Retrace the final, tragic flight of the space shuttle Columbia, from its launch to its catastrophic end on Feb. 1, 2003.
The disastrous loss of the shuttle Columbia is firmly enshrined in human memory and popular culture. But as so often happens, much of what people think they remember has become more myth and garble than actual reality.
This is a normal process: Sometimes it helps humanize the inhuman horror by camouflaging events that are too painful to remember as they were. Sometimes the events need to be fit into wider narratives, to reassure us that they had more than random significance.
But for those who want to help themselves, and others around them, to stick to the facts, in tribute to the fallen, I've composed my own list of myths — some harmless, some not so much. This is a continuation of earlier myth-busting work by others.
The biggest misconception is what I call "Myth Zero." This pernicious and poisonous myth is that the disaster was an "accident" — suggesting that it was caused by factors beyond human control, and was just one of those things that should be expected and tolerated on the space frontier.
As investigators later determined — and as some experienced safety analysts warned beforehand — the root cause was a series of bad decisions made by people who ignored traditional and time-tested strict safety standards. The disaster was a consequence of that flaw, not of the essential and unavoidable nature of spaceflight. In such a culture, disasters were not accidental, but inevitable.
Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin often pointed out that spaceflight is so very difficult that humans can handle the hazards only if they're at their best. If we relax from relentless vigilance, spaceflight will kill, and has killed. But in the end it is usually the softness of humans, and not the hardness of space, that is to blame.
Here, then, are the top 10 typical myths surrounding the Columbia's loss on Feb. 1, 2003, and the realities underlying them:
1. The vehicle blew up when it hit the atmosphere.
Columbia was lost when the air drag across its left wing, created by turbulence around a growing hole on the leading edge, jerked its nose to the left too strongly for steering rockets to overcome. It then turned end over end at least once before aerodynamic braking broke its back and tore it into pieces. The crew cabin was then crushed and torn apart by the severe deceleration.
2. The vehicle was flaming and trailing smoke.
The streaks in the sky over east Texas that morning were essentially meteoric effects resulting from Columbia's speed — about Mach 15 — and its 40-mile altitude. Fragments of the spacecraft ionized the thin air that they passed through. There was enough frictional heating to scorch some of those fragments as they continued to fall, but no flames or smoke in the traditional sense.
3. The crew died instantly.
Equipped with spacesuits and parachutes, the crew would have had time to experience the initial tumble and breakup for several seconds, and to hope that they might be thrown free and descend safely by parachute. At least one of the astronauts had neglected to fasten their helmet and gloves, and died of asphyxiation. Others were killed by the blunt force trauma suffered during collisions with swirling cabin fragments. Had the ship been slightly lower and slower when it disintegrated, some of the astronauts might well have been saved by their bailout suits.
4. The spacecraft was crippled by 'space lightning' during re-entry, but NASA covered it up.
A widely circulated image taken in California showed the shuttle's fireball streak with a zigzag line catching up with it. Two effects produced this optical illusion. First, a shuttle re-entry typically leaves a persistent streak across the sky that lasts several minutes. Second, the camera was taking a time exposure on a tripod, so when the "open" button was pushed, it briefly shook, laying down the zigzag.
5. The foam came off because of EPA regulations banning stronger glue that used Freon.
The Environmental Protection Agency did ban CFC-11 in the mid-1990s, and NASA eventually selected an alternative — but it wasn't used in the section of the external tank where the fatal chunk tore off. A different foam, not covered by the EPA regulation, had been used there, so the cause of the shedding had nothing to do with environmental concerns.
6. A secret nuclear-powered Israeli spy device was on board.
The presence of Israel's first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, sparked many conspiracy theories, as did post-disaster search instructions to be cautious around some specific types of debris. But the cautions related to hazardous chemical fuels always carried on shuttles, and there was no room in the cargo manifests or electrical power budgets for any super-secret dangerous payload.
7. Satellite photographs captured the vehicle exploding in space.
These grisly images were an Internet hoax using stills from a science-fiction movie.
8. The astronauts had earlier relayed photographs of an ominous crack or dent in the spaceship's wing.
The images in Israeli newspapers and across the Internet actually showed the front wall of the payload bay, not the wing at all. And the cracks and dents were normal non-hazardous structural features.
9. NASA knew the spaceship was fatally damaged but decided not to tell the crew.
This newborn myth consists entirely of exaggerated or misrepresented excerpts from a recent blog posting by former NASA official Wayne Hale. He reported a private conversation during the mission that speculated what might be best in the event lethal damage were discovered. No official decision was ever made, because nobody thought there was any need. Columbia's astronauts were fully informed of the actual results of NASA's analysis, which determined that the impacting debris had not hit a vital region of the heat shield. That conclusion was found to be erroneous only in hindsight.
10. Nostradamus had predicted the disaster in a quatrain referring to seven who perish in a ship descending from the sky over Texas.
The purported quatrain, like a similar prophecy about the 9/11 terror attacks, is a complete hoax. Its author has never been tracked down.
There are many other lunacies on the Internet. Other, more obscure myths have involved the Tesla death ray, the secret HAARP system in Alaska, or numerology, or corporate espionage, or a UFO attack, or solar storms that zapped the shuttle. One tall tale has the same astronaut being "bumped" from both the shuttle Challenger and Columbia.
On the 10th anniversary of the disaster, it's fitting to remember those who were lost in the mission: commander Rick Husband, pilot William McCool, Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla and Laurel Clark. It's also fitting to remember the two searchers who died in a helicopter crash during the recovery effort: pilot Jules F. Mier Jr. and Charles Krenek. But such remembrances require authentic memories.
Myth - The crew could have been saved
The biggest myth about the Columbia accident is the astronauts lives could have been saved if NASA’s managers had listened to the engineers who were worried that Columbia was damaged during its launch.
It’s certainly true that things should have been done better and the Mission Management Team structure did not encourage the engineers who had concerns to bring up those concerns to the high level managers.
