20:30 GMT: The NASA Technical Briefing has started. Information prior to the briefing is in the previous entry, here.
Ron Dittemore (Shuttle program manager) - devastated at the events unfolded this morning at the loss of seven family members; somber mood in teams when trying to understand the events, thoughts and prayers to the families of the astronauts - true heros.
We'll tell you as much as we know and be as honest as we can with you and try and fill in the blanks over the coming days and weeks; established a number of different teams and have contingency plans, preserving data, beginning thorough and complete investigations, mobilising forces, engineers, technicians to understand what went wrong.
It's appropriate that we tell the public to be careful with the debris, what we fly in space is operated in many cases with toxic propellants; some of the debris may be contaminated, so we need to be careful, don't wish any harm to come anybody who would be honestly seeking to help.
Have not positively identified any items that have been recovered, staging an attempt to ensure all recovered items are managed appropriately, have not established any debris or status of crew remains.
First indications loss of temperature sensors in left wing, inboard/outboard elevon on left wing, seconds and minutes later other problems including loss of tyre pressure indications on left main gear, then excessive structural heating. Caution: cannot yet say what caused loss, still early in investigation, going to take time to work through evidence. Hardware is being impounded, KSC processing stopped, impounding last data received from crew. Data will be poured over 24hrs/day for the foreseeable future.
Milt Heflin (Chief flight director): This is a bad day; glad that he lives and works in a country where if we have a bad day, we fix it. We will fix it. Said today it was a good day to land, as we came in, marvelling at the fact that no weather issues at launch, anywhere, and minor fog today. Was a fantastic mission, seemed to be coming to the right conclusion.
Specifics: recent, fresh information. 7:53am central, indication of off-scale temperature measurements on left inboard/outboard hydraulic systems, loss of temperature measurment, no indication of high/low (telemetry lost). 7:56am, left main gear tyre well, brakeline and tyre temperatures saw increase. During this time, vehicle was performing fine, no indication of any problems. 7:58am central, had bomb-line temperatures (sp?) embedded in structure of vehicle, all over orbiter, 3 temperatures on left side of vehicle at left wing area, off-scale reading again (not high/low, but lost measurements entirely). 7:59am central time, (no second data yet) in/outboard turret/tyre(?) temperatures, off-scale low, about 8 measurements total at that time: one of these measurements sensed onboard by computers gave crew message indication that they could look at on displays and we think they were acknowledging that measurement that they saw, vehicle was fine, no problems at that time. When things like this happen, acknowledge it, recognise it, do what we might need to do with it. That was the last transmission from the crew.
Lost all vehicle data at 8:00 cst, altitude at 207,135 feet and travelling at Mach 18.3, flight control team during this time, lost data and clearly began to know that we had a bad day. That's all I've got.
Taking questions now: Houston (Melissa Jacobs, Fox News) - where will debris be taken? no decision on this at the moment (dittemore), still identifying locations for teams to meet and gather and start process of recovering debris, part of activities to identify staging area and collection point - will be done later today, teams not quite in the air, staging at different airports, converging on NE Texas.
(can't make out questioners' names) "What is status of shuttle programme?" (dittemore) stop-work activities put in motion, minimised processing at KSC so that don't do anything that might disturb evidence, slowing down manufacturing processes, in Louisiana where manufacturing external tank, doing that in different areas around the country for different pieces of hardware. Slowdown for launch schedule yet to be determined. External investigative board as mentioned by O'Keefe, so we can clearly understand what was the root cause of the problem, if we understand the root cause and what we need to do about it, and accomplish that on the other flows, then we can re-start. Too early to tell.
(about the Progress module for Station) Contents to be shipped to Station appropriate to fact that we may not be there for a while, enough consumables, supplies for the crew to go through latter part of june without a shuttle visit, there's time to work through this and get back on our schedule, we'll have to work that through the coming days and weeks.
