Author Topic: Challenger STS 51-L – Part 4/4 End of Innocence  (Read 128571 times)

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Challenger STS 51-L – Part 1/4 Teacher in Space
Crew / Mission / Training / Launch Preparations

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=28219.0

Challenger STS 51-L – Part 2/4 Major Malfunction
Countdown / Launch Day / Explosion

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=28260.0

Challenger STS 51-L – Part 3/4 Days of Mourning
Immediate Reactions / Reagan Speech / Memorial Services

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=28340.0

Challenger STS 51-L – Part 4/4 End of Innocence
Debris and Photo Documentation / Rogers Commission / Findings


Offline Ares67

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Re: Challenger STS 51-L – Part 4/4 End of Innocence
« Reply #1 on: 03/22/2012 06:06 PM »
“The unhappy father, now no longer a father, shouted ‘Icarus, Icarus where are you? Which way should I be looking, to see you?’ ‘Icarus’ he called again. Then he caught sight of the feathers on the waves, and cursed his inventions.” (Ovid: Metamorphoses; Book VIII: 183-235 Daedalus and Icarus)

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Re: Challenger STS 51-L – Part 4/4 End of Innocence
« Reply #2 on: 03/22/2012 06:09 PM »
Tuesday, January 28, 1986 – Searching for Icarus

Following the onset of the fireball at 73.2 seconds after lift-off, the boosters were detonated at 110.3 seconds, and the shuttle broke up at 113 seconds. Still ascending, most of the pieces reached maximum altitude of 122,400 feet at 146.3 seconds before beginning to fall into the ocean. Impact was established at 286 seconds after lift-off, or 11:42:46 a.m. EST, according to radar data.

At about that time, NASA booster recovery ships, Liberty Star and Freedom Star, waiting on station at the planned impact area of a normal launch, were notified of the accident by radio. Their crews had not seen it because of clouds. Given the approximate location of the impact area, the vessels moved shoreward at top speed, about 15 knots. En route, they began to pick up floating debris.

As debris kept falling, an H-3 helicopter (Jolly 1) flew out to observe it and report when it would be safe for recovery vessels to enter the impact area. The Air Force Range safety Officer estimated that debris would continue to rain down for 55 minutes. Jolly 1 took up a station away from the impact zone and maintained a stream of reports on the falling debris. At 12:37 p.m., the Range safety Officer broadcast a clearance for aircraft to enter the impact zone. A second H-3 helicopter (Jolly 2) signaled NASA’s Support Operations Center that it was airborne and flying to the zone. Then a C-130 aircraft and HH-3 helicopter took off from the Clearwater, Florida, Coast Guard station and flew across the peninsula to the impact area.

Meanwhile, at the Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs of Staff set up a shuttle response call that made the search and rescue of the armed forces available for recovery operations. From Kennedy Space Center, a NASA official called the Harbor Branch Foundation at Fort Pierce, Florida, to determine whether their research submarines and tenders were available for salvage work. Harbor Branch, a private ocean research institution, was destined to play a major role (…). From the Navy’s Office of the Supervisor of Salvage, Captain Charles Bartholomew sent a representative to Cape Canaveral to make an assessment of requirements for the salvage operation.

The center of the principal impact area appeared to be about 20 miles out to the sea on an easterly bearing from the Cape. By the afternoon of January 28, three Coast Guard cutters were approaching the area to assist the NASA ships in picking up floating debris. (…) By midmorning of January 29, (Lieutenant Commander, USCG) Simpson said, there were five Coast Guard and U.S. Navy ships and nine Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force aircraft searching the impact area over a radius of 40 miles from Cape Canaveral. Simpson said that he was anxious to pick up every scrap of shuttle debris before it sank. When the surface had been cleared, the underwater search would begin.

Coast Guard vessels and NASA’s booster recovery ships had begun picking up debris by sunset on the 28th and continued to do so at night with powerful search lights. The material picked up on January 28 and 29 amounted to several tons. It was brought into Port Canaveral for inspection and identification and then hauled by truck to a hangar on the Cape. Later, an attempt would be made to reassemble some of the pieces into a meaningful pattern that would show how the shuttle broke up.

