Author Topic: Me and STS-107  (Read 1284 times)

Offline Jim

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Me and STS-107
« on: 01/31/2018 12:16 AM »
Back in the 1990ís, I was working for McDonnell Douglas/Boeing supporting Spacehab ground operations.  I was responsible for experiment and logistics integration.   One of my tasks were to train the astronauts on the workings of experiment and stowage hardware.  As the Spacehab program supported more and more station logistics missions, new and different stowage systems were developed, each requiring training with the astronauts.  Another task was leading the team that removed experiments from the Spacehab module on the runway after the orbiter landed.  I especially enjoyed this task and supported most of the landings at KSC.   I liked working on the program but as time passed I became more apprehensive.  The main source of income for the Spacehab program was contracts with NASA for flights on the shuttle.  I was uneasy as time progressed since Spacehab business success was tied to shuttle being successful.  So, towards the end of the 90ís, I started looking elsewhere for a job.  NASA, of all places, offer a job to me in December 2000, in what became the Launch Services Program, working on unmanned spacecraft.  I would not be starting with NASA until January 2001, so I would still have some work to compete with Spacehab.  One of my last tasks with Spacehab was training the STS-107 crew on stowage hardware.

Jump to January 2003, I was supporting the launch of the ICESat spacecraft at Vandenberg AFB.  I remember waiting in LAX for a flight back to Florida and checking on status of the launch.  I still had many friends on the program and kept in touch on the goings on.  Two weeks later, it was a Saturday and my parents were going to take a cruise out of Fort Lauderdale on Sunday and were flying in on Saturday.  My kids and I were going to go down around noon and spend the day with them.   As I waited for the appropriate time to pick up my kids before heading south, I did what any space nerd would do, I checked on the status of the mission and landing.  Since I lived in Cape Canaveral, I could regularly see the orbiters fly over during landings.  I turned on NASA TV and watched for the deorbit burn.  I watched the coverage of entry and listening to call outs from mission control.   I realized something was up when there was no response from the orbiter.  As events became overdue, I remember back to my time with Spacehab and the little insight we had once the orbiter was coming down.  I still remembered the numbers of the company cell phones and called the Spacehab guys waiting at the SLF.  I told them what was happening and they were also getting some info.  Around then, the videos of the debris streaking across the sky started coming on the TV.  I had this feeling of dread that reminded me of Challenger.  I started getting calls from other guys on the SLF and could hear the despair in their voices.  I scanned channel until it was time to pick up my kids to leave for Fort Lauderdale.  Explaining to them what had happened was the 2nd hardest thing (9/11 was harder) I had to explain to them.  We listened to news stations which made for a somber road trip.  Once we met up with my parents, I had to explain the events of the day since they were isolated on a plane.  The feelings welled up on me again.  I was able to push them aside once I finished explaining things to my parents and moved on with our visit.  Returning to work on Monday was easier for me than my friends.  I was moving on to work on the Mars Exploration Rovers but my friends were making plans to help look for and identify wreckage.
« Last Edit: 01/31/2018 02:14 AM by Jim »

Offline Rocket Science

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Re: Me and STS-107
« Reply #1 on: 01/31/2018 12:54 AM »
I would like to thank you again Jim for sharing your personal story with us. We sometimes get caught up in all the technical aspects of spaceflight but in the end it is about people, those we lost and those left forever waiting...
"The laws of physics are unforgiving"
~Rob: Physics instructor, Aviator, Vintage auto racer

Offline MATTBLAK

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Re: Me and STS-107
« Reply #2 on: 01/31/2018 01:29 AM »
My friend Grant Preston and I created this tribute video for the one year Anniversary of 'Columbia'. This standard definition version is all I now have of it, after a big hard drive crash later that year. If I ever find that 720p version of it again, I'll repost it. This has been on Nasapaceflight.com before, a few years back; but the membership has grown since then and many of you wont have seen it. I still find it so hard to watch, all these years later - and I helped create it. Regards and love, to all my fellow 'Space Geeks'. Matthew Pavletich.

