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NASA commissioned the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) to conduct a thorough review of both the technical and the organizational causes of the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia and her crew on February 1, 2003. The accident investigation that followed determined that a large piece of insulating foam from Columbia's external tank (ET) had come off during ascent and struck the leading edge of the left wing, causing critical damage. The damage was undetected during the mission. The CAIB's findings and recommendations were published in 2003 and are [URL=http://caib.nasa.gov/]available on the web[/URL]. NASA responded to the CAIB findings and recommendations with the Space Shuttle Return to Flight Implementation Plan. Significant enhancements were made to NASA's organizational structure, technical rigor, and understanding of the flight environment. The ET was redesigned to reduce foam shedding and eliminate critical debris. In 2005, NASA succeeded in returning the space shuttle to flight. In 2010, the space shuttle will complete its mission of assembling the International Space Station and will be retired to make way for the next generation of human space flight vehicles: the Constellation Program.
The Space Shuttle Program recognized the importance of capturing the lessons learned from the loss of Columbia and her crew to benefit future human exploration, particularly future vehicle design. The program commissioned the Spacecraft Crew Survival Integrated Investigation Team (SCSIIT). The SCSIIT was asked to perform a comprehensive analysis of the accident, focusing on factors and events affecting crew survival, and to develop recommendations for improving crew survival for all future human space flight vehicles. To do this, the SCSIIT investigated all elements of crew survival, including the design features, equipment, training, and procedures intended to protect the crew. This report documents the SCSIIT findings, conclusions, and recommendations.
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