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Columbia Accident Investigation Board Press Briefing
Thursday, June 12, 2003

1:00 p.m.
National Transportation Safety Board
Conference Center
429 L' Enfant Plaza, SW
Washington, D.C.




MS. LAURA BROWN: Welcome to our first Washington press briefing. I will turn you over to Admiral Hal Gehman.

ADMIRAL HAROLD GEHMAN: Good afternoon. I'll make a few preliminary statements and then ask each of my colleagues to make a short statement about what's going on, and then we'll go around and do questions.

Obviously, the Board is toward the end of its transition from Houston to Washington, D.C. We still have a foot in each camp. We still have a small office down in Houston with some people working down there. We have board members going back and forth, still have board members traveling. But, the focus of our efforts is now up here in Washington, D.C.

We are focusing on writing – drafting I should say. But, that does not mean that investigating has ceased. As a matter of fact, I suspect that by the time we get finished here today, you'll see that my colleagues here have some interesting things to report, and we'll demonstrate very clearly that the investigation goes on.

But, what we're trying to do is we're trying to ramp down investigating and ramp up drafting. The purpose of that, of course, is to meet our goal of having this report done prior to the August congressional recess. I will repeat what I've said before, that that's a goal. We will try to make it. It is my intention to make it, but we would rather get this report right than get it in a hurry, and I know Congress and the White House share that view.

That's all I'm going to say at the front end. And I'm gonna start by calling on my colleagues here, and I'll ask Dr. Ride to lead off.

DR. SALLY RIDE: I'll be very brief because we've got some interesting things coming up. But, our group, Mr. Wallace, General Hess and I are all in Washington, D.C. We're focusing on reading and wrapping up the work that we've been doing on decision making and also into the safety process.

I will say that one of the things that we spent just a little bit of time on recently, as we've been reviewing the MMT – the Mission Management Team – and the process that it used, we will probably be recommending increased training for the Mission Management Team as it prepares for shuttle flights in the future.

And I think, with that, I'll turn it over to –.

ADMIRAL GEHMAN: – All right. Thank you very much.

Dr. Osheroff, are you ready to be next?

DR. DOUGLAS OSHEROFF: Well, I – first, let me say, this is the first one of these things where I've been representing group three, or anyone else I suppose. I suppose it's because I'm naturally modest and quiet.

However, I really wanted – well first, let me say that this is – they're having troubles with my computer –.

ADMIRAL GEHMAN: – That you're not stable.

DR. OSHEROFF: It's a good Mac G4 and I'm sure it'll work eventually. It worked for me. Maybe I'll have to go back and stroke it for awhile. Should we go on and – to someone else and then come back? No?

ADMIRAL GEHMAN: No, they're – no, we shouldn't do that.

DR. OSHEROFF: They're not – I can't do anything.

I am the foamologist!

Yes, it's great, but why is it flickering?

Well, let me – I'll start out – look, it's – there it goes. I'll talk anyway.

I'm actually an experimental physicist, low temperature physicist, in fact. And when Hal Gehman asked me to join this Board, I said well, what can I bring to this because I knew nothing about NASA or the workings of – I have nothing – never done anything that had to do with space before, except I guess, as Department Chairman, I assign space in the Physics Department at Stanford.

However, I became rather rapidly interested in the properties of this foam, which is really fascinating stuff. It's highly anisotropic; that is to say, its mechanical properties depend upon which direction you squeeze it, for instance.

They're still having problems with my computer, aren't they. Why? It's not –.

And so I decided that I would do some – some experiments on the foam. And I'll simply describe the experiments. The idea was to glue a piece of BX-250 – this is the foam which is sprayed onto the bipod ramp, and this is the foam which is believed to be responsible for the breakup of Columbia on re-entry. Glued it to a metal plate with a little tube that came through the plate so that I could apply either a liquid or gas pressure. And the idea was to try to understand, as I increased the pressure, how ultimately this resulted in some sort of a fault that propagated through to the surface.

Now, this is important because, for many years, people at NASA have assumed, in fact, that one of the main mechanisms for foam shedding by the – from the external tank was that liquid cryogens, liquid nitrogen in particular, would somehow condense at the – you know, in a void or something inside the foam near the metal surface, near the external tank, and that as you started getting aeroheating, in fact, this liquid nitrogen would warm up, pressure would build up, and it would throw foam off of the external tank.

And so the question was, in my mind, do I understand the process by which a fault propagates through the foam? And the answer was no – and these guys don't understand my computer either, it looks like.

And so we started doing these experiments and, if we ever got to – we're not getting there at all. But the bottom – I think we're not – I don't know if these guys are help. I think that was the word.

What I found was, that in fact the mechanism by which the liquid expands is not consistent in any way with the ejection of foam from the surface. What it does is it tends to make a two-dimensional, rather flat crack or fault, which propagates up to the surface, and it meets the surface normal to the surface in almost every case. This has to do with the anisotropic properties of the foam.

So, you tend to split the foam this way, but that doesn't throw anything off in this direction. And now people at Marshall Space Flight Center are doing very similar experiments and finding very similar results.

Now, it's interesting that – I'm not going to be able to show you all of the beautiful results we have, but they really are quite nice. There's another side to this question, though, and that is, you know, for STS-107, it was 81 seconds into launch when it – when the foam fell off the bipod ramp. And that's really less than 30 seconds into aeroheating.

Is it possible for the heat to propagate through the foam and actually boil off the liquid nitrogen that might have condensed in that brief period of time? And there is someone named Marshall Joy at the Marshall Space Flight Center that has been doing very careful thermal analyses of the foam, and finds, in fact, that the thermal relaxation times are much too long for that.

