Columbia Accident Report Released

Article written: 26 Aug , 2003
Updated: 24 Mar , 2012
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Image credit: CAIB

The Columbia Accident Investigation Board released its final report today, which was officially accepted by NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe. The 250-page document contains an overview of the shuttle program in general, as well as STS-107. The report discusses the suspected cause of the Columbia accident – that foam falling from the fuel tank on liftoff smashed a hole in the shuttle’s left wing and allowed hot gas to enter during re-entry – but it also places a lot of emphasis on the weaknesses of NASA’s culture.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Columbia Accident Investigation Board today presented its final report on the causes of the Feb. 1, 2003 Space Shuttle accident to the White House, Congress and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The CAIB report concludes that while NASA’s present Space Shuttle is not inherently unsafe, a number of mechanical fixes are required to make the Shuttle safer in the short term. The report also concludes that NASA’s management system is unsafe to manage the shuttle system beyond the short term and that the agency does not have a strong safety culture.

The Board determined that physical and organizational causes played an equal role in the Columbia accident – that the NASA organizational culture had as much to do with the accident as the foam that struck the Orbiter on ascent. The report also notes other significant factors and observations that may help prevent the next accident.

The Board crafted the report to serve as a framework for a national debate about the future of human space flight, but suggests that it is in the nation’s interest to replace the Shuttle as soon as possible as the primary means for transporting humans to and from Earth orbit.

The Board makes 29 recommendations in the 248-page final report, including 15 return-to-flight recommendations that should be implemented before the Shuttle Program returns to flight.

The report, which consists of 11 chapters grouped into three main sections, was the result of a seven-month-long investigation by the CAIB’s 13 board members, more than 120 investigators, 400 NASA and contractor employees, and more than 25,000 searchers who recovered Columbia’s debris.

Over the next several weeks, the Board expects to publish several additional volumes containing technical documents cited in the report or referenced as part of the investigation, as well as transcripts of the board’s public hearings.

The report can be viewed on our website at: www.caib.us

Please watch the NASA website for information about how to obtain hard copies or CDs of the Report.

Original Source: CAIB News Release


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