Explain to people not from the area how tight the community is: (dittemore) more than a job, this (human spaceflight) is a passion, an emotional event. work together as family members and treat each other that way. whether the loss of a crewmember or ground team or processing team, it's a sad loss, we're a close community. we know the risks, we know they're manageable and can have deadly consequences, we're bound together with the threat of disaster and have to count on each other to do the job right, we have a professional and emotional dependency. losing seven family members is devastating to us. we appreciate the thoughts, prayers, care and support
(heflin) I've been through three of these, each time you see a coming together of all the community here, our landscape has changed. Spaceflight business today is going to be much different than it was yesterday, it was different after Apollo 1, it was different after Challenger and it was different--the passion is here. Sometimes it's a shame that it takes things like this for this country to pull together and care, and it shouldn't. We're good, this country's great, it shouldn't take these things to cause a coming together.
8 sensors, one triggering a notification, which sensor was that: (heflin) left inboard/outboard hydraulic temperatures on lefthand side, they all went "off-scale low", bottom number of measurement that they went to, indicating loss of the measurement itself. (dittemore) as if someone cut the wire)
at 7:53 first loss of sensor information, any communication with crew? (heflin) set of measurement on LHS that went off-scale low, reported by flight controller responsible for mechanical hydraulic systems, when this happens, if any action to take, anything that needs to be done--controller tells director and crew, these were measurements that, not all announced to the crew, so crew had no indication (more telemetry on ground than crew), nothing to indicate any difficulty at all, had we seen anything that required action, we would have taken it. we train very hard to react in a short amount of time to react in situations, if we don't have anything that we see we've got to do, we don't spend the time talking about it, we focus on the next event.
during launch, concerns about debris hitting wing, is that true, any concern: (dittemore) it is true, after launch, there was a piece of foam that is used as insulation on the external tank in the area of the bi-pod, forward attach between orbiter and external tank, piece of foam shed, in review the following day, saw debris drop off, looked like it impacted the orbiter on left wing, where, it's hard for us to tell, somewhere between the mid and outward span, we spent a goodly amount of time reviewing and analysing that film and the potential impact, would there be any consequences, through analysis and through calling back experience on tile, it was judged that that event did not represent a safety concern and so the technical community got together across the community and judged that to be acceptable and so as we look at that in hindsight, that impact was on the left wing and we have all the indications that were on the left wing, we can't discount that there might be a connection, have to caution you and ourselves, can't rush to judgment on it. in this business, lots of things that look like smoking gun, so have to do lots of regression analysis,
what goes forward now with astronaut training: (dittemore) period of mourning in this community, will launch shuttles when we're ready, training will continue, best therapy is to get on with your job. Stay focussed on the job ahead, what we need to accomplish.
was there a black box type device on board: (dittemore) there is no hardened black data or voice recorder, we do have data and voice recorders, if they survived the entry and impact, we will look to see if there is any information there, on the timeline, the sensors that just quit working: during this time, the vehicle was operating perfectly, had gone into roll reversal, where vehicle banks left, banks right, and does so to bleed off energy, to land at the right speed at the KSC, had rolled itself into roll reversal, everything from flight control perspective was perfect, some indication that it was not vehicle loss of control issue, hints of where we need to go look.
foam, was there any consideration that EVA might be necessary to look, loss of sensor readings, sense of how unusual that is: (dittemore) easy answer is that sensor readings - yes that happens, sensor that quits working is not alarming factor, in fact, understand that several sensors can quit working and not result of sensor not working, but avionics box or mux/demux and signature to us is that the wire was cut, have seen this on occasion, train for it many times over, not unusual when we see it to understand whether a single sensor problem or avionics box, team today could not see any common thread between sensors, made it more significant, as soon as not common avionics box, independent sensors, we knew that something was not right. about the foam EVA: we do not have the capability to perform a spacewalk and do tile repair, we operate within the confines of the payload bay, there was no arm on this mission, all we had trained to do on a spacewalk perspective that might be an emergency, e.g. latch in payload bay door closing sequence, can do that, but no capability to go over the side of the vehicle and underneath it and look for an area of distress and repair it. If we thought we had a tile problem, the risk you take when you launch is that you may suffer a tile issue, all we can do is before we launch, design robust systems so that a loss of tile capability will not result in loss of crew or vehicle. Not able to look on underside - why we believe to fly safely is that we test our tiles on the ground, they're robust and hard enough to withstand impact and design environment so we don't have those circumstances. Don't believe that the ET debris impact was the cause of our problem, but now we're going to have to go back and check it. It's not fair to represent the tile damage as a source, but we need to look at it.
caltech astronomer reports of earlier debris flying off shuttle: (dittemore) have not heard such reports, sometimes see plasma, it's not debris, byproduct of going fast, if saw something going over hawaii, doubtful that we had somethign in hawaii causing thermal concern, lost vehicle at about Mach 18, at 3,000 degrees fahrenheit on leading edge, if had a structural or thermal problem, you would expect to get it at peak heating, not at hawaii, would expect it at the most extreme environment.