So, the conclusion that I've reached, and that independently the people at Marshall Space Flight Center have reached, is that the process by which foam is ejected is undoubtedly a very complex one, involving more than just cryocondensation and ejection. And I dare say, in fact, that the sorts of experiments which I've done – which were actually done in my kitchen at home for about $100 – are the sort of things I think that we need to see more of done. Specifically, experiments to try to understand the physical mechanisms why the foam behaves the way it does.

And the last thing I had to show you, which is really the reason you're not seeing anything, is that there are two – Roger Tetrault was going to give this talk, but he very graciously gave up his spot so that I could make a fool out of myself this afternoon. And he had – he had a very nice set – these are being done at –.

Okay, give me number two. Okay, so this shows the heating. Now my time is all screwed up, but you guys are – you have nothing to do anyway.

So, here we have the bipod ramp, and they have three temperature sensors on here. This is on the outside of the foam. This is next to the super lightweight ablator – SLA, as it's called – and then there's one that's against the aluminum.

And this is after launch, and you can see that, at launch, there's a little tiny bit of heating on the surface, but it's really only about 65 seconds into launch that you start seeing very dramatic heating. And the temperatures here are, of course, in degrees Fahrenheit, and it gets very hot.

But in fact, if you look at the temperatures that are down here, they don't do anything for a long time. This is actually liquid hydrogen temperature and this starts rising because, in fact, the hydrogen level is dropping in the tank. But in fact, you have to go for really quite long periods of time before the SLA, which would suck up the liquid nitrogen if it condensed. In fact, in this experiment, it never got very hot.

Now, I'd seen this a long time ago, probably back in March, and I always thought it was real data, and it looked like it was here. You can see it plateaus out like that. It's not real data at all. This is a simulation. And in fact, these measurements have actually never been made by NASA in the 20 some years of the program.

Can I have the next slide?

Here are some real measurements that were made by Marshall Joy at Marshall Space Flight Center. This is a piece of BX-250 glued to a metal plate, which is sitting at a temperature of 20 Kelvin. That's 20 Celsius degrees above absolute zero. And this is in fact the temperature distribution of the eight sensors that he's imbedded inside this foam. You can see, in fact, only when you get very close to the plate, you actually see the temperature dropping to the point 77 Kelvin, where you can actually condense nitrogen into a liquid. So, if you're going to form liquid nitrogen, it can only be very, very close to the plate. Keep that in mind.

And now let's see the next view graph.

Now he's warmed the temperature. He didn't warm it up to 600 degrees, but he warmed the temperature of the surface from roughly 300 up to 350 degrees. And here, this is the one that's closest to the surface. It shows a very fast response.

But, if you look at the one – the thermal sensors which are very far down – this is launch here, and I don't like his time scale very well – but in fact, you see essentially no heating until you're well over 200 seconds beyond launch. So, again, it does not look like simply having heat propagating through the foam will result in the boiling of any liquid cryogen, which has been condensed down inside there.

Now, that doesn't mean it can't happen. In fact, they're doing much more complex tests at Marshall Space Flight Center. I mean, one has to worry about vibrations, but they're not worrying about vibrations in the tests that are going on right now.

I mean, it's a very, very complicated environment that's going on. You have vibrations from the surface of the foam because of aerovibrations, and you have vibrations coming – particularly because of the solid rocket boost – you know, I guess they're gone by this time, but – it's – there's a lot of vibration.

ADMIRAL GEHMAN: One hundred twenty seconds.

DR. OSHEROFF: One hundred twenty seconds, so it's still there.

If I could have the next view graph.

So, how does the foam fracture under hydrostatic pressure? And my answer as an experimental physicist is to do an experiment. So, if I could have the next slide.

This was actually done by my – I should give a plug to my graduate student, Jim Bumgardner (sp), who was actually working on NSF grant when I asked him to do this. But this took less than an afternoon.

So, he took a piece of foam, glued a metal plate to it, which I've cut off here, and we were very unsophisticated. This is a green food coloring dye in water, and we pressurized it up and it came through the surface as a very narrow slit. And so I said this is fascinating, and then I basically broke this thing in two, and you can see, in fact, the fracture itself was essentially a one dimensional thing. If you cut this in the other direction, you see essentially nothing, and I'll show you that in a minute.

Could I have the next?

So then I got very sophisticated and I got the people in the machine shop to – on a Saturday afternoon – to make a very nice plate for me. The advantage here is in fact that this is a quarter-inch diameter hole, and I could glue on a piece of foam without actually disturbing the foam in any way. Next.

Okay, this is a piece of BX-250, and I put some epoxy on here. In the next slide you'll see that it's glued to that plate. I just wanted to point out, these are called the “knit lines” (sp). When they make the foam, they spray back and forth, waiting 40 seconds nominally between passes. And every time they do that, they get one of these lines. So the growth direction is always perpendicular to the knit lines. Next.

Okay, this is this thing all glued together and it's all ready to go. And then I put it in the kitchen sink. I used a battery operated tire pump to generate the pressure. I don't have pictures of that, but if I could have the next view graph.

Okay, here – here in fact – now I'm – we're much more sophisticated. We are using red ink, actually Mont Blanc ink, if you must. Anyway, so it starts here and it comes up to the top. And so now we're gonna section this thing. Next.

So this is what it looked like on the bottom. I actually cut down a little bit because it was kind of disturbed. Now, if we see the next one, you'll see all the sections. So this is the bottom and then we're starting to come up. You notice it gets larger and then eventually it gets smaller and, in fact, looks very similar to what we saw with the green food coloring dye, except now in fact, you know, we're actually seeing it in a different plane. So if I could have the next one.

Now, here it is again, but I've actually used PhotoShop to increase the contrast. And if you look, you can see in fact that, while the knit lines are parallel in this direction, in fact, they're curved in the other direction. I don't know – this almost looks like it came from a bipod ramp.