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Offline catdlr

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Re: Me and STS-107
« Reply #3 on: 01/31/2018 01:36 AM »
My friend Grant Preston and I created this tribute video for the one year Anniversary of 'Columbia'. This standard definition version is all I now have of it, after a big hard drive crash later that year. If I ever find that 720p version of it again, I'll repost it. This has been on Nasapaceflight.com before, a few years back; but the membership has grown since then and many of you wont have seen it. I still find it so hard to watch, all these years later - and I helped create it. Regards and love, to all my fellow 'Space Geeks'. Matthew Pavletich.



I was able to download the video in 720P from the Vimeo link you provided.
« Last Edit: 01/31/2018 01:38 AM by catdlr »
Tony De La Rosa

Offline MATTBLAK

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Re: Me and STS-107
« Reply #4 on: 01/31/2018 02:08 AM »
Oh, right, catdlr - that would be upscaled to 720, enhanced and sharpened by me from a 480p file, probably. The original file was output as 720 quality and authored in Adobe Premier, I think. I'm not sure Grant still has those source files or final version anymore. I'll ask him. Sorry to digress...

Thank you to Jim for launching these last couple of tribute threads. I remember that STS-107 was launched while my Wife and I were returning from our honeymoon - literally flying home. Then the night before re-entry, Columbia soared like a beacon over Auckland, New Zealand. I was happy to see her above my hometown for what I didn't know at the time was the last time. The following evening, we went to a good friend's 40th birthday party after I'd got home from work. We returned home very late, about 1:30am and I was going to stay up and watch NASA TV on the web to see Columbia and her crew return. But I was just too dog tired and went to bed instead.

At 3:30am I was awakened by the phone on the nightstand. It was my friend, Dean Thomas ringing me from Los Angeles. He said; "Matt - I have some very bad news". At first I thought he was referring to his Wife, Maureen who'd had major surgery a few days before. But instead, he told me; "Columbia has broken up over Texas. There are no survivors..."

I went to my TV set in my study and watched the CNN and Fox News coverage for hours and hours. I'll never forget the grim face of Miles O'Brien on CNN. After watching hours of the news coverage, I was so tired that I just broke down and wept. I curled up on my study floor, the TV still on and went to sleep. When I awoke, I found a thin blanket over me and pillow under my head. My Wife, Maree must have put them there; but I had no memory of her doing that. With a massive headache worthy of a hangover - it wasn't - and terribly stiff muscles and joints, I got up and had a long, hot shower - even though it was brilliantly hot, sunny day here in Papakura, Auckland. It was then time to get on with life in general... But I'll never forget seeing Columbia back in May, 1996 when myself and my NZ Spaceflight Association colleagues saw her in an Orbiter Processing Facility 2, getting ready for STS-78. KSC was where I first met Canadian Astronaut, Dr Bob Thirsk who would fly on Columbia a few months later. He was so proud and ready for his great adventure.

Fifteen years later, at KSC and before the launch of STS-135, I encountered Dr Thirsk again; standing in nearly exactly the same place and I reintroduced myself to him. After a brief explanation, he suddenly remembered our first encounter, and I have a picture somewhere (below) of his delighted smile at that very moment. I wished him luck on his upcoming ISS Expedition. I have one final anecdote about Columbia; and it involves John Young:

My colleagues and I interviewed him in May 1996 in the LBJ room at JSC. I told him that I'd had to listen to the live launch of STS-1 on a tiny transistor radio in the middle of the night, as our country wasn't carrying it live on TV. I told Captain Young that I was scared witless as I listened. He just smiled that brief, flashing smile he used to do and seemed to literally stare off into space a few moments... ;)

« Last Edit: 01/31/2018 08:04 AM by MATTBLAK »
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Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Re: Me and STS-107
« Reply #5 on: 01/31/2018 05:12 AM »
Thank you Jim for your remembrance.

I saw the orbiter in the early hours as it came in over the Pacific. Material was shedding incandescent from one side. (Its hard still to think about it, or even write about it.) It's really hard when you see something that was "too late to save", when you need to save it.

And things got worse from there. All I can say right now.

Offline GClark

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Re: Me and STS-107
« Reply #6 on: 01/31/2018 10:01 AM »
I was...enjoying the hospitality of the city of Norfolk, VA, shall we say, at the time.  I was watching the live coverage with other guys in the cellblock.  I remember thinking 'That's not normal.'

I made a quick phone call to my father - he lives in a development west of Ft Worth.  He heard it break up & had only just found out what it was.

It was pretty quiet in the cellblock that morning.

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