File Size: 882 KB
Print Length: 336 pages
Publisher: Free Press (November 20, 2009)
Publication Date: December 1, 2009
If that makes Columbia an acutely agonizing reminder that not only experts, but whole agencies and their management can be dead wrong, perhaps even NASA can salvage enough to stop such tragedy in the future.
Co-authors Harwood and Cabbage go deeply inside the NASA bureaucracy, to the specific people who made life-and-death selections, based on their values and presumptions at the time. NASA's ambitious program of launching shuttle after shuttle as though with an assembly line created high political expectations and withering demands for success, at almost any price.
The authors find a NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION (NASA) culture a lttle bit too powered for its own good, one where administrators were sorely tempted to combination lines and risk the safety of even our jet pilots.
Recalling the decision of NASA program manager Hermosa Ham to cancel a request to take images of suspected damage to the shuttle's wing, one witness to the dialogue said Ham desired to terminate simply because there was nothing mission control could do, even if the shuttle were seriously ruined. "... you know, even if there was destruction, nothing is we can do about it. "
Within plainest terms, Ham rationalized the yawning chance of damage to the shuttle service as an abstract and totally peripheral issue, because the price of dealing with it as an emergency was simply unacceptable. Rather than make certain all the facts were known for the safety of the astronauts, Ham simply ignored the looming catastrophe, shutting down all further checks of fact and condition, gambling that all would be well. Plainly, Ham also knew that if images showed destruction, she would be pressured into scrubbing Columbia's quest, in order to stage an emergency recovery.
Bill Harwood is a veteran CBS news reporter on NASA and other space ventures, and Michael Cabbage is space publisher for the Orlando Sentinel. Their co-authored book is the most effective on the Columbia disaster., I assume that anyone thinking about safety and commercial culture should read this book. Though it becomes bogged down at times in technical details, the explanation of what happened to Columbia and why it took place is thorough and exciting. The author manages to keep the human details interesting without becoming macabre. Most importantly, it becomes apparent which a tragedy of this magnitude can not and should not be simplified to point fingers at a single individual or team. I came away from this reading with a new appreciation for the challenges of space exploration as well as the realization that all ventures of this magnitude involve risk. A fascinating and thoughtful read., Outstanding and unflinching look at the Columbia accident, its exploration report, and many related issues. Reading about the indecision and infighting that occurred on the ground while Columbia and crew were on orbit and uninformed evoked some pretty strong emotions. An excellent higher level look at how an crash investigation board functions and what adopts the statement., Another great story of how NASA has turned a tragedy into changes for the future!, Nicely done, excellent details. Fantastic read., Great read., I actually read this book in three evenings. The creators -- two of the best lawn mowers of space journalism -- did an outstanding job of retelling the history of the final trip of Columbia. If you followed the news strongly after the disaster you will not find too many new revelations in this book. What you should find is a high level, but gripping narrative similar to going back and re-reading all good news papers from February 1, 2003 forward, but with the advantage of perfect hindsight. The publication is necessarily higher level. Just what do I mean by that? Plenty of detail got to be left away. For example, a book this size could be written on the recovery attempts alone. An e book this size could be written on the foam impact tests alone. On the work of the CAIB alone. And so on. (And those would all be very interesting books -- especially on the healing efforts; do you know how often the volunteers encountered 6 ft long water moccasins? )
Other reviews are right -- there is no NASA-bashing. It is a reasonable and unbiased retelling of the storyplot, as you'd expect from people like Costs Harwood and Mike Diet programs. Its impact lies in having the whole history told all at once. That is a lot to take in. The gravity of the disaster hits the reader pretty hard, especially when reading the theory of precisely how the shuttle disintegrated, stage by stage. The authors were vivid but at no time disrespected the lost crew or their households.
I highly recommend this book. Beneath is the table of contents:
3 "Safe to Fly without having New Concerns"
5 A Shot in the Dark
6 Mixed Signals
9 Echoes of Challenger
12 Re-Entry Revisited
11 Returning to Flight, Being a space fanatic, and being very afflicted by the Columbia catastrophe, this book was precisely what I was looking for.
The writing style is smooth and segues between subjects and people almost seamlessly. It covers the human side and also the technical nature of the issues that arrived together to create the crash that caused the loss of the shuttle and her crew.
By far the most emotional object for me was reading the detailed breakdown of what happened in the last 15 minutes of the mission. Hearing how a shuttle struggled as hard as it could to bring its crew home, and was just simply overcome by the stresses caused by the vulnerable left wing. I have read the complete CAIB statement before and this publication breaks down the last minutes of Columbia in a much more clear and to the point kind of way.
The publication doesn't point blame but often infers blame on a few key managers in Nasa's space program and rightly so.
The shuttle program and background is really interesting to read about and this is a perfect addition to your collection.
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