But even if everybody made the exact correct decisions at each point after Columbia’s launch and no mistakes were made there just wasn’t enough time to come to a reasonable conclusion that Columbia was fatally damaged soon enough for a rescue to be feasible.
The Columbia Accident Investigation Board instructed NASA to come up with a rescue or repair scenario which would have worked, given the starting assumption that there is absolute hard proof by flight day 5 that Columbia was fatally damaged by the foam which hit the left wing during the launch. Only if there’s knowledge that early could the astronauts be given instructions to drastically cut back on consuming their limited supplies so they could remain alive until a rescue shuttle could be launched.
After the accident the Columbia Accident Investigation Board instructed NASA to come up with a rescue scenario which could have saved the Columbia astronauts. They gave those instructions to NASA not to blame NASA for what they didn't do, but to prove that the axiom 'there's nothing we can do about it so let's not dwell on it' was flawed.
The starting assumption is NASA has hard firm undeniable evidence by Flight Day 5 that Columbia is doomed and cannot reenter as is. NASA examined both repair and rescue scenarios. It's strongly doubtful anything onboard Columbia could have been used for a makeshift repair, but using shuttle Atlantis as a rescue vehicle is plausible. Again, it must be assumed that there's hard evidence that Columbia's been heavily damaged within the first several days after launch.
The most important task would be a closeup inspection to try to determine how much damage had occurred. Columbia didn't have the robot arm installed so the only way to perform a closeup inspection would be via a spacewalk (EVA). It's important to note that Brown and Anderson only had the minimal emergency spacewalk training for anticipated possible emergency tasks and neither had any spacewalking experience. Furthermore they only had the standard spacesuits - no jet backpacks which would give them more maneuverability and no video cameras to transmit views of what they saw back to Mission Control. There were no digital or video cameras which would work during a spacewalk so the only benefit from an inspection spacewalk would be what the astronauts could describe verbally.
Most important the spacewalk would be outside of Columbia's cargo bay and far from the crew cabin, something which has never been done. No handrails are available in the area or video cameras to permit Mission Control to monitor what was happening. It would not be a trivial task or something to undertake casually and would certainly have many inherent risks.
At the time of the accident Atlantis was in the Vehicle Assembly Building and ready to rollout to its launch pad for a launch in early March. Could the preparations for launch be accelerated before supplies ran out on Columbia for a daring rescue mission? Maybe, just maybe.
The rescue scenario calls for Columbia to power down and conserve its supplies. The limiting factor for how long the crew could live was the fixed supply of Lithium Hydroxide (LiOH) cartridges. The crew would be instructed to exchange the LiOH cartridges less often and that results in the carbon dioxide levels doubling. Columbia's astronauts are literally half suffocating but that will permit the LiOH supply to last long enough until Atlantis is ready to launch.
The rescue scenario assumed a four person all experienced shuttle crew but did not specify which astronauts. A likely crew could have been commander Ken Cockrell (a five flight veteran), pilot Eileen Collins who was scheduled to command Atlantis on its next mission, and spacewalkers Jerry Ross and Steve Smith.
Preparations for Atlantis go into high gear with three shift around-the-clock work, along with intense training for the rescue crew.
After Atlantis launches and rendezvous with Columbia Ross and Smith would make a spacewalk from Atlantis to Columbia carrying spare spacesuits and Lithium Hydroxide canisters.
Over a series of four spacewalks the Columbia crew transfers over to Atlantis (from the top shuttle to the bottom shuttle in this computer-generated graphic).
While nothing in this scenario is impossible it would require many techniques which had never been done together, an incredibly abbreviated training cycle for the rescue crew, and violating many shuttle safety rules. It would also put Atlantis at potentially the same risk for damage as Columbia.
Myth - Dave Brown told his brother that Columbia was damaged
One of the most bizarre stories about the Columbia accident came out in Congress on February 4, 2003 when Senator George Allen (R-Va) announced that he had just talked to Dave Brown's brother Doug. Allen said Doug Brown told him that his brother Dave had sent him an e-mail from space saying the astronauts were concerned that the wing was damaged!
The Congressional Record for February 4, 2003, or jump directly to George Allen's remarks.
The e-mail Doug Brown was referring to was just Dave talking about the wonders of space - Dave never mentioned any concerns about the health of the shuttle. Doug also mentioned watching the video of Dave shooting the External Tank after launch which was aired on NASA TV, an ordinary shuttle activity. Senator Allen had misinterpreted the remarks by a grieving family member.
TRIBUTE TO THE SPACE SHUTTLE ``COLUMBIA'' ASTRONAUTS
-- (Senate - February 04, 2003)
--- Mr. BOND. Mr. President, I rise today with a heavy heart, which was lifted with the inspiring and thoughtful words of our guest Chaplain. I thank him for helping us see the greater design, the hope for the future, and the good news that we have been given by the Lord.
As did millions of Americans, I spent Saturday watching the dreams of seven brave astronauts streak back to Earth in sadness. The sadness we still feel today, and we will feel for many days, is because those seven astronauts carried our dreams with them.
That is the wonder and the magic of our space program. Our astronauts go into space in large part for those of us who cannot go. Our hearts and our spirits are their cargo. We soar and ride with them into a realm that is beyond the grasp of most men but not beyond the grasp of mankind.
Even while we engage in the somber work of recovering from this terrible accident, in recovering the crew and the Columbia itself, our thoughts have already returned to the work of ensuring the safety of the U.S. manned space flight program and of the remaining shuttles. That is one of the responsibilities entrusted to us with the funding and oversight of the space agency.
Shuttle safety is not a new issue to those of us on the Appropriations Committee--or the authorizing committee--which funds the space agency and its operations. It is our job--my wonderful friend, the Senator from Maryland, Ms. Mikulski, and me--to ensure we know and understand each crucial element of the budget that safeguards the lives of our brave astronauts.
Whether during my service as chairman or under the leadership of my able colleague from Maryland, the direction of the VA-HUD and Independent Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee has been consistent throughout. Space shuttle safety is paramount.
