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Author Topic:   NASA Debates Display of Columbia Debris
Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-20-2003 03:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA officials are delicately seeking advice about what to do with the 84,000 shattered pieces from Columbia, cautiously broaching the idea of putting some shuttle parts on display.

What do you think? Should debris be displayed?

chet
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posted 07-20-2003 04:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I believe NASA's decision should be based solely on the wishes of the surviving family members.

Rizz
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posted 07-20-2003 05:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rizz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't think any of it should be displayed. What would the point be?

Paul
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posted 07-20-2003 05:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul   Click Here to Email Paul     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree with Rizz.

cklofas
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posted 07-20-2003 05:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cklofas   Click Here to Email cklofas     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
One might feel the same way about the items displayed in Oklahoma City, until you go there and see the memorial and the accompaning displays. The are powerfully moving and affect you deeply. KSC, with the astronaut memorial wall, has no need of any other display. But, other sites, like NASM or JSC could benefit from presenting SOME items in a manner similar to OKC.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-20-2003 07:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I feel that the families should have say over the display of items directly related to their loved ones, but perhaps not to the remnants of the vehicle itself.

Its quite possible that some families may want items displayed (such as Laurel Clark's family, who were reported to have loaned personal items for display at the recently dedicated Clark Auditorium at the Navy Medical Center), while others may not.

As for the vehicle, Columbia represents 28 crews. I think the decision to display needs to be handled by more than just the families of STS-107, which as it seems, NASA is doing.

Personally, I think the decision should be made on a case-by-case basis, depending on how the museum or memorial plans for the debris to be displayed. A respectful and educational exhibit could serve as an important reminder for future generations to avoid the mistakes we have made; a display for the sake of having a display ("come see the Columbia debris") would serve no one.

Ed beck
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posted 07-20-2003 08:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ed beck   Click Here to Email Ed beck     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Robert I totally agree with you. I was going to write almost the same thing. So I will just write. "ditto"

Ed

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"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." Psalms 19:1 NIV

eurospace
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posted 07-21-2003 01:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for eurospace   Click Here to Email eurospace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by chet:
I believe NASA's decision should be based solely on the wishes of the surviving family members.
"Columbia" as such has no family members that could express any wishes, even if you consider "Discovery", "Endeavour" and "Atlantis" brothers and sisters of "Columbia".

The families of the astronauts ("surviving family members" - where there any family members killed?) do certainly enjoy full rights on the remains of the astronauts they are related to. However, while NASA should certainly listen to them, they dot own the remains of "Columbia", and it remains with NASA to find a wise and respectful solution. Burying the remains in a hidden hangar like "Challenger" is not what I would consider wise and respectful.

A public display of parts of the debris embedded in a decent and well-presented memorial could be a possibility. In one place and location in the US, not dispersed all over the country, with the possible exception of Israel and India.

Selling parts for the benefit of the Astronaut Scholarship Fund should not be considered.

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Jürgen P Esders
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http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Astroaddies

Rodina
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posted 07-21-2003 01:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rodina   Click Here to Email Rodina     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This kind of stuff can be horribly exploitive and tacky, or it can be deeply moving. While I don't mind getting some input from family members -- this ought to be the call of the National Archives or National Cemeteries or whoever the relevant authority is (preferably, not NASA, not because I've got some beef with NASA, but because NASA ought not make the decision about its own failures here, just as I wouldn't want the Army to make decisions about some failure by the Army).

chet
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posted 07-21-2003 01:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by eurospace:
The families of the astronauts do certainly enjoy full rights on the remains of the astronauts they are related to. However, while NASA should certainly listen to them, they don't own the remains of "Columbia", and it remains with NASA to find a wise and respectful solution.
With all due respect, "Columbia" was just a piece of machinery; what we're talking about here is solely the human element.

True, Columbia carried many different crews, but only one of those crews perished.

I still say it's the call of the astronauts' families. Can you imagine if they voiced strong objections to the display being discussed here (no matter how tastefully done it might ultimately be), and NASA just decided to go ahead anyway?

Columbia wasn't the property of the families, but what would be the point of exhibiting parts of Columbia if it only brought them more grief?

-Chet

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-21-2003 02:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by chet:
Columbia wasn't the property of the families, but what would be the point of exhibiting parts of Columbia if it only brought them more grief?
Sometimes grief is necessary. The Holocaust Museum comes to mind; nobody will disagree that visiting causes grief, whether you were a survivor or born long after it ended. But from that grief comes understanding, knowledge, and hopefully a strong concern never to let it happen again.