(…) NASA set up three depots for storing and reconstructing the wreckage. One was the Logistics Building and an adjacent area at the Kennedy Space Center, where orbiter debris was placed for reassembly. Another was Hangar O on Cape Canaveral, and the third was the Explosive Ordnance Disposal impoundment on the Cape where unburned solid propellant was stored and burned.

The National Transportation Safety Board was chartered by NASA to perform a structural evaluation of recovered debris to determine the mode of breakup. As part of the initial NASA Mishap Board, later the Data and Design Analysis Task Force, a search, salvage and reconstruction team was formed. It actually managed the salvage operation in conjunction with the Navy. The lead office was Colonel Edward A. O’Connor, Jr., director of operations, 6555th Aerospace Test Group, at Patrick Air Force Base.

So began the largest single salvage operation in world maritime history.

(Source: Richard S. Lewis – “Challenger – The Final Voyage”; 1988)

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Re: Challenger STS 51-L – Part 4/4 End of Innocence
« Reply #3 on: 03/22/2012 06:14 PM »
« Last Edit: 03/22/2012 06:14 PM by Ares67 »

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Re: Challenger STS 51-L – Part 4/4 End of Innocence
« Reply #4 on: 03/22/2012 06:18 PM »

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Re: Challenger STS 51-L – Part 4/4 End of Innocence
« Reply #5 on: 03/22/2012 06:20 PM »

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Re: Challenger STS 51-L – Part 4/4 End of Innocence
« Reply #6 on: 03/22/2012 06:22 PM »

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Re: Challenger STS 51-L – Part 4/4 End of Innocence
« Reply #7 on: 03/22/2012 06:25 PM »
Wednesday, January 29, 1986 – Confusion and Explanations

The destruction of the Space Shuttle Challenger has thrown the future of America’s shuttle program into confusion. A total of fifteen launches were planned this year but all future flights have been suspended until the cause of the explosion is determined. At least two Congressional committees plan to conduct inquiries into the tragedy. Some lawmakers say the space agency was too ambitious in scheduling fifteen flights in one year. Others say private citizens like teacher Christa McAuliffe should not go into space. However there is widespread sentiment in Congress that the program should continue. Congressman Bill Nelson, who flew on the first mission of the year, says the shuttle is too valuable to abandon.

Space agency officials have appealed to any and all people within a wide area around the launch site to surrender any pieces of debris they think they may have found from Challenger to law enforcement officials. Some tiles have washed ashore along with other small pieces from the shuttle. NASA officials caution that some of the debris may contain hazardous materials and should be left for experts to retrieve. Just 73 seconds after lift-off Tuesday Challenger’s big external fuel tank exploded, causing the orbiter to blast apart in a ball of flame. Search craft are looking for debris.  Coast Guard ships have been collecting various types of debris; the largest piece of material, as yet unidentified, is about three meters long.

Witnesses to the disaster saw the two solid-fuel rocket boosters falling away from the main explosion. Those rockets are believed to have fallen into the sea more or less intact and could provide valuable information about what went wrong. There are reports that at least one of the solid-fuel rockets was sighted during the initial search, but recovery was put off because of the approach of darkness. Navy divers and small submarines may be used to locate the rockets. Coast Guard spokesmen say the search will continue as long as there are reports of debris sightings. Helicopters from nearby Patrick Air Force Base have also been involved in the search. Sightings from the air are said to be difficult because so much of the debris is small and is spread over a wide area. It is also not known how much of it may have already sunk below the water surface. What is found will be pieced together in hope of learning what caused the accident. But there is little optimism that much will be found and nobody will speculate on when, if ever, an exact cause will be determined for Challenger’s demise.

