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  Launch On Need: The Quest to Save Columbia's Crew (Daniel Guiteras)

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Author Topic:   Launch On Need: The Quest to Save Columbia's Crew (Daniel Guiteras)
Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 29679
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 11-18-2010 03:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Launch On Need: The Quest to Save Columbia's Crew
by Daniel Guiteras
Space Shuttle Columbia and the crew of STS-107 have been in orbit less than 24 hours. Everything seems to be going well until launch imaging expert Ken Brown reviews Columbia's high-resolution launch films and discovers a large piece of External Tank foam struck Columbia's left wing just 81.9 seconds into the launch.

Brown knows that if Columbia's tender heat shield has been severely damaged by the impact, neither the crew nor the spacecraft will survive the inferno of atmospheric re-entry.

So stunned by what he sees on the films, Brown quickly executes two critical actions. First he e-mails an organization-wide report recommending NASA immediately quantify the damage by acquiring satellite imaging of Columbia. Then, he leaks a private e-mail to his friend John Stangley detailing Columbia's predicament. Stangley, a former CNN science correspondent, knows exactly what to do with Brown's scoop of a lifetime.

Soon, NASA is faced with its most difficult problem ever: how to save Columbia's inter- national crew of seven men and women.

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: T-Cell Publications (November 12, 2010)
  • ISBN-10: 061537221X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0615372211
Although alternate histories have certainly averted historical tragedies before, given how recent this particular one is, I would think there is still a fine line between engaging fiction and disrespecting those who were involved in the real-life loss of the STS-107 crew. It will be interesting to see on which side this novel falls based on reader reviews.

cspg
Member

Posts: 4619
From: Geneva, Switzerland
Registered: May 2006

posted 11-18-2010 08:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Where is the disrespect? Have you read it?

Hopefully the novel is better than the web site...

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 29679
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 11-18-2010 08:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If you read again what I wrote, I didn't say that this book disrespected the real individuals involved in STS-107, but that the chance that it could exists. It will depend on the direction Guiteras took the story after departing from the real history.

cspg
Member

Posts: 4619
From: Geneva, Switzerland
Registered: May 2006

posted 11-18-2010 08:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ok, a slippery slope of sort.

MCroft04
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Posts: 1282
From: Smithfield, Me, USA
Registered: Mar 2005

posted 11-18-2010 03:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MCroft04   Click Here to Email MCroft04     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I wasn't sliding when I read Robert's comments.

jasonelam
Member

Posts: 484
From: Monticello, KY USA
Registered: Mar 2007

posted 11-19-2010 10:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for jasonelam   Click Here to Email jasonelam     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I also noticed on the Amazon page that it says Volume I. Interesting...

garymilgrom
Member

Posts: 1759
From: Atlanta, GA, USA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 11-30-2010 10:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Review November 30, 2010

This is a story about how NASA's employees and technologies might have been used to save the astronauts of the doomed space shuttle Columbia. Most of the book is devoted to a description of an abbreviated shuttle mission flow - the sequence of events that sees the shuttle refurbished in the OPF, stacked in the VAB, rolled to the pad and launched. Unfortunately a lot of this narrative sounds like the standard KSC bus tour, right down to the width of the stripes on Old Glory painted on the side of the VAB. The author is at his best portraying the dedicated, passionate people employed throughout NASA and the stressful environments some of them work under. There is an attempt to flesh out the story with a romantic angle involving a veteran news reporter and a subplot about an aging, cynical engineer but these stories are thin and the characters are poorly developed.

The author makes a big deal about accuracy in the introduction ("careful attention was paid to keeping references to the space shuttle's technical specifications and capabilities accurate") so I have to call out the most egregious of several errors:

  • Writing that satellites are loaded into the shuttle's payload bay in the OPF
  • Writing that 90 minute earth orbits are "60 minutes of daylight and 30 minutes of night"
  • Writing that the Gemini flights were launched from pads 39A and 39B
  • Writing of a mission called Friendship 1
The book posits a huge marketing campaign while the rescue shuttle is made ready to attempt to save Columbia. The resultant positive PR is so effective (in the book) that it helps define the Iraq war, helps the nation recover from 9/11 and returns the American psyche to its winning, can-do ways. This publicity is recorded in minute detail - Space Camp needs to raise their prices to control the flow of visitors, online NASA contests are flooded etc. Readers can make their own decisions about the merits and effects of publicity like this on the American public.

Overall this is a decent attempt at a first novel. It's a fast paced page-turner. But my opinion of the subject matter - a revision of an historical event - is less favorable. When all is said and done the subject of this book is neither fish nor fowl. It's not a fictional account of something the author dreamed up and it's not a factual account of a real space shuttle mission. It's somewhere in between and I was constantly aware of that while reading the book.