I am proud the subcommittee I currently chair has consistently fully funded NASA's request for manned space flight program safety. Nevertheless, nothing about manned exploration of space is or will ever be free of risk. Manned space flight is, by its very nature, life threatening. Flying a space shuttle is nothing less than hurtling across the heavens where a slightest mistake guarantees instantaneous death.
No matter how successful we are, and no matter how many safe shuttle launches we have under our belts, we can never forget the dangers inherent in space travel. We can and should never be complacent.
We have an ironclad social and moral contract with our astronauts: In return for their willingness to place themselves in jeopardy on behalf of all mankind, we in return have an obligation to provide them with all the resources required for a safe flight.
While it is our goal to eliminate risk, to be quite frank, we cannot. We can only minimize risk. That is the cruel reality of manned space flight. Some element of risk haunts every mission. And in the face of such risks, we still have Americans and international partners willing--yes, anxious--to go. They know the risks. Their families understand they are in harm's way and still they dare to live a dream that very few of us can fully appreciate. It is precisely that element of human nature that inspires us to seek challenges greater than ourselves.
To those who question the value of our space program, I ask them: How can you quantify the dreams of millions of children here and across the world? How can you quantify the spirit of discovery? What value should we place on our quest to understand our place in the universe?
Those are the questions we must ask ourselves during this period of recovery. The weeks and months ahead will be filled with questions. So far, we have too few answers.
Our questions did not begin with Saturday's terrible loss of Columbia. The subcommittee has had continuing concerns about whether the budget requests from NASA accurately reflect the full safety needs of the space agency and the shuttle program. It is reflected in our reports. It is all in the public record. I know NASA has always placed the safety of our astronauts as its highest priority, we have an obligation to ensure that the analysis of safety, no matter what the cost, is fully disclosed, understood, and addressed. We have labored to do so in the past and will continue to do so in the future.
We recognize that Congress, NASA, and the administration have to live within a budget. At the same time, we cannot allow a budget to force our hand on safety decisions. We have not done so, nor will we. I do not believe NASA has done so, nor this, nor the previous administration. Nevertheless, our concerns on VA-HUD appropriations were heightened by the March 2002 NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Report which stated that the current budget projections for the space shuttle were insufficient to accommodate significant safety upgrades, infrastructure needs, and the maintenance of critical workforce skills over the long term.
Our most recent report to the appropriations bill endorsed these concerns as well as the need for additional funding for shuttle safety upgrades. Our concerns were sufficient to request that NASA conduct an assessment of future safety needs in light of the shuttle's longer than expected operational life and use. We need to know more and we need to know more now.
NASA has already responded with a request for additional shuttle upgrades and safety funding over the next few years. This was the right response, but we need to know how much more we need to do to ensure that every funding decision continues to make the lives of our astronauts the paramount priority at NASA.
Clearly, we had concerns, and those concerns remain. We must work together to gain greater confidence in NASA's budget.
I applaud and have the highest admiration for NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe, who is already working hard on this and many more issues at NASA. He took over a troubled agency drowning in cost overruns and out-of-control spending on the International Space Station program. He stopped the bleeding of huge cost overruns and has righted NASA's ship through responsible program management. I look forward, as do, I am sure, the rest of the Members of this body, to continuing to work with Administrator O'Keefe in our efforts to ensure the safety of our shuttle program and the well-being of our astronauts. This will, as always, remain our top priority.
Of course, we must find out what happened to the Columbia, fix the problem, and move our space program forward, as the deputy administrator for space so eloquently stated on Saturday. But this is not a simple issue. We have three international astronauts on the International Space Station, two Americans and one Russian. We need to be able to bring them home in complete safety.
The administration is moving forward with two commissions to understand what happened, and to make sure it does not happen again. In addition, I believe it is appropriate to hold a hearing in the appropriations subcommittee on shuttle funding upgrades and safety needs. This is too important an issue not to receive the full attention of the Senate. I assure my colleagues that we will work to provide whatever funding is necessary to meet the immediate needs of the space agency through the remaining months of the fiscal year.
We are currently waiting to hear back from NASA at this moment, and clearly we will provide whatever additional funds are necessary for NASA in the 2003 supplemental, as appropriate, or even if we receive a request in time in the conference report on the 2003 measure that is pending. I will convene a hearing on safety needs as soon as practicable, as soon as NASA has information for us, understanding full well that the immediate needs focus on recovery of the Columbia, the crew, and the twin investigations now underway.
At a time of such tragedy, we all function as part of a team with a single mission, to find out what went wrong, and then to take steps to make sure it never happens again. We must and we will leave no stone unturned. There are astronauts who have not yet flown but who will perhaps this year and in 10 years. They dream of carrying our hopes beyond this planet we call home. We must always keep faith with them and their families. We must honor the contract that binds us in this great endeavor.
That dream has not died with Columbia and her proud crew. Her dream lives on in the hearts of all of us who look to the heavens on a quiet night in awe and wonder, and we see the Columbia still. We mourn for the astronauts and we pray for their families. We shall always remember them, along with the Challenger and the Apollo crews. The courage of all of the astronauts shall forever inspire our dreams and brighten our hopes for the future.
Manned space exploration is a great challenge, a great opportunity. Yes, there are dangers with it, but fulfilling the hopes and the dreams of those who have gone before is our great opportunity and our obligation.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Democratic whip.
Mr. REID. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senator from California be recognized for up to 15 minutes after I complete my remarks.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. REID. Mr. President, before my friend from Missouri leaves the Chamber, I say to him that the work he and Senator Mikulski have done on the appropriations subcommittee that deals with the funding for the space program is exemplary. We have gone through some very tough times. There are many Senators who have offered amendments to do away with the space station and defund the space program. I have always been proud of the bipartisan relationship that Senator Bond and Senator Mikulski have had in fighting for the space program. It is a program we have to protect. I know there have been editorials saying do away with it; it is not worthwhile, but I really think it is important for so many reasons, not the least of which is to explore space.
The second is, I went running this morning. It was raining. It was windy and cold. I had on a very brief wrap, thin as this piece of paper, but I was warm. Why? Because it was Goretex. It was invented to take people into space.