Recovery ships searched through the night in the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Canaveral, Florida, for wreckage of the U.S. Space Shuttle Challenge, as the investigation begins into the fiery explosion of the spacecraft. Several chunks of debris have been recovered so far from the 80 by 160 kilometer rectangle. An investigation team is to meet today to start the long probe into the tragedy. Some experts who studied video tapes of the explosion said they thought the problem was centered in the external fuel tank, containing about two million liters of liquid hydrogen and oxygen to power the shuttle into orbit. There is no official word how long the investigation of the accident will take, but most observers believe it will be several months before any final pronouncement can be made. (VOA News, January 29, 1986)

Search and rescue teams in eight ships and nine aircraft recovered about 600 pounds of debris from the explosion of Challenger on the 28th. No clothing or personal effects were found among the debris, officials said. A large, cone-shaped object believed to be the nose cover to one of Challenger's Solid Rocket Boosters was spotted. Coast Guard spokesman Jim Simpson said that search teams are concentrating on recovery of floating material before probing beneath the surface of the 30-to-200-foot waters.

Experts were studying computer readouts that timed events at one-thousandths of a second, hoping to learn if the problem could have been a rupture of the shuttle's external tank which had been the subject of much speculation as the cause of the explosion.

Kennedy Space Center Director Richard Smith revealed that an Air Force range safety officer had destroyed Challenger's twin rockets after they had split from the shuttle's external fuel tank and began to twist and lurch wildly, threatening nearby communities. Because of the danger to life on the ground, both SRBs were destroyed about 30 seconds after the explosion, NASA public affairs officer Mitch Varnes said. He refused to say where the boosters were heading, saying, "We don't want to pinpoint that area. Actually, only one was heading toward the coastline, but the SRBs are sort of cross-wired where if you destroy one, you have to destroy both." (Florida Today, Jan. 30, 1986)

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Re: Challenger STS 51-L – Part 4/4 End of Innocence
« Reply #8 on: 03/22/2012 06:28 PM »
At noon on the 29th NASA presented Acting Administrator Graham to the press at the Kennedy Space Center. With him on the dais were the center’s director, Dick Smith, Associate Administrator Moore and Lieutenant Commander James Simpson of the Coast Guard. (Graham) made it clear that the Interim Mishap Review Board named by Jesse Moore was only the start. (Members of NASA’s Interim Board included Dick Smith, JSC shuttle project manager Arnold Aldrich, former Mercury and Gemini executive Walt Williams, Marshall Space Flight Center director William Lucas, director of the shuttle program integration office at NASA HQ James Harrington, and veteran shuttle commanders Robert Crippen and Robert Overmyer.) “We will indoubtedly as time goes on, at a national level establish further means to explore and investigate this,” he said. “I doubt that it will be focused entirely on one investigation group. We’re going to try to draw on a broad range of talent, on consultants, on advisers, on experts, on people from the academic, the industrial, the flight world. We’ll put all that together in a number of structures and provide the best national capability to study this, to analyze it, to find out how to correct it, and to ensure that it will never happen again. (…) NASA will play a major role in the process.” This indication that NASA would play a major role but not run the investigation suggested that NASA itself would be investigated and its management on the national space program examined closely. It could be surmised from Graham’s cautious remarks that the President and his adviser would determine the form of the inquest, leaving NASA the role of gathering data. (Richard S. Lewis “Challenger – The Final Voyage”; 1988)

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Re: Challenger STS 51-L – Part 4/4 End of Innocence
« Reply #9 on: 03/22/2012 06:33 PM »
During the late afternoon of the 29th, a second news conference was held, this time at the Johnson Space Center. Jay Greene, the flight director at Mission Control during the Challenger ascent, and Steve Nesbitt, the commentator who had described the ascent and announced the explosion, told what they knew. “The prelaunch countdown as far as the Mission Control Center was concerned was perfectly nominal,” Greene related. “We had no malfunctions of any significance that we were dealing with. There were no requirements waived either in the systems area or in the weather area. It was probably one of the better weather days we’ve ever experienced in flight.” (…) James Fisher of the Orlando Sentinel asked Greene: “You said earlier that the weather was good, it was acceptable, but it was pretty cold. When does the cold play a factor in launching the shuttle and what specific concerns do you have about the cold? I understand that there is some concern about ice forming on the tank that could possibly nick the tiles. What are the other concerns, and what specifically do you look for to make sure there will not be a problem in the cold?” (…) “I think that’s a question that can be probably best answered from the Cape,” Greene said. “When I was talking about weather, I was talking about things that affect our part of the ascent go/no-go calls. And those things involve the acceptability of the RTLS and TAL aborts, just in case those were abort modes we would have to rely on.” (Richard S. Lewis “Challenger – The Final Voyage”; 1988)

The Q&A gave some background on the mood inside Mission Control, the RSO’s task to destroy the SRBs and some speculation about how an act of sabotage could have been noticed by flight controllers. One interesting question dealt with PAO Steve Nesbitt’s launch commentary.

