February 1st, 2013

Sy Liebergot

Ten Years Ago


HOBAUGH: Columbia, Houston, UHF comm check.

...

HOBAUGH: Columbia, Houston, UHF comm check.



The shuttle broke up on re-entry as it began its west-to-east cross of the US mainland. NASA has recognized a day of remembrance, not just for the Columbia crew but for all of the men and women that have lost their lives on the frontier of space travel.


FOSTER: MILA's taking one of their antennas off into a search mode.

CAIN: Copy. FDO, Flight.

JONES: Go ahead, Flight.

CAIN: Did we get, have we gotten any tracking data?

JONES: We got a blip of tracking data, it was a bad data point, Flight. [...] We do not have any valid data at this time.


Though we have lost, we should appreciate the remarkable achievements and great risks run by all astronauts. Did you know that in the Apollo days (I don't know if this is still the case), astronauts could not get life insurance policies? No insurance company would touch it. So each of the Apollo astronauts left stacks of signed photos with their families, to be sold for proceeds in the event of their death. That was their insurance policy.


CAIN: GC, Flight. GC, Flight.

FOSTER: Flight, GC.

CAIN: Lock the doors.


The above exchange where the flight director told ground control to physically lock the mission control center doors is when everyone in the room really knew what the situation was. The procedure (blandly referred to as part of "contingency plan operations") was instituted after Challenger so that no printouts, notes, or data would wander. The controllers would capture records of all the situation and logs as accurately as possible without interference. This supported the investigation they now knew was needed. Like the astronauts, they were professionals. They would record and learn. And mourn later.