Dec 312008

Columbia Crew Survival Investigation Report (16.2 MB PDF)

Details of the conditions of the astronauts bodies are redacted. This is both to be expected… and wholly appropriate. Those who *need* to know, know. The last thing the familes – and familes of *other* astronauts – need is to see such photos plastered all over by the scumbag media.

Still, a few bits of extreme disturbishment are present. Such as this paragraph describing the conditions of the crews helmets, from page 3-53:

The hold-down cables on each neck ring were severed at the attach points to the cable guide tubes due to
mechanical overload (figure 3.2-24). Most cable guide tubes experienced significant plastic deformation.
The guide tubes display evidence of external contaminants (i.e., melted metal and suit material) and thermal
effects on top of the fractures and localized deformation. This indicates that mechanical loading preceded
exposure to the thermal environment. Rotation of the helmet relative to the normal forward position was
observed on all neck rings varying from 90 to 180 degrees. Major cable guide tube deformation and
helmet rotation indicates that a significant loading event occurred where helmets were removed via
a mechanical (nonthermal) mechanism.

The translation here: something happened *before* the crew were tossed out of the exploding spacecraft into the hypersonic airstream. That something was so bad that it caused helmets to be yanked from 90 to 180 degrees around, and ripped off the space suits.

Draw your own conclusions as to what happened to the crew subjected to forces like that.

One conclusion that can be drawn here is that an escape capsule, no matter how well designed, no matter how automatic, would not ahve done a damned bit of good here. If the forces involved – I’m guessing here, but I’m thinking sudden rotation and decelleration as the Shuttle wing snapped off – are so hard and so fast that they would actually rip helmets from suits, there’s *no* way to survive.

Space is dangerous. This should not be forgotten.

 Posted by at 1:50 am
  • Pat Flannery

    Yeah, just the details that are in the report are enough to give you very disturbing visions of what was going on inside the crew module before it broke up…the molten metal flying around in the cabin and the two melted seats that were on the lower deck over the air scrubber are some other disturbing aspects of the photos.
    The company that built those inertially activated take-up reels for the shoulder straps needs to be looked at (not one functioned properly), as well as why Shuttle maintenance personal didn’t spot the fact that the reels were non-functional, when that could have been checked by simply giving them a fast yank to see if they locked as they were supposed to – like a car safety belt. Also, the wear on the shoulder straps caused by the sharp edges of the take-up reel slots should have been spotted.
    In this case it didn’t make any difference; but in a case where control was lost closer to the ground and at lower speeds, malfunctioning of the shoulder straps could have meant the difference between fatally injured astronauts and ones able to bail out of the side hatch.

  • Joe Farrell

    Actually, if you read it carefully the G forces actually lessened after loss of control – then for 35 the crew compartment started coming apart from the thermal and aerodynamic failures – but not from g forces. They were conscious at for a few seconds after the decompression – and then unconscious -= and THEN the crew compartment was torn apart by aerodynamic forces – or ‘Total Dispersal’ as NASA calls it. That was the point at which crew necks were snapped and the coupe de grace applied to anyone still alive but unconscious.