When was excessive structural heating, when was mission control worried: (dittemore), bond(sp?)-line temps on LHS, off-scale low, looks like rest of measurement had been cuts, so misspoke on excessive heating, lost those measurements too. Mood was upbeat, then understood multiple loss of sensors, no commonality, lost voice with crew, lost tracking data, had no TV, did not have reports of debris at the time, knew we were in an area of good communication coverage... should have had good tracking, had lost it, most anxious.
Debris in other states not Texas, Oklahoma: cannot confirm in Oklahoma, would doubt it, ground track north of Dallas, path through NE Texas, from NW to SE.
how many experiments, in terms of data, required safe return, or could new lab modules have contributed: (heflin) don't have information on terms of data return, can't imagine labs had anything to do with it. (dittemore) some downlinked, others had to come back and be analysed, but ecstatic over results and looking forward to telling crew what a great job they'd done.
last words from the crew: (heflin) last transmission was, had to do with measurement that gave indication to crew and alert that they acknowledged. Cannot say what word was, personally don't know, when something like that, crew response is typical, to let ground know they see that.
(two more questions before other NASA centres) has brief loss of communication happened during re-entry before: (dittemore) lose communication from time to time during orbit phase, sometimes for 90 minutes, but during re-entry any dropouts generally brief and during peak heating times when plasma at maximum extent, so brief dropout is no reason to be concerned, experience is we gain it back fairly quickly, our concern was we made calls to them that they did not respond, then via UHF and they did not respond and it became evident we were in difficult circumstances
anomalous readings, was it a situation where you were committed, was there any corrective action at that point that you could have done: (dittemore) nothing we could do, just observe, any future downstream impact at the landing, if all we did was lose those twelve sensors, no impact to this flight at all, sensors do not impact flying qualities, how we control, all they do is let us know how systems perform so when we turn around for next flight, let us know where to look.
(and I'm taking a break now, questions have gone over to Kennedy)
any question of using telescopes to examine any damage, changing angle of attack: (dittemore) short answer: nothing we can do about tile damage. have investigated using other assets to examine shuttle, tried once when drag chute door lost, pictures received were not useful. did not believe pictures would be useful and zero that we could do about it, elected not even to take the pictures, believed technical analysis was sufficient, could not do anything about it anyway.
7:53 event, where sensors located relative to wing structure/main body structure: (dittemore) located at left inboard elevon, left outboard elevon, elevons at back part of wing, trailing edge, and remember impact was on front part of wing. cannot draw conclusions yet, need to pore over data, first indication was left inboard out, left outboard, next indication left main gear wheel well, like it's moving forward to front of wing, doesn't mean anything at this point, how we lost sensors was as if wires just cut, could be wires were being lost at some other location not on trailing edge of wing, have to piece all together, cannot say today that there's significance that evidence started at trailing edge and worked forward, just as can't say debris at front wing, tile, is why we lost the vehicle, have to factor in with more evidence
mission controllers standing, listening to someone addressing them, who by, and what discussion: (heflin) fortunate in agency at JSC to have people in employee assistance programme, jackie reese (sp?) programme to help employees deal with situations like this, as part of response to this, jackie called in and made herself available so prior to releasing entry team, front room, room on tv and back rooms were gathered and jackie reese was giving them about 5 minutes of what they should do as a human being who has gone through something like this as you leave work and you go home, giving assistance and providing her office to be available for individuals, that's what you saw, I'm glad she did it, she's available to help us and we will need the help. (dittemore) our communities are grieving, at marshall, alabama, KSC, JSC, grieving all over the country, this will help us get through difficult times, we appreciate their service.