NASA has already opened the debris to exhibit to employees and their families and friends. The results have inspired deep felt essays, prose, and poetry.

It is this type of reaction which to me justifies placing debris on display.

chet
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posted 07-21-2003 02:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Robert, I've little doubt that any display by NASA would be done tastefully, and if I had to bet I'd say the astronauts' families would be approving of the idea of displaying parts of Columbia for the sake of broadening knowledge. My only point was that it should only be undertaken with the consent of the families.

Your analogy with Holocaust museums seems to me to be missing the mark. The Holocaust was a monstrous undertaking perpetrated by one group of people against another, so of course much can be learned by making sure the story is told to try to avoid repetition. The Columbia disaster, on the other hand, was an accident. I don't think anyone needs convincing that it was tragic, and that generally we must all strive in our daily lives to try to minimize risk while continuing the pursuit of worthy goals. I just don't see a case for going ahead with any exhibits of Columbia if the families voice strong objections to it. I think their sacrifice and loss makes that decision their due. I respect others' POV however.

-Chet

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-21-2003 02:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree that the Holocaust Museum was an extreme example; it was the first to come to mind.

Just for hypothetical discussion, what would be the proper course of action if some of the families strongly advocated that debris be placed on display, while others just as strongly disagreed?

Rodina
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posted 07-21-2003 02:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rodina   Click Here to Email Rodina     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The families ought to have input --- but not a veto. As an American taxpayer who pays the bills, it's my space program -- not theirs and any decisions about this kind of thing belong to a political decision, not a personal veto.

collshubby
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posted 07-21-2003 03:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for collshubby   Click Here to Email collshubby     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It was mentioned originally by Robert that Columbia represented many crews. I think there are enough items out there in museums and among the members of those crews to represent them. Not always pieces of Columbia, but items such as flight suits, flags, etc.

As far as the crew of STS-107 goes, there is not much left of these kinds of objects (that I know of) except for the debris.

I think that pieces of the debris could be displayed, but to a limited scale. Perhaps only have memorials containing a piece of debris at KSC or JSC, the NASM, and maybe a small memorial in each of the astronauts hometowns, including Israel and India.

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Brian Peter
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chet
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posted 07-21-2003 04:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I disagree that the families shouldn't have a "veto". Hypothetically, if there was consensus by the surviving relatives that Columbia shouldn't be displayed, I hardly think it would be proper for NASA to just trample their decision by claiming the Shuttle belongs to the American taxpayer.

Robert's question is interesting. If there were a "tie" of sorts, I'd have no problem with an "objective" party making the decision whether to display or not.

I know it's certainly a big IF, but should the families feel strongly one way or the other, I'd let that be my guide. After all, we're talking about educated people here, who we can presume shared their loved ones' dreams about the exploration of space. Why shouldn't their collective opinions be what counts most? And lest we forget, they're taxpayers too!

-Chet

GTspace
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posted 07-21-2003 10:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for GTspace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There is a display at the Smithsonian very tastefully done on the World Trade Center. Pieces of the airplane, personal items from survivors as well as personal items from deceased individuals (with surviving family consent) are all on display as too are many structural items of the World Trade Center itself. Fire and Police vehicles crushed by debris are tastefully displayed just the same.

I see no reason why Columbia or Challenger could not be on display in a tasteful manner as well. It’s part of our history, why hide it from us?

mikepf
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posted 07-21-2003 12:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mikepf   Click Here to Email mikepf     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
After hearing reports of years of ignoring or minimalizing known problems such as o-rings and falling foam, a piece of Columbia and/or Challenger should be reqiured to sit on the desk of each person at NASA and its contractors who has responsibility for Shuttle and crew safety. If the foam tests as conducted a few weeks ago had been done the FIRST time foam was known to have fallen off at launch, would Columbia be in one piece today, and its crew still alive? Sorry, but I get pretty emotional about this. The safety buck stops somewhere and whoever decides what is safe should be constantly aware of the price of the decisions made. An unexpected or unforseen failure is one thing, but to loose a ship and crew to a known but seemingly ignored problem is inexcusable.
Mike Fusillo

Rodina
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posted 07-21-2003 12:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rodina   Click Here to Email Rodina     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well said.

Rizz
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posted 07-21-2003 01:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rizz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'd like to second that.

chet
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posted 07-21-2003 02:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is somewhat off topic, but I've always wondered why it was necessary for the Shuttle to re-enter the atmosphere at such breakneck speeds.

