four veteran astronauts to rescue the crew of Columbia had they realized the danger earlier. In the days after the February 1 tragedy, NASA said there was nothing that could have been done to fix Columbia's wing, but the shuttle investigation board asked the agency to figure out what they could have done if they had known about the damage. Columbia's 16 days of supplies could have been stretched to 30 to give time to mount a rescue mission.

What do you think about this story? Post your comments below.

2003-Jul-16, 10:16 PM
Hello all,

This is not so much a comment on this question but a question on the techniques used to photograph shuttle launches. I'm unable at present to start a new topic.

What camera and tracking system does NASA or any other agency use to photograph shattle launches, how are they controlled etc? :huh:

2003-Jul-17, 12:57 AM
I thought the stated problem in mounting a rescue would have been that Columbia and any other shuttle wouldn't have been able to dock with each other and that Columbia had no decompression chamber for space walking. How exactly would they have mounted this rescue?

It would have been damn exciting to watch mind you! With a much better outcome no doubt! Something like that could have seen a reinvigoration of interest by the common citizen.


2003-Jul-17, 01:33 AM
Yeah, something like that would have been amazing to watch. Sort of like Apollo 13

2003-Jul-17, 02:52 AM
I understood that a rescue like that was only a slight possibility. Although NASA may have been able to get Atlantis off within that 30 day window, they would have had to break just about every safety rule they have in place to do it.

In essence, while possible, it is highly unlikely they would have tried it, given that they would have put another orbiter and its crew into serious danger with a high probability of losing both.

One thing that I have never heard mention of is the possibility of launching a Soyuz spacecraft to rondevoux (spelling ugh!) with the shuttle. I think their launchtime is significantly less than the shuttle, and I think they have the means to dock with a shuttle.

Even if they couldn't dock, they could perform a spacewalk similar to what they have talked about doing with another shuttle. At the least, they could maybe have supplied the shuttle with either fuel to reach Alpha or supplies to extend the mission until a safe launch of another shuttle, and taken 2 or 3 astronauts back when it returned.

Anyone know if this is a possibility?

2003-Jul-17, 02:58 AM
I suspect this subject will be part of the recommendations by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. Let's see what they have to say in a month.

2003-Jul-17, 03:29 AM
There's another factor... I don't think the shuttles have the room for EVA suits for each astronaut... also, suiting up takes hours and only a couple would be able to transfer over to Atlantis at a time. The whole process could take quite some time. Likewise, would they have the room on Atlantis anyway?

Also, the MMU's are no longer in use - I believe it's because they were concerned that an astronaut might become stranded away from the shuttle and a rescue mission in that scenario would be tricky, time consuming and potentially dangerous.

I guess all those factors were taken into consideration before NASA admitted it was feasible.

RE Soyuz, yes, I think the Soviets used to claim they could launch one in an emergency.


2003-Jul-17, 09:31 AM
Perhaps an always-ready rescue vehicle should have been/should be in order?

2003-Jul-17, 04:02 PM
My understanding is that the shuttles have/had something called rescue balls. Basically they are a self-contained fabric ball with enough air for one person to climb into. Then one remaining person having suited-up would begin transfering them, one at a time to the rescue craft. Although I don't know what amount of air these things contain, they are packaged small enough that they take up very little room and are stowed out of the way.

I think that this idea sprang up after the Challenger accident, and that although it would have taken a bit of time, I think that the Canadarm would have been used to retrieve the stranded crew. NOW, having said that, would it have worked?? Maybe, we'll never know.

2003-Jul-17, 10:13 PM
Hello All...

What really amazes me is the shots that were broadcast out of the shuttle window showing a large crack in the leading edge of the shuttle's wing when Elan Ramon was talking with the Prime Minister of Israel (at least I think it was the Prime Minister - anyway it was televised at the time).

Then all of a sudden NASA says that there wasn't a crack in the wing that it was all optical problems in the filming process, then 16 days later the shuttle explodes on reentry.

I searched the net the next day after the video of the crack aired, looking for video clips of the movie shot out through the shuttle window of the wing and I couldn't find it anywhere. Less than 24 hours earlier the video of the crack in the wing was all over the local news here in Toronto. It totally amazed me that not one search engine I tried could come up with a news article with the video.

I've only ever seen the one broadcast of the video and I've never seen it since.

Anyone else see this video? And have you seen it since it was originally broadcast?

I use to wonder how conspiracy theories sprang up, but now I think I have a better idea on how they start out. Not that I am saying that this is a conspiracy on NASA's behalf, but it sure seems strange.


As for a rescue mission....if anyone could pulll it off NASA would be the agency. Be it with their own equipment or Russian help. 20 years ago I'm sure the Russian response would have been "Nyet", so it just goes to show you how far US/Soviet relations have come in that time.

I think it's time that NASA and the Russians came up with a standard - one size fits all vehicle that has all the capabilities required to bring astro/cosmonauts back safely. It's the very least the respective governments can do for the brave souls who go up into space to further mankinds research.

My government can't even rescue its own foreign policy (when they have one) never mind rescue astronauts. The Canadian space corps is just an off shoot of it's American cousin's programme. Having said that though we've got some pretty tough astronauts of our own who are amazing people and who are highly trained in various fields of science.

I think International space exploration should be the way mankind goes, instead of being dependant on the US so much. Other governments, like Canada should kick in big bucks and be bigger steak-holders. That's just my opinion though.