Journalist: It appears that your calls, your commentary was running a little bit behind events, and you continued the commentary even after the explosion began. What was your situation? Are you watching this on… are you looking at data, are you looking at a screen?

Nesbitt: Well, we’re looking at data and directly in front of our position there are two black-and-white monitors on which we have displays which read out things like the percentage of engine thrust, are they running at 104 percent or whatever their percentage is. Another one that I usually read off is the altitude and the velocity, and the downrange distance. And usually the figure that is on the top of the screen, that I’m normally using, is the inertial velocity. This is probably why it doesn’t match with the number that we gave as the velocity of the vehicle at the time of the event. There is a monitor off to the left, but I would liken it to checking the rearview mirror while you’re driving. You normally concentrate on what is in front of you and periodically you look to the side, to your rearview mirror as it would be, to verify what’s going on there. And I think I had gotten into a flow of calling the ascent downrange numbers, that sort of thing. And it was probably five or so seconds before I glanced over at the screen and saw what was remaining of the explosion.   
« Last Edit: 03/22/2012 06:56 PM by Ares67 »

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Re: Challenger STS 51-L – Part 4/4 End of Innocence
« Reply #10 on: 03/22/2012 06:36 PM »

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Re: Challenger STS 51-L – Part 4/4 End of Innocence
« Reply #11 on: 03/22/2012 06:39 PM »
For the second time in less than 15 months, the Air Force has lost its $2.6 million radar balloon known as Fat Albert. For undetermined reasons, the massive balloon broke its 1-inch cable tether at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Jan. 28; it drifted northeast and eventually sank in the Atlantic said Patrick Air Force Base spokeswoman Dottle Ellington. Technicians tried to recover the balloon by releasing its 255,600 cubic feet of helium to lower it. The Coast Guard vessel Atlantic Century, in the area to search for Challenger debris, intercepted the deflated balloon about 25 miles east of Port Canaveral but was unable to bring it home, Ellington said. (Florida Today, Jan. 30, 1986)

NASA officials dismissed any link between a pipe bomb found at Canaveral National Seashore and the explosion of Challenger. A man hunting for debris from Challenger discovered the 8-inch bomb this morning in dunes along the beach. Canaveral National Seashore Superintendent Art Graham said Playalinda Beach will remain closed for several more days while rangers and NASA workers search for shuttle debris. "Our main concern now is the debris," Graham said. "People often are inclined to take souvenirs. “ (The Orlando Sentinel, Jan. 30, 1986)

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Re: Challenger STS 51-L – Part 4/4 End of Innocence
« Reply #12 on: 03/22/2012 06:43 PM »

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Re: Challenger STS 51-L – Part 4/4 End of Innocence
« Reply #13 on: 03/22/2012 06:47 PM »
Thursday, January 30, 1986 – Bits and Pieces

By January 30, twelve aircraft of the Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard and ten NASA, Navy and Coast Guard ships were searching an ocean area of 1,200 square nautical miles. Hundreds of pounds of floating debris – principally from the light-weight structure of the External Tank – were picked up and brought into Port Canaveral by these vessels. (…) Wreckage picked up from the Atlantic Ocean surface by the Coast Guard and Navy (was) unloaded at the Trident Basin, Cape Canaveral, from the Coast Guard cutter Dallas on the evening of January 30.  (Richard S. Lewis: “Challenger – The Final Voyage”, 1988)