Isn't it possible in some way to brake before re-entry so the shuttle wouldn't have to withstand temperatures in the thousands of degrees? (I understand if it were possible it would've been designed that way, so I guess my question is, what are the aerodynamics that make such braking impossible, or at least impractical?)

-Chet

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-21-2003 02:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From the STS-107 FAQ:
quote:
Why does the Shuttle have to fly so fast on reentry? Couldn't it use rockets to slow down for a safer reentry?

It takes a lot of energy (fuel) to reach orbital speed (~8km/s). It would take twice as much energy to both accelerate and decelerate from orbit, since rockets have to propel both the vehicle *and* the rest of the propellant the amount of fuel required to reach a specific speed scales *exponentially* with that speed. It is simply not even remotely feasible with current rocket technology to create a launch vehicle which is capable of both accelerating to and decelerating from orbital velocity. This is why all manned spacecraft utilize atmospheric drag to decelerate as they reenter from orbit, otherwise manned spaceflight would simply not be possible.

It would take *four* entire external tanks full of fuel to take only *half* the weight of the Shuttle to orbit and then later decelerate it to a soft non-aerodynamic landing. Additionally, atmospheric braking has been by and large a very safe way to land (even including this one accident), the added difficulty and complexity of making manned spacecraft capable of decelerating to a soft landing would almost certainly lead to more vehicle losses and more crew deaths.
They also answer the question "Was there a gentler way to fly Columbia back into the atmosphere?" here.

chet
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posted 07-21-2003 03:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for chet   Click Here to Email chet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks Robert, I thought it was something along those lines but I really didn't appreciate just how much fuel it would take to achieve the necessary deceleration.

-Chet

Gilbert
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posted 07-21-2003 03:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gilbert   Click Here to Email Gilbert     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My personal vote would be to have the displays at select and appropriate venues, after established display criteria have been met.
GH

STEVE SMITH
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posted 07-21-2003 07:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for STEVE SMITH   Click Here to Email STEVE SMITH     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think Mike Fusillo has an excellent idea to somehow display remmants of the STS-107 tragedy in the office of Contators and NASA personnel who design, operate adn maintain the Shuttles.

I have been an engineer in Refinerys for almost 40 years. This is a very dangerous environment, but like space travel can be done safely developing well thought out proven procedures and by following them.

Human nature being what it is, I believe we get de-senistized to the danger and some times let our guard down and take shortcuts with no malice intended.

It is good to be reminded of the very horrible price of not paying attention and being on top ot situations. I find I have to give horrific examples periodiacally to keep people alert to the consequences.

Good suggestion Mike.

spaceman1953
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posted 07-22-2003 07:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceman1953   Click Here to Email spaceman1953     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Let's just put a picture of the crews of Challenger and Columbia on everyone's desk.

My first thought, was, no, I don't want to see pieces of STS-107 on display. Call me a whimp, but I still turn away from pictures of Challenger blowing up.

Once I heard someone wonder about where they should bury their dead pet. A veterinarian's reply was "Deep in your heart." That is where I want my memory of STS-107 crew to be....deep in my heart. Not in a display case.

Gene

astronut
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posted 07-22-2003 08:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for astronut   Click Here to Email astronut     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My 2c is that these items should be tastefully displayed, along with Apollo 1 and Challenger. Why? To remind folks of the price that has been paid to date to further mankind's exploration of space. Also to remind folks that exploration is both worthwhile and dangerous...that others will be lost on future flights. That future astronauts, like those already lost, know that there is a risk of death. Yet they all stepped boldly forward because the payoff is worth the risk.

Let's not bury Columbia in a couple of old silos like Challenger or hide it like Apollo 1 to rust away unremembered. Future visitors to the Smithsonian, KSC, JSC, and all the other museums should be reminded of the human costs of space exploration while viewing it's many triumphs.

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Wayno
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Robert Pearlman
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posted 08-01-2003 08:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
On July 23, Florida Today published an editorial on this subject (whether to display debris).

I wrote a response to that editorial which appeared in yesterday's (or today's, its not clear from online) paper (see the second letter).

rjurek349
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posted 08-01-2003 08:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for rjurek349   Click Here to Email rjurek349     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Robert -- excellent response, and I agree. The Chicago Tribune had an editorial today as well on "The Legacy of Columbia" and they, too, take your position.

All times are CT (US)

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