We have accomplished so much in space that is scientific I think it would be a terrible shame to stop the space programs, and it would not be a legacy of which this country would be proud.
I publicly acknowledge and congratulate the Senator from Missouri and the Senator from Maryland for their exemplary work on the subcommittee.
Mr. BOND. Mr. President, if I may, I wish to extend sincere thanks to the Senator from Nevada for his remarks. Senator Mikulski is and has been one of the foremost champions of NASA and its mission. She is in Houston today. I am sure we will hear from her. It is her ongoing and strong commitment to space shuttle safety that inspires and leads all of us, and I thank the distinguished assistant minority leader for his words.
Mr. REID. Mr. President, I join my colleagues in remembering the seven astronauts who perished on the Columbia Space Shuttle. Nevadans and all Americans, along with the people of India, Israel, and all over the world, mourn their loss, marvel at their courage, and take pride in their accomplishments. Our country's space program has made remarkable success, but many people often overlook the ingenuity, intelligence, and inspiration that made this success possible. They take for granted the enormous difficulty involved in the extraordinary achievement, asking: If we can put a man on the moon, why can't we solve other problems to overcome other challenges?
The moon landing was a great technological and engineering achievement. That event and subsequent space travel testify to American determination, know-how, and our can-do spirit. But sadly, as the Columbia shuttle tragedy reminds us, space travel remains difficult and extremely dangerous. The brave men and women who embark on journeys into the skies are pioneers.
One of the original explorers of outer space is our former colleague in the Senate, John Glenn. He is a true patriot who served our great Nation so well in so many capacities. He was a fighter pilot in World War II, a fighter pilot in Korea, who distinguished himself in many different ways in the skies defending our country's interests. He was later, of course, a test pilot who set a transcontinental speed record, and in 1962 he piloted Friendship 7 spacecraft in the first manned orbital mission of the United States.
He represented Ohio in the U.S. Senate for 25 years, and nearing the end of his final term, he volunteered to return to space at age 77 as part of the shuttle crew that deployed the Spartan solar-observing spacecraft. His encore flight allowed us to learn about the aging process.
John Glenn was part of that select group depicted by writer Tom Wolfe in his fascinating book about the early efforts to explore space. John Glenn indeed proved he has the right stuff.
Another of our Senate colleagues, Bill Nelson, is a veteran of space travel. He and I served together in the House of Representatives when he was chosen to be a crew member on the Columbia space shuttle. In 1986, he participated in a 6-day flight that traveled over 2 million miles and orbited the earth 96 times. He returned safely just 10 days before the Challenger space shuttle crew was killed.
Senator Nelson has applied his own experience in space to speak passionately about the value of such missions.
In the wake of the Columbia shuttle tragedy, it is important that we understand the significance of the shuttle voyages and America's entire space program.
Sending men and women into space further our understanding of the mysteries of the universe, and reveals answers to some eternal and profound questions about the cosmos and the heavens above. In addition, space exploration improves our everyday lives on Earth in ways both big and small because the insight we gain has important applications for our health, environment, safety, comfort and wellbeing.
The Columbia shuttle mission was devoted strictly to onboard science, with no spacewalks or space station visits involved. More than 80 experiments were conducted during the 16-day flight, including a study of how zero-gravity affected low-level combustion that might have helped reduce automobile pollution, observations of the sun that could teach us more about global climate change, research into water conservation and reuse, and medical research intended to fight cancer.
So space travel is important to Americans and has benefits for all of us on Earth. I will continue to be a strong supporter of our space program.
Certainly, we must investigate what caused the Columbia's demise--and we must ask difficult questions and get all the answers in order to improve the safety of future astronaut heroes--but now is a time to remember the lives of wonderful crew and to grieve.
I encourage everyone to read the newspaper articles about this diverse team of courageous, dedicated and talented individuals. You will be impressed with, and inspired by, the range and degree of their accomplishments.
Nevadans mourn their deaths and extend our sympathy to all of their families and loved ones. My colleagues will speak about each of the crew members we lost, and I will in the future discuss more of them, but in my brief remarks today, I especially offer my condolences on the loss of Columbia's pilot, William McCool, a Navy commander who was 41 years old. His mother Audrey is a dean at the University of Nevada Las Vegas and his father Barry both teaches part-time at UNLV and is a graduate student there.
``Willie'', as their son was known to family and friends, was an outstanding student who maintained a 4.0 grade point average and graduated 2nd in a class of over one thousand at the demanding U.S. Naval Academy. He also excelled in sports, especially running, and was elected captain of the Navy cross-country team.
He was well liked by all. He had a great smile, a ``stunning personality,'' is how his classmates described CDR McCool. Later, after the academy, he received advanced degrees in computer science and engineering and became an elite pilot. He had more than 400 carrier landings. Perhaps the most difficult test for any pilot is landing on those carriers as they bob up and down in the ocean. His parents were proud of him. He was inspired by his parents.
Willie's father, Barry, was a Navy and Marine pilot, a veteran of Vietnam. They built model airplanes together when CDR McCool was a boy. These childhood experiences influenced Willie to pursue aviation and serve his country, as he did so well. His example was set his by father. Barry McCool will now serve on the team investigating the disaster that claimed his son's life and the other six Columbia astronauts.
Willie had more than 2,800 hours of flight experience. He reacted to his journey into space with awe and amazement. He said: It's beyond imagination until you actually get it and see it and experience it and feel it ..... I have had the opportunity to be on the flight deck probably more than most of my crew mates, to look outside and really soak up the sunrises, the sunsets, the moonrises and the moonsets, the views of the Himalayas.
For someone who appreciated nature and spending time outdoors hiking and camping, it must have been such a joy to witness the Earth from the heavens where Willie now resides. My thoughts and prayers are with CDR McCool's parents, with his wife, his three sons, and all of his loved ones.