Debris is being collected near Cape Canaveral, Florida, where the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after lift-off Tuesday, killing all seven crew members aboard. Air and sea vessels are being used in the search for wreckage; sonar is being used to search the ocean floor. Divers will be sent down to retrieve any debris found. About half a ton of wreckage has been pulled from the waters and nearby beaches; no trace of remains or personal effects of the five men and two women crewmembers have been found. Two large cone-shaped objects have been spotted but are too big to be pulled aboard a cutter. Space officials say they may be nose sections from the shuttle’s two Solid Rocket Boosters. The boosters were deliberately destroyed by remote control when they veered toward populated areas after the explosion. So far officials haven’t said what caused the shuttle explosion; there is speculation the inquiry could take months or even a year. (VOA News, January 30, 1986)

A Coast Guard cutter heading the search for shuttle debris reported finding a large piece of Challenger's fuselage and objects believed to be from its cockpit. The cutter Dallas also reported multiple sonar readings from the nearby ocean floor, indicating other large objects may have fallen in the same area. Debris from the Challenger accident on Jan. 28 has been washing up along the Space Coast for the past two days. All of the evidence was turned over to a special investigating team which included several members of the National Transportation Safety Board - investigators who scrutinize and reconstruct plane crashes.

Coast Guard spokesman James Simpson said 13 ships and 13 aircraft involved in the search had recovered "thousands of pounds" of debris, ranging up to 30-by-5 feet. Some of the objects had wires and gauges attached. More tiles, tubing and styrofoam-like materials also were found, he said. The material was unloaded at a Navy dock at Port Canaveral, normally used for submarines, then stored at an undisclosed location on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, officials said. "A NASA recovery vessel is on its way to send divers down to see what they can find," Simpson said. "That's all I really know at this point. I don't have any sizes or depths of water or anything beyond that."  (Florida Today, Jan. 31, 1986)

Despite the obvious devastation of the explosion, searchers began finding surprisingly large parts of the wreckage, the biggest being a 25-ft.- long section of the spacecraft's fuselage. Parts of the shuttle's wings, cabin and cargo-bay door were tentatively identified. Sonar detected a large metal object 140 ft. below the surface, and deep-diving submersibles went down to inspect it. There was speculation that the object might be Challenger's main cabin, although a more likely possibility was that it was one of Challenger's three main engines, which could have fallen in a cluster. But Coast Guard Spokesman Lieut. Commander James Simpson warned that "it could be a shrimp boat from 20 years ago or a Spanish galleon from 300 years ago." By week's end the mystery had not been solved. Recovery workers also turned their attention to a 13-ft.-diameter orange object sighted some 100 miles east of Savannah. They were hoping that it was the cone of the main fuel tank. (Time, February 10, 1986)

The intentional destruction of the two solid-fuel rocket boosters on the Challenger probably did not destroy crucial evidence needed to solve the mystery of the disaster that claimed seven lives, a NASA spokesman said. Two nose cones from the boosters are being recovered and other large pieces are expected to be found, said spokesman Jim Mizell.

NASA officials cautioned their workers against fueling speculation in the media about the cause of the Space Shuttle crash. "The agency does not wish to further or begin any more rumors," said Charles Redmond, public affairs officer at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. "It is absolutely critical that NASA find every bit of information possible and find the real cause of the accident." Widespread speculation could confuse the search for facts and hinder the investigation, said NASA spokesman Michael Lovetto at KSC. Space Center contractors also told employees not to speculate. (The Orlando Sentinel, Jan. 31,1986)

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Re: Challenger STS 51-L – Part 4/4 End of Innocence
« Reply #14 on: 03/22/2012 06:51 PM »

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Re: Challenger STS 51-L – Part 4/4 End of Innocence
« Reply #15 on: 03/22/2012 06:53 PM »

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Re: Challenger STS 51-L – Part 4/4 End of Innocence
« Reply #16 on: 03/22/2012 06:56 PM »

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Re: Challenger STS 51-L – Part 4/4 End of Innocence
« Reply #17 on: 03/22/2012 07:02 PM »

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Re: Challenger STS 51-L – Part 4/4 End of Innocence
« Reply #18 on: 03/22/2012 07:07 PM »

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Re: Challenger STS 51-L – Part 4/4 End of Innocence
« Reply #19 on: 03/22/2012 07:09 PM »

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