In summary I think this is a well written book about a poorly chosen subject. In my opinion the events portrayed not only did not happen, they could never happen - because the events portrayed belong to the past and the past cannot be changed. Ultimately this reduced my enjoyment of the book - it's basically just false information to this reader.

Gary Milgrom
www.spacegary.com

dguiteras
New Member

Posts: 7
From: Newbury Park, CA, USA
Registered: Dec 2010

posted 12-07-2010 12:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dguiteras   Click Here to Email dguiteras     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
First I want to thank the reviewer for taking time to read my book and to offer a thoughtful and mostly positive review.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to respond to the review and to comments made about the topic of my book.

On February 1st 2003, I was stunned like so many Americans at the loss of Columbia and the crew of STS-107. Later that year, I downloaded and read the Columbia Accident Investigation Board Report. As a space enthusiast it was hard to read about the mistakes made, the missed opportunities made in terms of discovering Columbia’s fatally damaged wing.

But the worst of it for me was reading appendix d.13 of the CAIB report. The board wanted to know if anything could have been done for the crew. NASA engineers were given a hypothetical scenario where it was assumed by FD 5 that Columbia’s wing was damaged and could not support reentry. D.13 is a 22 page document that outlines a rescue scenario for Columbia in great detail.

After reading the rescue scenario I began imagining that story playing out in real life. How the media would cover the event, imagining the waiting aboard Columbia, the stress of the ground crews, and how the public would react to such an amazing story.

I became obsessed with the concept of a rescue. As an enthusiast, I could only dream about such a story unfolding over the course of 30 days.

I realized the only way it could become more real would be to write a novel. For guidance, I used the timeline and procedures written by NASA engineers in appendix d.13 of the CAIB report. It wasn’t some wild idea I had. The idea of a rescue and the detailed steps needed to carry it out was NASA’s idea.

Could it have worked? No one knows. But the novel hopefully gives readers a glimpse into what could have been a wonderful time in history.

As far as errors go, I’ve made my share. In response to errors pointed out in the review:

  • Friendship 1, should have read Apollo 1 (too much Star Trek)

  • Didn’t mean to include Gemini as a program that used LC39.

  • Although horizontal payloads are loaded in the OPF and vertical payloads are loaded at the pad, cranes in the OPF were used to hoist the retrieved CRISTA-SPAS from Discovery after STS-85. I agree that satellites are not loaded in the OPF as a rule, but in the novel I was trying to explain to the novice reader the lifting capacity of the OPF cranes.
Hope this helps clarify the purpose of the book.

I welcome any other comments or discussion items on the topic of a Columbia rescue.

dguiteras
New Member

Posts: 7
From: Newbury Park, CA, USA
Registered: Dec 2010

posted 02-01-2011 09:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dguiteras   Click Here to Email dguiteras     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In Memoriam

The Crew of Columbia, STS-107

Rick D. Husband
William C. McCool
Michael P. Anderson
David M. Brown
Kalpana Chawla
Laurel Blair Salton Clark
Ilan Ramon

Columbia Debris Search Team

Jules F. Mier, Jr.
Charles Krenek

The crew members lost that morning were explorers in the finest tradition, and since then, everyone associated with the Board has felt that we were laboring in their legacy. Ours, too, was a journey of discovery: We sought to discover the conditions that produced this tragic outcome and to share those lessons in such a way that this nation's space program will emerge stronger and more sure-footed. If those lessons are truly learned, then Columbia's crew will have made an indelible contribution to the endeavor each one valued so greatly.

(Excerpt from the Columbia Accident Investigation Board’s Opening Statement)

garymilgrom
Member

Posts: 1759
From: Atlanta, GA, USA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 08-29-2011 05:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The author has been good enough to send me an advance copy of the revised edition of this book. I'm pleased to note that all my concerns (voiced above) have been corrected. Also, there is now a Kindle version of this book available very reasonably at $2.99.

Don't forget this is a work of fiction - a novel about an alternate history or outcome for the STS-107 flight. My earlier assessment as a fast-paced page turner still stands and the Kindle price makes the book very attractive.

dguiteras
New Member

Posts: 7
From: Newbury Park, CA, USA
Registered: Dec 2010

posted 02-01-2012 08:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dguiteras   Click Here to Email dguiteras     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hard to believe there is little to no mention of Columbia and the crew of STS 107 in the news today. Well here's to the crew. We haven't forgotten you!

p51
Member

Posts: 1035
From: Olympia, WA, USA
Registered: Sep 2011

posted 05-28-2014 05:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Any opnions from those here who've read this? I am about 100 pages into it and I just feel.... odd.

So strange to read about a parallel universe where the crew names are clearly not the same, talking about real people, then putting all fictional folks into the rest of the other roles.

All times are CT (US)

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