So, you notice in fact that it started right in the center of this place – of the plate, but in fact it broke through the surface way over here, and that's entirely consistent with saying that it was propagating in the direction which is perpendicular to the knit lines. That is, parallel to the growth of the foam. And that is entirely understandable in terms of the mechanical properties of the foam. Next, please.

Okay, so – it's interesting, by the way. It takes very little pressure for the foam to fracture, two to three atmospheres. And in fact, the strength of the foam itself is frequently, you know, not much more than this. The foam fractures in the plane and it fractures in the plane normal to the knit lines; thus, the fracture exists normal to its surface as it exits the foam and this alone cannot cause the ejection of foam.

And I think there – this is a very simple experiment. A very elegant answer with a really nice conclusion. And I think that it would be nice to see more of these sorts of things done by – I can imagine every high school student playing with foam. I think we have to send it off to all of the high schools.

Now, let me say that there's a lot of caveats. The pressure that's built up in the foam can operate in conjunction with something else. And for instance, if you get delamination of the foam from the coating which coats the aluminum surface, that in fact would give you perhaps a very large area of pressure, and that could definitely get – if that area, dimension of that area is large compared to the thickness of the foam, it would undoubtedly eject foam. So, in fact, it's more complicated, but again, I think that it's really time for us to develop – to do experiments that allow us to constrain models that we may develop as to how this foam is ejected.

Now I should say, and the last thing, of course, that the bipod ramps will be eliminated in future flights. However, there are other places on the external tank where there are very large pieces of BX-250 foam. And I think that even though the only place where we know that it's ever come off is in fact the left-hand bipod ramp, in fact I think it behooves NASA to understand these processes better. And the reason is, in fact, that as the foam falls off and hits lets say the RCC panels, you have the danger that you will get a hole develop. And if that happens, you'll see what happens in the next view graph. This is the movie, thanks to Roger Tetrault. Could I have the first movie please?

MS. LAURA BROWN: I don't believe we're gonna be able to show them.

DR. OSHEROFF: We don't get to see the movies? That's the best part.

MS. LAURA BROWN: I know it is, but they had technical problems.

DR. OSHEROFF: I've been deep-sixed. I protest.

Well then let me tell you what – these are experiments that are being done by NASA now. They take what's called an arc jet. They use an arc, which is to say, you know, a lot of electricity, to heat up air to a temperature of 8,000 degrees Fahrenheit and they direct that at an aluminum plate that's a tenth of an inch thick. That's much thicker than the spar in the inside of the wing of the orbiter.

It takes less than 20 seconds for a hole to grow from one inch to six inches. It's really very impressive. You cannot imagine the destructive power of the gasses that would flow in through that hole. It's really pretty scary to see, and I'm sorry I can't show it to you.

Thank you.

ADMIRAL GEHMAN: Thank you very much.

Okay, Dr. Logsdon.

DR. JOHN LOGSDON: Well, I'm told that there's about a minute-and-a-half needed to switch from a Mac to a PC, so let me make some general remarks.

A number – oh, there they are. Anyway, I'll make the general remarks anyway.

A number of your papers reported recently on the outline of our report. And it's always dangerous to correct the press, but what you did was take a lot of questions we're asking and turned them into conclusions. We don't have conclusions yet. The reports were accurate enough that that version of the outline identified a whole range of topics that we're looking at, but the outline's very much a living document. It changed yesterday a bit, so –. That's just a caveat that, don't report our conclusions.

There was a column in one local newspaper three weeks ago that complimented us for our conscientious and thorough report. You know, we're just starting to write. We'll find out what we think when we try to write it down.

I though I had a slide before that. Is that really the first one? Let me run – somebody run the slides real quickly because that doesn't look like the right order of things. Try that one first instead of the one in the middle.

Group four – which is not just me; Sally Ride and Scott Hubbard are making contributions. We have board members, and we have a group of consultants working with us – are looking at the broader management budget and organizational issues. I think I've said this at a press conference before. We have a whole long list of factors that we're looking at that have provided the context within which the shuttle program has operated. And as we work our way through these factors, we can begin to report them at these various press briefings.

The one I chose to talk about today was budget because I knew that Marcia Smith was gonna talk about budget, and I think I have a little bit to add to what she had to say. So, if we go to the next one.

I think one of the things to realize is that NASA's priority in the national scheme of things, compared to other places that federal government spends money, has not been very favorable. That, while the defense budget has increased, the discretionary budget has increased, and the non-defense budget has increased even more over the past decade, NASA's budget, if you measure it in purchasing power and constant dollars, for most of the ‘90s actually shrunk, and just got a little bit above where it was at the start of the decade in the most recent fiscal year.

So, the environment in which NASA has operated has been one of virtually no absolute budget growth. And when you correct for inflation, as this does, for most of the time, shrinking budgets. And yet NASA hasn't cut any programs and hasn't closed any field centers. It's been a very, very constrained budget environment.

Most of those decisions, and I'll say it again, are decisions made in the process of formulating the President's budget each year. And so it's interactions between NASA and OMB, and then the policy and political people in the White House. That's a process that none of us have very much visibility into, as compared to the congressional process, which is quite transparent.

And we on the Board have not insisted on getting the information on the NASA/White House interaction, because that's an Executive Privilege area. It's a lot broader issue than just NASA and the shuttle budget. And so we have not been using any OMB pay us back or similar data in our analysis. Let's go to the next slide.

All right, when you've not – don't have much budget growth in real terms, and you want to continue lots of programs and you have one big program called Space Station that keeps growing in cost, where do you cut the budget? And I would argue that the space shuttle budget, which is the largest single item in the NASA budget, as you saw in Marcia's charts this morning, has taken a disproportionate share of the cuts in NASA's budget, allowing NASA to do other things, some initiatives plus fund the station.

So you see the difference in this chart between the growth in the NASA budget overall, and the basically lack of growth in the shuttle budget. The shuttle has been, if you want, the cash cow to finance other parts of the agency. Next slide.