Let me also note that David Brown, a Navy captain, aviator, and flight surgeon, who was also lost aboard the flight Columbia, was an instructor at Fallon Naval Air Station in Nevada, the premier tactical air warfare training facility.
Even after the loss of their children in the Columbia shuttle tragedy, the mothers of both these crewmembers want the space program to continue. Dorothy Brown said in an interview: We're a nation of explorers. That's why this great Nation has come to what it is, and the space program will go on, too, for that reason. Audrey McCool, CDR McCool's mother said: We're very distressed, but we want the space missions to go on.
What strong women these grieving mothers are. We can surely be inspired by them, as well as their sons and the entire Columbia crew.
I am reminded of a poem that came about as a result of a revolution in Ireland. The poem that came from that I have on my desk. I read to the Senate today ``The Mother.''
I do not grudge them: Lord, I do not grudge
My two strong sons that I have seen go out
To break their strength and die, they and a few,
In bloody protest for a glorious thing.
They shall be spoken of among their people,
The generations shall remember them,
And call them blessed;
The little names that were familiar once
Round my dead hearth.
Lord, thou art hard on mothers:
We suffer in their coming and their going:
And tho' I grudge them not, I weary, weary
Of the long sorrow--And yet I have my joy:
My sons were faithful, and they fought.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from California.
Mrs. BOXER. I ask unanimous consent immediately following my remarks, Senator Enzi be recognized for 8 minutes, and Senator Leahy for 10 minutes after Senator Enzi.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, I rise on behalf of the people of my State, California, who have very strong ties to the space program and the shuttle program. Today I pay tribute to the seven astronauts who lost their lives in the Columbia disaster. Our Nation and the world deeply mourn their loss. These seven brave explorers--Rick Husband, William McCool, Michael Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, Laurel Clark, and Ilan Ramon--gave their lives to extend the frontiers of science. With their mission accomplished, the shuttle and its crew were returning to Earth in triumph. So near to landing, yet so far. As we all know, the flight ended in tragedy.
We know that we gained valuable new knowledge and understanding of space from this mission, from Columbia. But we have lost something that is truly priceless, the lives of seven outstanding men and women who had worlds left to conquer. As we look at their faces, our best and our brightest, we grieve for their families.
I wish to say a few words about three of the astronauts who had special connections with my home State of California.
William McCool, pilot of the Columbia, was born in San Diego, where he spent much of his first 15 years. His NASA assignment capped a distinguished Navy career as a test pilot, avionics researcher, and administrative and operations officer.
Dr. Kalpana Chawla lived and worked in California from 1988 to 1994. After 4 years at the Ames Research Center near Sunnyvale, she joined Overset Methods, Inc., of Los Altos, as vice president and research scientist. There she formed and headed a research team that made important advances in computational field dynamics, particularly in streamlining the flow of air over vehicles during launch.
Like Willie McCool, Kalpana Chawla had character traits that are often associated with California such as a great sense of adventure and a desire to stretch the boundaries in her case of traditional women's work--and she did.
Rick Husband, Columbia's commander, served as an instructor pilot and academic instructor at George Air Force Base in California and attended test pilot school at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Working through a college extension program at Edwards, he then earned a master's degree in mechanical engineering from California State University at Fresno in 1990. In November 2002, citing his role as astronaut and mission commander, the Fresno State Alumni Association honored Colonel Husband at its Top Dog Alumni Awards ceremony. A proud Fresno State alumnus, he wore his red Bulldog sweatshirt in space aboard Columbia.
The people of my State are proud of our connection to these three astronauts. We honor their memory, along with that of their crewmates, Michael Anderson, David Brown, Laurel Clark, and Ilan Ramon. We know, of course, since we did have an Israeli on board, this has become an international tragedy. We send our condolences to the family of Astronaut Ramon and to the Government of Israel.
I stated how proud my people at home are of our connection, not only to these astronauts but to the shuttle program. California was the birthplace of the shuttle. All were built in California, in Palmdale. The Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena was instrumental in development of the shuttle, and most years, shuttle missions ended with landings at Edwards Air Force Base.
So this has hit home to us. We shall forever honor and remember these seven heroes, as we build on their accomplishments and carry on their important work. May God bless their memories and comfort their families and colleagues and inspire future explorers with the courage to follow in their footsteps.
As we honor these courageous men and women, we must also begin the task of finding the answers--answers to the hard questions why and how do we prevent these happenings--questions about the cause of this tragedy and also about the future of space exploration. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which has oversight over NASA, I will be asking many questions in the weeks ahead. Could the Columbia disaster have been prevented? We know that space travel cannot be completely foolproof, but are there steps that could have been taken to prevent this weekend's tragedy? Was the shuttle program compromised by budget cuts and cost-cutting?
I support a strong space program, but you can't do it on the cheap. Were safety warnings ignored or, worse yet, suppressed? Were members of NASA's safety advisory board removed after raising these questions?
Yesterday, the New York Times reported that five members of NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel--that is more than half the panel--were dismissed shortly after warning about safety problems. And a sixth member of the panel was so disgusted with the dismissals that he quit. There are allegations that these panelists were removed as a result of their critical statements about safety problems. We need to get to the bottom of this matter. I have written to Senator McCain and Senator Hollings, the chair and ranking member of the Commerce Committee on which I serve. I have asked them to invite the members of the safety advisory panel, many of whom were fired, one of whom quit, to give their testimony.
I also asked that Senator John Glenn be invited. He is a major supporter of the space program and he really has important things to say. I spoke with him. I don't even want to quote what he said because I think he knows so much and should say it in his own way, as to what we need to do here. As a former Senator and as an astronaut, he brings an incredible expertise to the table. I know he has the respect of all my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.
Let me say there is one thing that is not an issue in my mind and that is the future of the manned space program. I strongly support that. But now is the time to use this moment to examine the future of space exploration. For example, what is the future role of the space shuttle? Are the existing shuttles sufficient to carry out the mission? Are they in good enough condition--excellent condition, perfect condition--to carry those men and women in the future? What is the role of the International Space Station? Is too great a share of our limited resources being spent on the space station? Is too much money on the space station being spent on maintenance rather than scientific experiments?