hints as to where the problem developed: (dittemore) don't recall when I said I had hints, sensors are interesting, remind myself that that may not be the facts, having indications of debris impact on leading edges, have areas I want to look at, debris I want to see, to see if it leads down a particular path of investigation, too early to speculate on where that will lead, thorough, methodical, will take some times, days, weeks, to pull it all together.
mission elapsed time, last lost data, what vehicle was like, roll reversal etc: (heflin) completed roll reversal 1 at MET (mission elapsed time) 15 days, 22 hours, 50 seconds, altitude at 224,390 feet, Mach 20.9, no indication of control problem prior to loss of data, from vehicle standpoint, had nothing to indicate event that occurred, in hindsight, will probably tie together. Loss of vehicle data at 14 days, 22 hours, 20 minutes, 22 seconds, altitude 207,135 feet at Mach 18.3.
age issue of columbia as oldest orbiter, any original instrumentation on and active: (dittemore) columbia amazing machine, first shuttle vehicle to fly into space, 28th flight, wasn't most experienced vehicle, Discovery has at least 30 flights, don't think age is a factor, if have opportunity to look at vehicles, they are kept in pristine shape, tender loving care into care of vehicles so they look brand new, doesn't mean there aren't areas of wear, there are areas of corrosion, our job to manage that and the wear to continue to fly safely. Had a lot more instrumentation in columbia in its design and its structure than other three vehicles as it was the first, several years ago, elected to take it out as no longer being used, removed about 1200 pounds of instrumentation and wiring, no extra instrumentation that would add to detective work, what was there before we took it out was not being used.
(heflin) not able to say when it happened, happened prior to 9:30 central
how much of a hardship to fly shuttle manifest with three ships: (dittemore) thoughts not on what to come of this tragedy, thoughts on what happened this morning, seven families, children, spouses, extended family, grief, what we missed what I missed, to allow this to happen... it's going to be a difficult day for all of us.
indication of excessive heating on any part of shuttle, possibility of bi-pod could've come hard as well as foam: (dittemore) no information about excessive heating, all we have is information that says sensors quit working, if we do have information about excessive heating, will get back to you, think we'll have wholesome meetings on a regular basis over the next few days. as far as the bi-pod, we believe it was foam, we do not believe it was any metal, no opportunty for metal to be shed, films show that when debris impacted wind, puff of debris, it disintegrated itself, so I don't believe there's any chance that it was hardware, it was all soft foam insulation.
overstressing in roll reversal, left bank at 57 degrees: (dittemore) that is not uncommon in roll reversal, seen steeper banks than just mentioned, will have to go back and look if that is a factor, part of gathering debris, inspecting debris, seeing if anything there if this was structure failure, or whether thermal related or some other, going to have to be detectives and look at debris and gather evidence.
sudden change in heat envelope: (dittemore) speculative for changes in thermal environment translating to area of wiring, hard to respond to that question today, will be glad to try to answer it in the coming weeks to respond to it factually. (heflin) you can continue to ask questions like this, everything is speculation, that's not fair, accurate and I know you want to be accurate.
families: (dittemore) no firsthand knowledge.
after communication loss, any deviation in flight path: (dittemore) when lost comms, lost ability to track, no indication whether or not off flight path, no indication as to breakup, only when review tv coverage saw breakup. (heflin) at control centre, have plots of trajectory, stared at it for a long time as tracking ended over texas, stopped and... reflected back on what I saw with Challenger.
(Questions from NASA HQ) what investigators looking for and when: (dittemore) effort kicked off prior to this morning, why debris she from bi-pod region of tank, reason kicked off knew needed to understand prior to next flight, already aggresively on path to try to understand whether it was any concern since happened two times in last three flights. Was planned element in flight review for next flights, already in place, already ongoing. Today, asked external tank project team and Lockheed Martin, contractor for tank in Louisiana, to isolate certain hardware, to gather data, pertinent to discussion and to make sure not in jeopardy any evidence that might be helpful
Contingency for ISS in event of extended shuttle grounding: (dittemore) Station programme management, in contact with international partners, will be resupplying with Progress, soyuz launch planned later in spring, sufficient consumables to go through end of june without shuttle support, beyond that, no further information, hope we get this resolved in coming weeks, meantime know we have months of adequate supply and means of resupply.