Here are the numbers. You see there are two components to the shuttle budget. One to actually operate the system, and the other to invest in the upgrades. And again, you heard Tom Young say this morning that the upgrades – several people said – Allen Li said the same thing. This ambivalence about how long you're gonna need the shuttle, and therefore how much you invest in keeping it and improving it, I think shows that –.

In the '94, '95. Look at the difference between '94, where there was a fairly significant upgrade budget, and then the next several years, when NASA said well, we're probably gonna replace it with X-33 – with VentureStar – relatively quickly, so let's not invest in it. And then a shift to saying, well, maybe not. Maybe it's gonna fly to 2012 and we better start investing in it. And then in 1999, in terms of the policy decision, in fiscal 2000 in terms of budget, beginning another round of upgrades. Where the operations budget has been pretty constant over this time period, the variation has been really a willingness to invest in the system's future. Let's go to the next one.

And this is a NASA chart, which again shows you the shuttle budget over the past decade and projected for the future. The big cuts came before EDSPA (sp). They came from, first of all, taking advanced solid rocket motor out. But then the contractor work force went down from 21,000 to 17,500 between fiscal '91 and fiscal '94.

So that – the budget has been more or less level, certainly not growing very much, and is not projected to grow in the future. Just to give you a sense of the financial context within which the program is operating.

And I think that's the last slide, right? Yep.

ADMIRAL GEHMAN: All right.

General Barry?

MAJOR GENERAL JOHN BARRY: Well, good afternoon. I'm not gonna take anything for granted. Can you hear me now?

By the way, Group One's been busy working. General Deal and Admiral Turcotte – if you haven't seen three flag officers trying to learn all the ins and outs of word processing, you haven't experienced comic relief.

We have a couple of closed fault trees I want to announce for the group. External Tank has been closed, and we have some unresolved questions still in the works, so we still have some more work to do. And we closed out the SRB with the exception of the bolt catcher, and I'll have a little bit more to report on that here in just a minute.

The other thing I'd like to tell you is that the overall fault trees will be called the Columbia Accident Fault Tree with – we have 17 – out of 234 blocks, we have 17 potentially permanent open items and 2 potentially contributing factors. Be glad to expand on that if you want.

Now, we've had some outstanding people burning some midnight oil, literally. I want to recognize Captain Steve Clark (sp), who's part of our team, who's been working exceptionally hard.

So, with that brief introduction, let me go into the main portion of what I want to cover. I've got two management and two material issues. I'll get to the slides here in just a minute.

The first management issue is a little bit of what was discussed this morning with our panels on contracts. The Board is looking into, and is still curious about understanding the contractual implications of what NASA's got. NASA, as you know, relies on financial incentives to motivate its major contractors. Contract fees became a major focus of the program management.

So, the CAIB is trying to finalize its position right now, and we're considering the following. We haven't arrived at any conclusions.

This issue about whether it's an operational vehicle, a high risk development undertaking, we heard Tom Young this morning say it was a one strike and you're out kind of operation. We're looking at tying contract fees to performance measures and subjective assessments. It seems to implicate in some cases a distraction from technical expertise.

And we're looking at possibly recommending a benchmarking by the Navy Nuclear Propulsion System and Aerospace. We don't want to throw out the baby with the bath water on these issues, so we're trying to make some very stark distinctions so we can make the merits lie where they may.

The second management issue I want to talk about is integration. Again, we haven't formed any firm conclusions on this, but we're examining recommendations on how to break down the stovepipes, or tribes that is used in NASA to, you know, really outline the integration problems on the various shuttle elements and projects.

You may know there's a Space Shuttle Systems Integration Office at Johnson. However, it doesn't integrate the entire space transportation system. So the CAIB is finalizing its position on integration, and we're trying to examine a couple of things on how we might propose recommendations on how to reorganize this integration focus for all the elements of the shuttle, not just the orbiter and not just the other elements, like the SRB, RSRB and the SSME. So the different parts of it.

And we're trying to look at trying to allow the space shuttle system to look at strategic planning and program development and not just operations. In other words, integrate the whole context of the system.

Now – and a lot of initiatives have been done by the Administrator, of course, as one NASA approach. We want to enhance that with some viable hopefully good recommendations when we get finished on integration for the space shuttle program. And not just do it on paper, and we need better technical integration.

So, with those two management issues, let me look to two material issues. One is the SRB bolt catcher. By the way, this is Group One's kitchen. This is where we operate.

This one is possible debris. Now, this is one of the things that was brought up to our attention when we were trying to close out the fault tree on the SRB.

I want to make a point. We are not changing our working scenario. However, we need to close this out and we need to make sure that we understand it, if not for STS-107, certainly for any future. So we are listening. It is not just NASA that needs to listen.

So, we've done a couple of static tests, and I'll tell you that the reason this was brought to our attention, at the 122nd – 126th second, there was a radar event that was picked up on SRB separation. We don't know if it was directly related to the bolt catcher, but I will talk about that in just a second.

This is where it's located right now. It's the –.

ADMIRAL GEHMAN: – That's the tie down. That's the wrong slide.

MAJOR GENERAL BARRY: Can you skip three slides, please? Not having a good day here. Next one. Next.

Okay, here's where the bolt catcher's located and – next slide. This is what it looks like up close. When the SRB separated at that 122nd point, the top part of that bolt goes into the external tank catcher and the bottom goes into the SRB catcher. Next slide.

This is where it separates, right there. We have explosive pressure cartridges that kind of push in, and then it separates right there at the midpoint. Next slide.

This is what it looks like when it is separated. It's a pretty heavy piece of machinery. Now –.

ADMIRAL GEHMAN: – Why don't you go back and – can you go back two slides so –. Can you go back one more. You should talk about what returns and what doesn't return.

MAJOR GENERAL BARRY: Well, this is what returns – next forward please.