I have read that the astronauts are saying they are scientists and they are spending 80 percent of their time on the platform, on the space station, keeping house, doing maintenance on the space station rather than the experiments they really want to do.
What about a possible manned mission to Mars, which seems to have disappeared from anyone's agenda? Most fundamentally, how do we recommit ourselves to a space program that captures the imagination of America, and what would this take in terms of funding its goals?
So we need to ask all these questions and we need to get the answers. We have to work together, across party lines, to come up with this vision. Whatever we come up with, it needs to be funded, funded in a way so safety will never be at issue; we will know that we have done every single thing we could possibly do.
The family of Columbia's crew has said, ``the bold exploration of space must go on.'' I fully agree with them. But it sits on our shoulders, those of us here who are called upon to fund this program, to make sure we are funding it in the right way; that we are not wasting dollars but that the dollars are going to ensure that the program's goals are met; that there are clear goals; and that safety comes first.
Over the past two decades, shuttle crews have carried out scores of experiments in space that have helped to advance science on Earth. For example, they have studied the effects of gravity on humans, animals, and plants. They have tracked the movement of fault lines on the Earth's crust, something very important to many of our States, particularly mine. They have gauged the impact of typhoons and other storms. They have measured changes of forest cover in remote areas of Alaska and Canada. And they have helped archaeologists locate the long lost city of Umar, a 4,000-year-old settlement on the Arabian peninsula.
Many shuttle missions have included medical researchers who used the environment of space to further their understanding of cell growth, human metabolism, and a variety of diseases.
We have much to be proud of in these days as we mourn.
I will join Chairman MCCAIN and the other members of the Commerce Committee in seeking to determine the cause of the Columbia disaster and outlining the steps we must take to avoid its recurrence. At the same time, I will work to define the goals and the mission of the space program and make sure the funding is there for accomplishing the mission in the safest possible way.
In closing, I can't help but remark that their faces--those beautiful faces--will stay with me for a long time, and that they represent the hope and the promise of our future.
Mr. President, as you sit with me on the Foreign Relations Committee, I know all of our Members on both sides are very concerned that we protect the lives of not only our young people but young people all over the world, and that we will find a way to do that which makes sense for our stronger Nation.
We are reminded when we read what the astronauts say every time a different astronaut goes up: what a fragile planet we live on. It always renews my commitment, as I am sure it does your commitment, Mr. President, that we must protect this planet--the air, the water, the forests, and the wetlands. They are a gift from God.
In memory of those who lost their lives this weekend, we will continue to explore and we will continue to reach for the stars. We should do no less.
Thank you very much, Mr. President. I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the Senator from Wyoming is recognized.
Mr. ENZI. Thank you, Mr. President. I thank the Senator from California for the challenges which she placed before us as well as the memories to which she spoke.
Today, here in the Senate and the House, in Houston, TX, all across the country, and in places throughout the world, people of all faiths and from all walks of life will take a moment to remember the tragic loss of the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia this past weekend. As we do, we will put aside our differences and come together as a family to remember those who were lost and the great cause for which they gave their lives.
For me, the story of this past weekend's events begins when I was growing up--a Boy Scout who was fascinated by rockets and rocketry. That interest continued to show itself as I became a young man who was fascinated by the two latest creations of the day--television and the start of our space program. As science worked to develop the tools we would need to explore outer space, television gave us all a front row seat so we would see what was happening.
Back then, the early successes in rocketry--mostly by Russia--fired our imaginations and steeled our will to win the race to reach the heavens. It was only natural for me and the people of Wyoming to feel so moved. After all, we were the products of the pioneer spirit. Our ancestors had left the comforts of the East behind and headed West looking for a new life and to explore what was then the new frontier. They were pioneers.
As television became a more common addition to our homes, it brought the next new frontier--space--into our very living rooms. Each day we could see the latest events of the day that were happening around the world beamed right into our living rooms. We watched in fascination as things that were happening miles and miles away were seen right in the comfort of our own homes. For me, the stars of the sky came in second place in importance only to the stars of the space program. Me and all of my friends, especially those who had been in the Scouts, wanted to be just like them.
I still remember the days when we would go to a local field and work on our own experiments in rocketry. Then, as we grew older, when a new flight was announced by NASA, we would grab the first chance we had to watch it as the miracle of television brought the wonders of space flight to our homes and our schools.
Competition was with the Russians. But now there is cooperation with the Russians in space and with the space station.
Our efforts to explore space and the continuing impact of seeing it all live on television made for a powerful pair as we heard the words of John F. Kennedy as he challenged the Nation to land a man on the moon. His vision led us onward and upward. And it wasn't all that long afterwards that my wife and I--newlyweds--felt a personal stake in what we saw on the television before us. We sat spellbound as we watched Neil Armstrong take his one small step on the Moon that meant so much for all mankind.
Neil Armstrong was part of a long line of astronauts who braved the odds to do the impossible as, together as a nation, we reached for greatness. Over the years, there had been disappointments, failures and tragedies, but with each success we felt like we had a grip on the process and that the odds would be forever in our favor.
Somewhere along the way in the years that passed, we forgot that space is a cold, unfriendly place and that space flight brings with it great risks and dangers as well as great rewards. We forgot the lesson learned from the early days of the space program--that when we dream great dreams and achieve great successes, we are also courting great danger.
We think of the shuttle as an airplane. And we know how safe airplanes are. That danger was brought painfully home when we launched the Space Shuttle Challenger.
All at once and without warning, the reliable space machine we had come to trust and take for granted blew up and disintegrated before our eyes.
I remember that day so well because it was the day we were to send our first educator into space, Christa McAuliffe. In schools all over the country, children and their teachers watched excitedly as a school teacher prepared to make her voyage into space. When it ended in tragedy, a lot of fathers and mothers sat down that night with their children to talk about what they had seen at school that day. They got a lot of tough questions from little children with sad eyes who wondered why these things have to happen.
