...for a Minute or So
The Columbia Accident Investigation Board on Tuesday
told NASA formally what a lot of the fraternity knew already, or at
least strongly suspected: the Columbia astronauts,
protected in their capsule, most-likely lived for a minute or so,
after their final communications with the ground.
The debris examination
of the shuttle pieces, now ongoing in Florida's Kennedy Space
Center, is carried on in two distinct areas: the crew capsule
area... and everything else. Workers won't talk about what they
know... but they know.
MSNBC quotes one anonymous worker as noting, "It's a pretty good
container they have the crew in; that's the last part to come
apart, just like it was in Challenger. It stayed together
for a pretty long time." He continued, speculating that NASA could
have done something, if it had recognized the threat the displaced
foam had brought: "As we sit there thinking about what they were
going through, or what their last thoughts were, it kind of angers
Eileen Hawley, a NASA spokeswoman in Houston, told MSNBC, "I am
unaware of any announcement that NASA plans to make about how long
the crew cabin remained intact."
Sensor readings from instruments in the cabin indicate that
conditions there were survivable until 15 seconds after 9AM; the
last transmission to Earth was interrupted at 8:59:28.
The news report continued, "Data transmission to the ground
continued for 5 more seconds after the [interrupted voice] message,
then ceased for 25 seconds, then resumed for two. In those two
seconds, data received on the ground (but not analyzed for some
days afterward, because it was partly garbled) indicated that the
conditions in the cabin were benign."
The recorder onboard kept working for 19 seconds additional, and