ADMIRAL GEHMAN: Forward.

MAJOR GENERAL BARRY: This is what returns with the SRB, so we had recovered the bottom part of the bolt catcher for STS-107. This one we don't recover because it's retained with the external tank.

Now, I'm gonna talk about a couple of things here.

The problem we found then, when we were closing out this item was the original certification that was accomplished was done without the real flight hardware in 1979. The other thing we found out is this bolt that was used in STS-107 was done with a new vendor, and the NDE, the Non-Destructive Evaluation, wasn't done as well as it should have been.

And then we found out, after we were trying to close this out, they did some bolt static tests that resulted in this dome fracturing right there at a lower pressure than was anticipated. In fact, it was below a 1.4 safety margin. So this dome is made of aluminum, and covered with ablative. And if that comes loose, with or without that half of the bolt in it, it still can cause some serious risk to the orbiter.

So this is a possible return to flight issue that we are examining. And again, the issue, as we talked about before, is we want to make sure we have the technical experience and expertise to go through this.

So, that's one. Can I go to slide number one, please.

This one has to do with the hold down post cable. This is a failure of the orbiter system cabling to hold down the post-pyrotechnics. What that really means is, this flows – there are four bolts on each solid rocket booster that blow just at T+3 on launch, and that's what allows the orbiter to launch out.

ADMIRAL GEHMAN: We're talking about the four bolts that hold the entire stack. These are the four bolts on each SRB that mount the SRB to the pad. And then they are, of course, explosively released at T+3.

MAJOR GENERAL BARRY: Exactly right. Now, we got this actually from public input that came in, and we started looking into it. Again, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board is listening. And this also proved to be an integration problem because, when we kept asking questions, we'd find, well, it's an orbiter issue; no, it's an SRB issue; no, it's an orbiter issue; and we went back and forth. So again, it brought home what I've already mentioned as one of the management issues that we want to talk about.

Well, during STS-112, there was a failure – and this is 112 now, STS-112 – there was a failure of one of the two signals to initiate the detonation of the hold down post, and only one of the two initiators fired on the eight bolts. You have two systems, both of them are supposed to go at the same time. They both fire at a bolt on each one of the four sections of each one of the solid rocket boosters, and that separates it and allows it to launch.

Our concern was that one of those systems failed to fire and the redundant capability allowed the bolt to blow apart. So they have a redundant capability, but only one worked.

ADMIRAL GEHMAN: It only requires one.

MAJOR GENERAL BARRY: Right.

ADMIRAL GEHMAN: One's – it's redundant.

MAJOR GENERAL BARRY: Now, we're finalizing – the position on this is it's something like, you know, if we could see what NASA could do on a redesign to make sure that we improve the redundancy. In a nuclear world, we have a lot of cross-straps. So, if one signal goes to one initiator and a bolt, it also goes to the other, so there's a lot of redundancy elements here.

So, we're concerned about that. We don't have this as a direct tie to the mishap for 107; however, it is something that we're looking at and trying to listen to, and trying to figure out what could possibly be a cause for a next challenge that we have to work.

That concludes my remarks.

ADMIRAL GEHMAN: Thank you very much.

In the case of the bolt catcher fault – the fault tree, that element that included closing out the bolt catcher, as John was careful to say, what we have here is a possibility that we have found another source of debris. We don't have any evidence that it was a source of debris, except that the radar tracking of the Columbia indicated at the time of SRB separation, 126 seconds, at a time when there's not supposed to be any debris, it noted a piece of debris. So, we don't know what that was.

And as we tried to – as we tried – NASA was doing this. As NASA tried to close out the fault tree, we at NASA pushed a little bit on a little additional testing, and we found that the bolt catcher is not as robust as we and they thought it was. So, more to follow.

All right.

MS. LAURA BROWN: Okay. Now, let me just set a couple of ground rules here. We're – we may go a little bit beyond 2:00 so we can get some questions in here. But each of you has one question, and that doesn't mean you get to ask multiple questions when it's your turn.

ADMIRAL GEHMAN: We'll take the first part of a multiple question.

MS. LAURA BROWN: So, you get to ask one question. So, we'll start at that end. Matt, do you have a question?

MR. MATTHEW WALD: Matt Wald, New York Times. I'd like to ask the status of your deliberations on specificity, whether you are having trouble deciding, how firm, how specific to be about your conclusions?

ADMIRAL GEHMAN: No, we are not having trouble with that. What we're doing right now is, we have each of the writers – as you are aware, in this particular investigation, the Board members are the investigators. We're doing the work. And right now, each section of the report has been assigned to a group or a person, or one of that person's helpers, and they are now submitting their drafts of each section. And what we're finding is, is that, when we ask for a three page discussion of a certain thing, we're getting a 30 page discussion. And so we are now in the process of necking (?) – of getting it down a little bit.

When we get – when we get these inputs whittled down to something that's gonna go in the report, we will then have some arm wrestling over the specificity and the words that we use. So, we're probably two weeks away from that stage.

MS. LAURA BROWN: Okay. Bill?

MR. BILL HARWOOD: Bill Harwood, CBS. Painfully restricting myself to one single question.

For Dr. Osheroff, I want to make sure I'm not misunderstanding. You're saying the cryopumping alone, by itself, doesn't look like that could lead to foam ejection. Can you expand – (A) is that right, but can you expand a little bit? I'm sorry, but can you expand a little bit on what could cause foam shedding? I'm afraid – I just want to try to understand (inaudible).

DR. OSHEROFF: Well, the assumption is that it's probably a combination of faults. The easiest one would be to say that you have a separation between either the foam and the coating of the aluminum surface or, in the case of the bipod ramp, maybe between the foam and the super lightweight ablator. And then you have to have, in addition, a hole coming from the surface so that liquid nitrogen could condense in there. And then you need, in addition to that, some source of heat, which doesn't travel, propagate through the foam direction, but say due to vibrations or something like that.