Mothers and fathers have no answers for those questions and they can only say that sometimes bad things happen to good people. They can only hug and hold and remind their little ones that there is a God and somehow He works all things for His good. Someday we may know what that good is. But for now, all we can do is trust and hope and pray.
Now we have felt that pain for a second time. The first brought us an awareness of the risks we take in exploring the unknown. It reminded us that despite the best of planning and preparation sometimes things happen that we could never have possibly prepared for. Now we watch these events unfold for a second time with a different sense--and from a different perspective. We remember the risks of space flight.
But, as we mourn those who were lost, we renew our feeling of determination and our resolve to succeed no matter the odds or the obstacles to be overcome.
The crews of the Challenger and the Columbia--those modern day pioneers--will be forever linked in our minds, tied together by the same terrible helplessness we felt as we watched both tragedies unfold. Each time we searched for answers that we knew would never come. In the end, each time we found ourselves more determined than ever before to move ahead, and to continue the exploration of space that must never end. And, in the end, that is the important lesson we will take with us. We may experience defeat, but we will never be defeated. In this and all we pursue in life, we will ultimately succeed as long as we hold true to our dreams and follow our star.
And the success is far-reaching. I have a heart repair that would not have been possible without the space program. Science moves on, stimulated by the unknown and represented by space.
When the crew of the Challenger died, President Reagan comforted the Nation with the words that the crew that had slipped the surly bonds of Earth had reached out and touched the face of God. This past weekend, President Bush assured us that the ``God who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today.''
Then and now, both crews left us with our eyes gazing toward the skies and the heavens above, hopeful and prayerful that if they had to leave us, they had done so in pursuit of a better place as they returned, not to Earth, but to their home in God's holy heaven.
This night, and the next, and for many to come, when we go out on our back porch or sit in the backyard and look up at the stars, we will remember the Challenger and the Columbia and their valiant crews. The lights of the sky will remind us of their indomitable spirit and our pledge that as long as there are stars in the skies, we will never stop reaching out to them to explore, to dare and to dream in space and on Earth. That is our life, our legacy and our shared vision as Americans. It is what makes us unique, and it is why our nation will always be known as the land of the free and the home of the brave.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the Senator from Vermont is recognized.
Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, as I listen to my friend from Wyoming and my friend from California and others who are speaking in this Chamber today, I am reminded of what I heard throughout the State of Vermont this past weekend while I was home--whether it was people who stopped me in a grocery store and just wanted to reach out and touch somebody--perhaps we would embrace for a moment--or whether it was coming out of mass on Sunday at the church, where the same thing occurred--the people have felt such sorrow and shock. There is no other way you could express yourself.
Those of us who have grown up seeing the space program have seen so many of the triumphs. I still remember our own colleague, Senator John Glenn, a man I was elected with in the same year, in his amazing orbit of the Earth. Then later, when he was well into his 70s, he had another trip as an astronaut. We saw that too. We saw man's first steps on the moon, of which every one of us remembers exactly where we were when that occurred. We also remember exactly where we were when the Challenger was destroyed. And I suspect we will always remember exactly where we were when we got the news about the Columbia space shuttle.
Today we are so connected automatically, with live television, radio, and friends and neighbors calling us when something such as this happens, a tragedy which unites not only the whole country but the whole world. Everybody seems to know it almost immediately.
So, as so many other Senators, I rise to pay tribute to the seven astronauts who lost their lives in the Columbia tragedy last Saturday morning. Here was this magnificent space vessel, with these seven wonderful, exemplary human beings, streaking across the sky dozens of miles above the Earth at eight times the speed of sound; and then, suddenly, Columbia disintegrated.
A clergyman in Florida aptly described the fiery contrails we watched repeatedly on Saturday as: ``a glistening tear across the face of the heavens.'' There is nothing I could write that would say it any better.
We were and are sad not only because of the loss of these heroes and the interruption of space exploration, but because this tragedy reminds us of other astronauts who have paid the ultimate price.
As with every national tragedy, we rise from the shock and the sadness through commemoration and perseverance. We heard the President of the United States, who spoke shortly after the tragedy, and again eloquently today, as did others in Texas. The President tells us--and we know in our hearts--we cannot forget these heroes: Rick Husband, William McCool, Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Blair Salton Clark, and Ilan Ramon. Each represented a special kind of intelligence, dedication and energy we should all aspire to, and certainly all young people in this country should aspire to.
Over and over we have read their biographies, their stories. We have heard their neighbors, their friends, their teachers, their classmates, and their fellow astronauts tell of the barriers they had to overcome in their lives and the almost superhuman rise above senseless bias and discrimination. They will be missed, but they will continue to stand as models. I hope we will continue to read of their stories because they are role models for us here in the United States, but also for those in Israel, as with COL Ramon, and for those in India, and really for everyone across the globe.
Someone said: This is such a public tragedy. But that is the way the space program has been. We have shown publicly our triumphs, and we have shown publicly our disasters. We have shown the fears and the overwhelming thrills over the years.
I close with this, Mr. President: To remind everybody we are at the bicentennial of the congressional authorization for the Lewis and Clark exploration of the West, when President Thomas Jefferson said: Go forth to explore the West and our boundaries. And the Congress said to go forth.
Lewis and Clark knew no frontiers. They did not know what they would find. And these astronauts knew no frontiers. We Americans have never known frontiers.
So we will find the cause of Columbia's loss. We will fix it. The shuttle program will continue. The manned space program will move forward. We will return to space. It is our destiny, I believe. And there, in the spirit of the seven, we will again invest our knowledge and resources to learn about our origins, our daily lives, and, maybe, catch a glimpse of the future.
I see my friend from Oregon in the Chamber. I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mrs. DOLE). The Senator from Oregon.
Mr. SMITH. Madam President, I express admiration for Senator Leahy's words and for the contribution that many of our colleagues will make in this Chamber to try to give expression to their own feelings and, more importantly, to the feelings of those who reside in our respective States.