recovery of debris approach, NTSB role, how long it will take before know what's happened: (dittemore) many govt agencies helping to respond, NTSB at Nasa's disposal, FBI, local/state law enforcement, FEMA, assets and efforts of government whereever we need to gather and collect debris, identify crew remains, all ongoing, being organised, tremendous effort engaged in process of coming together all over the country.
any satellites out there that might have caught what happened, what types of debris anxious to see, first responders trained for recovery of hazardous material: anxious to see pictures of tank, have crew get out of seats and take motion and stills of separating from tank on routine basis, only evidence of what tank looks like before tank destroyed, no evidence other than film, anxious to see that film, to see if it looked similar to what experienced on STS-12 when debris shed on same area, obviously not getting that information, that's what we're looking for.
rebuilding from debris, as with TWA-800: (dittemore) treating like aircraft incident, gather everything, see if we can solve puzzle, when breaking apart at 200k feet at Mach 18, at peak heating, some evidence may have burned up at re-entry, or spread out over wide territory, hope to get as much as we can, piece it together as best we can to solve puzzle.
(Moving to Marshall, 15 more minutes)
role of centers: (dittemore) managers, experts coming together, as with flow line and crack issues. Will pull together management, center directors, headquarters, tech experts at teams, wide use of best and brightest to solve this problem and try to understand what happened, put in proper corrective action.
anything from investigations of Apollo 1 and Challenger to help this investigation: (dittemore) what we're implementing today is a process that has been tried over time, many of procedures implementing today were lesson learned, outgrowth from previous incidents, putting into practice as a result from previous lessons learned, study, understand reports never to repeat the problems of the past, all of our goals never to have to sit here in front of you and describe these events again, we're very disappointed, it's hard to tell you how disappointed, how sad we are at this event, and somewhere along the line, we missed something, or we're gonna learn something new that we couldkn't do anything about, but I guarantee you we're gonna fix it.
marshall: (dittemore) many experts at marshall will be involved, don't have names of individuals, if judge appropriate, will give that information to you.
who's leading: (dittemore) led as one NASA activity, mishap investigation team that is a standing team in case we have events like this happen, chairman of mishap investigation team is Mr. David Widdle (sp?) trained investigator in mishaps, went to NTSB school, NASA's commander on the scene, on the way to staging areas, prime interface with all other agencies, talented, marvelous team pull together, named prior to each flight standing ready just in case we have to do these things, plan never to use them, in this case, trained and pressed into service.
(Questions move to Dryden)
49 landings at Edwards, 2.5 year hiatus, future flights might be held, what possible impact on Edwards AFB: (dittemore) suspect won't feel much impact at all at Edwards, is used as secondary landing site in case bad weather at Florida and no consumables to get into Florida/KSC facilities, Challenger's delay was because we had to do some hardware redesign to make ourselves to get ourselves to the confidence that we could fly, necessary to implement, develop, certify and took some time to do. Will have to see how this tragedy works through the same type of engineering and technical scrutiny if there is some hardware change, we'll have to work through that, development, design, certification, testing, too early to say what the case will be.
(Questions to JPL)
how are families responding: (dittemore) O'keefe gave statement, don't want to add more than has been previously stated as to their reaction (heflin) they will have a huge amount of support from this family
(Questions to Langley)
how many tiles in area where sensors located before cause catastrophic breach of surface, what to do in flight if catastrophic breach and know about it prior to re-entry: (dittemore) don't know how many tiles, can't respond to that hear, today, have no capability to repair tile, only recourse to design so that we don't lose tiles, so we can take impacts without it being a safety concern, we have lost tiles before on bottom of vehicle, have had debris impacts before, they have all been acceptable and don't represent safety of flight concern, would like a harder tile, but it has not to date presented a safety concern and have no recourse if we lose tiles, only effective course is to prevent loss through design and test, and has been perfectly adequate to this point.
Briefing ends: B-Roll package for STS-107 mission, next briefing likely around noon central tomorrow (tentative), if you're discovering debris, telephone hotline and email address for reporting information that may help: telephone line is 281 483 3388, mail address should be online now for text reports, images for investigation send to email@example.com. Briefing ends, 22:08 GMT.
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