I must say that most of the alternatives are complicated combinations of several features. I certainly – I think if you look – we've seen the left-hand bipod ramp shedding several times, and we've never seen it shedding on the right bipod ramp. The big difference between those two is the one on the right is right next to the liquid oxygen line, and feels much less aerovibrations, and that's probably a good hint as to what it's about.

MS. LAURA BROWN: Okay. Mike?

MR. MICHAEL CABBAGE: Mike Cabbage with the Orlando Sentinel for General Barry or Admiral Gehman.

Wanted to ask a question about the bolt catcher. You mentioned that there was a new vendor involved with part of that assembly. Have you seen any reason to suspect there was any manufacturing defects or issues there? Bad welds, anything like that?

MAJOR GENERAL BARRY: No, no indications on that. The only thing that wasn't done properly was the non-destructive evaluation prior to putting that on. So that was our concern. It was more of a procedural element than a manufacturing concern.

MS. LAURA BROWN: Okay. Todd?

MR. TODD HALVORSON: Todd Halvorson of Florida Today for Dr. Ride.

You mentioned a potential recommendation in the previous training of Mission Management Team members, and I'm wondering if you could elaborate on that. What led you to – down that road, and what other potential MMT issues might you all be dealing with?

DR. RIDE: Sure. Our group, as you know, was looking rather broadly into the training of the crew, training of the mission controllers, training of the launch controllers, leading up to 107. And we concluded a pretty comprehensive review of all those training requirements.

We were also the group that was looking into the MMT and the processes that they followed. And through the course of that, we – it occurred to us to ask whether there is training associated with the members of the MMT. The answer to that is, yes, there is. There are simulations that the MMT members go through, but they go through them very rarely. They're – they have all been held at KFC and they've all been related to pre-launch decision-making or launch abort decision-making.

So, I may have the numbers a little bit wrong, but I think there have been three MMT training sessions in about the last four years. So, that gives you a rough idea of the frequency.

NASA does such a good job of training the crew to prepare for a mission, and training the Mission Control team to fly a mission, and training the crew and the controllers to work together to solve any problems, that it seems to us to be an oversight that the Mission Management Team was not being brought into that world of simulation to practice for making the decisions that need to be made during – during a mission.

And that's – that's the foundation for the recommendation that we're – we're considering right now. We think it would make an awful lot of sense during the integrated simulations, as an example, that NASA does anyway frequently before every flight, to bring in the Mission Management Team to be part of that decision-making during the – during the integrated sim.

MS. LAURA BROWN: Gina?

MS. GINA TREADGOLD: Gina Treadgold, ABC News.

For Admiral Gehman, I guess I'm looking to put the SRB bolts into a little bit better context. I'm looking for a little more detail, sir, before I lead with “It could have been the bolt.”

ADMIRAL HAL GEHMAN: I'm sorry, Gina, you'll have to ask that question again.

MS. TREADGOLD: Would you put the SRB bolt into a little better context (inaudible)?

ADMIRAL GEHMAN: Yeah. The – as you work your way through the fault trees, of which John indicated the numbers are gargantuan. He mentioned, you know, for example in the one fault tree – the integrated fault tree, there were 235 blocks that have to be closed out. But in things – in some of the other fault trees, there are up over a 1,000 blocks that have to be closed out.

As you work your way through those things, you try and prove that that element did not cause this accident. And in the case of the bolt catcher, and the SRB separation bolts, we now – we have – and since this thing at separation has explosive charges in it and explosively separates the SRBs from the ET, the question is, does it create a debris which might fall back on the wing? Well, it turns out that there are debris catchers called bolt catchers to make sure that no debris gets ejected into the air stream.

So, what we need to do is, we need to prove that that system worked. We don't need to prove – you see, you've got to remember now, we're the reverse of – you've got to prove it's safe. You don't have to prove it's bad. You have to prove it's safe.

Okay now, in order to prove it's safe, you have to take and test it. So we did, and we tested the explosive force by which the bolts come off. Then we tested the power that the catcher can absorb, and I don't know what kind of safety margin you would like to have. If the explosive bolts come off with the power of a 1,000 foot pounds or something like that, then maybe you'd like to have your bolt catcher have maybe one and half times that capability. Well, we found them to be about equal. Is that about – in testing, we found them to be – the margin is about zero.

MAJOR GENERAL BARRY: We had 68,000 inch pounds was expected before it failed, and it actually failed around 56. All right? So the top of that dome actually fractured in the static tests that we did on the ground.

ADMIRAL GEHMAN: Well, that – yeah, so the second part was, after we did this calculation and we found there's no margin, we actually did some actual static tests. We actually took some domes and pressurized them and, as John says, measured where they failed – measured the pressure at which they failed, a couple of them. In a limited number of tests, found that there is no margin there.

Then we noted where they failed. In other words, where on the dome did they fail, and they essentially all failed in the same place, at the weld. In other words, the welds where the dome is welded onto the flange. And, if it's a weld, almost all welds are QAed. So, we go back to the QA records. QA records have us scratching our heads.

Do you want to say anything about QA records?

MAJOR GENERAL BARRY: No, it's just that that's part of the process. And the engineers were surprised by the failure of the dome on the catcher at the pressure that was given.

So, it brings us back to the issue of what was even brought up this morning, is that, we've got to get into a little bit better mode of – we test the solid rocket motors. We test the main engines. We've got to start testing the components that are a part of the shuttle and not just the big ones. And this is an example of one, and it's another one where, you know, we're trying to listen to see where is the next problem that we need to work on, that we can maybe help NASA.

ADMIRAL GEHMAN: Then, we have something of which we're scratching our heads about. We're just at the front end of this and we're not ready to make any statements whatsoever about whether or not how this affects the process. But, the question then is, we have a potential piece of debris here now.