I am mindful that in each one's own way and on one's own terms, every American--every Oregonian, suffers from the Columbia tragedy. All I can do is reflect on what I feel, but I think that in saying what I will today, it is similar to what many also feel.
As an American citizen, as someone who is 50 years old, I have always taken particular pride that we are descended from Pilgrims and pioneers. We have a history, a heritage, a legacy that stretches from Columbus to Columbia. We are the children of an American spirit that believes in discovery, in development, in pioneering new ways, and exploring new frontiers.
I remember, as a young boy, the experience of hearing about the Russian launch of Sputnik, and seeing the satellite in the sky as it made its way over the American continent.
With particular wonder, I remember, as an elementary school boy, how Weekly Reader--which was something we would always spend time learning from--began to fill with stories of our own space program.
I remember, like many of my colleagues, taking inspiration from the leadership of John F. Kennedy challenging us in pursuit of the new frontier and in a man landing on the moon and his safe return.
I remember, with great pride, the launch of Alan Shepherd as part of the Mercury program, just to see if man could live in outer space.
I remember, as an elementary school boy, attending the parade that was held in Washington, DC for John Glenn. Little did I realize that one day I would have the privilege of serving with John Glenn in the U.S. Senate. I remember his parade down Pennsylvania Avenue and how we, as a new generation of Americans, celebrated the renewing of the American spirit of exploration.
I remember following with great interest the Apollo program and being inspired by the remarkable realization that two Americans were on the Moon. Neil Armstrong is a hero, the first to make that small step for man but that giant leap for mankind. I remember the pride I felt when the Apollo program was merged with the Soyuz program and began to break down the cold war barriers with Russia. Then, of course, the space shuttle came and we watched with awe as this new configuration of the space program inspired us all in the new possibilities of learning and discovery.
I don't think any of us will forget that day that Challenger went down and the heartache we felt as it exploded upon its launch. Now we add the memory of watching Columbia disintegrate as it reemerged into the Earth's atmosphere.
Where do we go from here? As we stand on the verge of a foreign conflict and struggle with our economy, it is entirely appropriate for Congress to look at the space program and, with our President, set new goals. I hope they will include a space station, even a Moon station, and eventually a landing on the planet of Mars. That reflects the highest standards of American leadership. This demonstrates America's courage and it will firmly fix, in the firmament of heaven, America's place among the leadership of nations.
My final thoughts are to the families. As we witnessed the ceremony today, we all grieve for the parents and the children of these astronauts who have lost their parent or their child. I am reminded of an admonition that the only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life. Death often looms as the ultimate calamity, but it need not be if we keep it in perspective of eternity.
Some time ago, I was attracted to a monument I saw in England. Its words seem appropriate at this occasion. They were about time. As I looked at these families who are suffering and saw how tragic death loomed for them, I am sure they wondered how they could endure time without their loved one. This monument said: Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.
I add my voice to those of my colleagues here today to say God bless the memory of Rick Husband, William McCool, Michael Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, Laurel Clark, and Ilan Ramon of Israel. To them I say: Godspeed.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Utah.
Mr. HATCH. Madam President, I thank my colleague from Hawaii for allowing me to proceed ahead of him. I certainly appreciate his kindness.
I rise today to salute the seven astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia who lost their lives as they endeavored to conquer the vast unknown of space.
I would like to take a moment to praise the work of Commander Rick Husband, Pilot William McCool, Mission Specialist Kalpana Chawla, Mission Specialist David Brown, Mission Specialist Michael Anderson, Mission Specialist Laurel Clark, and Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon.
These great heroes will always be remembered for their willingness to carry the hopes and aspirations of a country with them into space, even though they made the ultimate sacrifice for their efforts.
I know the months and years ahead will be filled with debate over many issues surrounding this tragedy.
Certainly, we will hear questions asked about the ongoing funding of NASA and the safety concerns surrounding such adventurous exploration.
The Nation will need answers to these questions.
Hearings should be held. Investigations should be conducted. But in the final analysis, let us not forget how valuable the space program is to our country and to the American spirit.
I would like to ask my colleagues, administration officials, and NASA to proceed with their investigations in a prudent manner and return our astronauts to space as soon as possible.
I would like to see a renewed focus for NASA, a focus that would rival President Kennedy's challenge to be the first Nation to send a man to the moon.
This can only be done by pressing forward with bold new space initiatives and not by prolonged critiquing and endless investigations.
Just the mention of the word ``space'' conveys so many special meanings to each of us.
Thoughts of heroes such as Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong come immediately to mind. In many ways, our Nation is defined by the adventurous space program which has been a part of our national heritage for over 40 years.
Terms such as courage, bravery, and pioneer are not afforded to those who take no risk and who sit on the sidelines and watch. No, those terms are reserved for people and nations willing to take risks in order to learn and advance the knowledge of all mankind. As President Reagan said, in the face of the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger, ``The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave.'' The seven astronauts who piloted the Space Shuttle Columbia heard that call and will forever be remembered for their bravery.
No American relishes the loss of life and the sacrifice of those courageous astronauts. But every American is thankful for the willingness of these astronauts to press forward--even when the risks are so great--in order to provide more knowledge and nurture a new generation of scientists who are inspired to look at the universe differently every time astronauts venture into the darkness of space.
The space program is so vitally important to our Nation's science education. Every year, bright, energetic, wide-eyed students enter the Nation's school systems and are motivated by the new scientific findings in our universe. They grow to love science, a love that will stay with them throughout their lives and continue to propel our Nation's scientific discoveries into the future.
We cannot let that love die. It is our duty to push the envelope, to explore the outer reaches of our universe. Innovation and determination shape our scientific future and the space program is such a crucial part of that.
My home State of Utah has long been actively engaged in America's space program. Our own Richfield, UT native, former Senator, and my friend, Astronaut Jake Garn, left Cape Canaveral on the Space Shuttle Discovery in April 1985 and return to earth over 6 days later after having orbited the earth 110 times.
As well, ATK, a leading-edge aerospace company based in Utah provides state-of-the-art solid rocket motors which makes the idea of people being able to fly through space a reality. &