MAJOR GENERAL BARRY: Or future.

ADMIRAL GEHMAN: Oh yeah, or in a future flight you know. But in this particular case STS-107, it's potential you've got a piece of debris. So then, we go back to the radar records of the launch, and I remember at SRB separation the vehicle's way down range, but the range tracking radars are still tracking this thing for range safety purposes. And they can see some things, but it's not like – it's not like the cameras or something like that.

And lo and behold, at 126 seconds after launch at the time of SRB separation, a – something is scene on the radar, which indicates that there is a piece of debris ejected from the separation. It could be the bolt catcher. We don't – we can't prove that.

But now – but in an effort to positively close out the fault tree, you can see – and you multiply this time a 1,000, you can see why this investigation has taken five months. So, here's one we can't close out, and we just – you know, we tell you everything we know. So, right now, we're about 60 percent into this story.

MS. LAURA BROWN: Okay, Tracy?

MS. TRACI WATSON: Traci Watson, USA Today, for General Barry. You mentioned that you either would, or will, recommend benchmarking like as is done in the Navy, and I was wondering if you could go into detail, please?

MAJOR GENERAL BARRY: Yeah, and the other one was at Aerospace Corporation we discussed this morning. What we have is examples of opportunities where we need to encourage any aspect of the federal government, but NASA included, to go out there and benchmark where we think things are working well. And the contracts that are written by the Air Force with Aerospace, as the Admiral talked about and was discussed earlier this morning, as well as what the Navy – Nuclear Navy is doing, can give some insights on, you know, how to develop contracts in a test environment.

Now, how to develop contracts in an environment where you're launching expendable launch vehicles like the Air Force does. How to develop contracts in a very risky high reliability organization like the Nuclear Navy. So, what lessons can be learned from that? We think there's potential for NASA to gain some insights.

ADMIRAL GEHMAN: And NASA, by the way, the Administrator had already started a benchmarking program with the – with the Navy Nuclear reactors. That was already ongoing.

MAJOR GENERAL BARRY: That's right.

MS. LAURA BROWN: Okay, next?

MR. PAUL RECER: Paul Recer of the AP. Given what you know about this bolt escaping from the bolt catcher and traveling in a certain direction at a certain velocity, would it theoretically be capable of delivering enough force to the orbiter to cause a catastrophe?

MAJOR GENERAL BARRY: The answer quickly is yes. I mean, you talk about these bolts, you know, you could see the size of it. They're massive, as well as just the ablator – if the ablator material and the aluminum on the top of the dome came off, you know, this has got more substance and density than alum – than foam does. So yes, it is a potential.

The question is, you know, do we have any indications of it hitting the wing? And there's no indication in either the OEX data that we know about, or any of the telemetry that something hit the wing passed 120 seconds.

So, what we're trying to couch here, is that it's very important that we understand all potential debris. And as the Admiral mentioned, in closing out the fault trees, what we're trying to do here – we're not changing our working scenario. It's still pretty evident that foam came off and hit the wing, and whether that exactly caused – we'll make the final determination on the mishap. But we also have to take into consideration any other future debris elements that could be potentially catastrophic to the orbiter.

So, that's where we're trying to raise this as an issue. We're listening. We're trying to figure out – we have a responsibility, too, to provide NASA with indications of what we think that the next mishap could be, you know, where they need to pay attention. And this particular item has potential to be catastrophic.

MS. LAURA BROWN: Okay, Kathleen?

ADMIRAL GEHMAN: I think it's worth saying that half of the bolt weighs 40 pounds.

MAJOR GENERAL BARRY: And the foam – the foam weighed 1.6 pounds, so that gives you a clue.

MS. KATHLEEN COKE: That was the direction my question was going. Kathleen Coke with CNN. I was trying to get a handle on the exact dimensions and size, weight of half of the bolt. And were there any anomalies in the half that was found with the SRB?

And again, in relation to this – I think you did say this earlier – the 126 seconds, that's the point of SRB separation. At this radar event, you said you didn't detect it hitting the wing. Was there any proof of it hitting the orbiter anywhere at all?

MAJOR GENERAL BARRY: No indication of that. A couple of questions there. It is 40 pounds half weight, you know, the size of it. You can see how large it was just standing by that man who was trying to install it. So, a long story short is, you know, this thing can cause some serious impact damage if, in fact, it was – no indication that this hit the orbiter that we're aware of. Now, we've got to close this out as a potential issue for the fault tree the best we can.

MS. LAURA BROWN: Okay. Eric, Kathy, you guys get one question.

MR. EARL LANE: It's Earl – Earl Lane with Newsday. Is there any historical record of similar radar hits around 126 seconds?

MAJOR GENERAL BARRY: Right now, we do have more than one radar hit on STS-107 at about the 130 to 230 second launch thing, but this is not uncommon. You know, this is things that will be – maybe there's foam coming off, or there are pieces of ice coming off. So, it is not unusual to see radar hits on things coming off. The one that got our attention was, it was right around 120 seconds when the SRB bolt.

And then, when we started looking into this issue about the solid rocket bolt catcher, then we started raising some questions. And then, as you can see, we went to testing and then we found the – you know, we had some concerns about the manufacturing element of the dome and why it wasn't tested correctly, and wasn't tested with its actual flight hardware. So, it's raised a lot of questions. I keep digging down, but it's an example of how you need to go to a very thorough aspect of nailing something shut before you get off it.

DR. OSHEROFF: I have question for John?

MAJOR GENERAL BARRY: Do you get a question?

DR. OSHEROFF: I get a question. I haven't used my question yet. And that is, can you actually see foam on radar?

MAJOR GENERAL BARRY: You don't know what it is. You don't know what it is and you know and that's a –.

DR. OSHEROFF: – I – I – what I'm saying, is it at such a low density it's not going to absorb or scatter much radar?

MAJOR GENERAL BARRY: No – ice, foam, a number of different hits, so –. You can't tell that it's foam.

MS. LAURA BROWN: Okay. Kathy, sorry about the confusion.

MS. KATHY SAWYER: No problem. Kathy Sawyer, the Washington Post. For General Barry, but also anybody else who wants to jump in? You've had several instances today mentioned of NASA having data that did not come from actual experiments, but was from some other kind of force. And can you elaborate on why that is? Is it cost? Is it mindset? Is it something else?

MAJOR GENERAL BARRY: I alluded to the fact that we were – this hold down post cable (?) issue was actually brought to our attention by a public input, all right. We've announced that from the very beginning, you know, 800 numbers and e-mail, and this one came in. And you know, we looked at it for a while, as we looked at all of them, and then we started asking some serious questions, and that's what brought us to the issue of trying to figure out, is this a potential catastrophic element that could cause a Challenger or a Columbia mishap?

So, this is a very valuable resource. We've got a lot of our information from the public, and we compliment all of the inputs that have been going, and we have thoroughly looked into all of them. So, this one was helpful and allowed us – nothing to do with 107, but it could fall in the category of findings of other significance.

MS. SAWYER: I was alluding more of NASA's tendency to not do experiments, but instead to get their data from – I think you said it was a simulation or something – some other source than an actual experiment – a direct experiment.

ADMIRAL GEHMAN: Well, we have seen – you're right, Kathy. We alluded to that several times today. Doug just alluded it, for example, that someone brought him a temperature time chart, which he kept on his desk for two weeks, and then we were several weeks into this when someone – we finally discovered that this wasn't data. This was just an analysis and – and a – we continued to discover that over and over again. And I don't know that I have any kind of conclusions about it.

You have heard – when you hear people, like our panel this morning, say you know that you've got to test like you're going to fly, and you've got a – you've got a test everything, and you've got to be inquisitive, and you've got to be a – you've got to be a healthy skeptic. That's – that's kind of the attitude that we're referring to, and those are little tiny specific examples. And so, I don't know that I would make any big statements about that, but Sally, do you want to comment on that?

DR. RIDE: Yeah, I'd just – I'd just make a comment that it's – I think it's important to appreciate that a lot of the systems that we're dealing with are very, very complicated systems, and they're not necessarily well understood even at the time they're designed. And that makes it all the more important to do tests to make sure that you do understand, you know, just physically how these things are working. Are they working the way that you intended them to work that you thought they would work when you – when you first designed them? And you know, that's the value of testing, and you just – you shouldn't shortchange that. I think we heard Tom Young describing that earlier this morning.

DR. LOGSDON: And let me add just another dimension to it. The reason we're looking at these top level budget figures is to work down, and we haven't done this yet, did the program have enough money to be able to do what it should do in things like testing and things like investment in crumbling infrastructure? We have to make that link if we're going to have any causal relationship between budget decisions and the effective conduct of the program.

ADMIRAL GEHMAN: And we also – we also would like to consider from a management point of view whether or not this kind of testing should even be in the program. Because if it's in the program, it competes with operational requirements and safety requirements and things like that. And therefore, testing for testing's sake, or testing as Doug would say, testing to understand things will always compete with real world realities, and will almost always lose.

So, I would suggest that perhaps that the cost of doing human space flight, or the cost of exploring – part of the cost of exploration and part of the cost of human space flight, or part of the cost of being a center of excellence, is some overhead costs that you just have to kind of do that kind of research. You just have to bear that kind of price.

Now, by the way, don't consider this to be an indictment of NASA. There are three partners who decide how much money you get and how much money you get for it. And there's – there are three players here besides NASA – I mean, there are two other players besides NASA. Dr. Osheroff?

DR. OSHEROFF: I just wanted to say that you're exactly right, that if you do a simulation and you haven't gotten the physics right, or you haven't gotten all of the inputs into your model – for instance, I very much doubt that they considered frictional heating that might result from the stresses that the orbiter transmitted to the bipod structure after launch. I mean I very much doubt that was in there, but those are the sorts of things that I think, you know, you engineers do – do these simulations all the time and it's extremely important for them to do that, but you can't – shouldn't get confused with what you've got.

MS. LAURA BROWN: Okay. Houston Chronicle, one question.

MR. MARK CARREAU: Mark Carreau from the Houston Chronicle, and mine's for General Barry. Could you, on the bolt catcher issue, could you discuss what the normal quality analysis process is for that component, and why did they change vendors?

MAJOR GENERAL BARRY: It's not unusual to compete different vendors. Let me answer that second question, so you know, that's the normal process on how we do things. The quality element is just one more issue that we're spending a lot of time on in trying to make sure that we've examined the process and the people and the qualifications of the folks doing it. But really, this came down to an issue of not following through exactly on all of the levels of testing, all of the NB, all of the possible subcomponent testing that could be done that would allow you to arrive at a position where you could say this is definitely a quality product and we're ready to fly with it.

MS. LAURA BROWN: Bill? Excuse me, the second row. Oh well, yeah, go ahead.

UNKNOWN MALE: (Inaudible).

ADMIRAL GEHMAN: The question was, if you couldn't hear it, the comment on the foam impact testing at Southwest Research and how it contributes to our body of – our body of knowledge. As I have indicated before, it's very important to fill in some gaps in our – in what is known about the impact and the strength and resiliency of various components, acreage tile (?), but most important is the leading edge system for which there was precious little or no strength-at-impact data available whatsoever. So, we are, essentially, learning as we go along.

What we have determined so far, of course, is that foam of the size that we saw in this incident, traveling at the speed that we saw in this incident, can indeed damage the RCC, which has always been considered to be too tough to be – to be damaged.

So, we're – we're essentially filling in blanks in our knowledge. Now, after we leave here, I'm going to have my foam experts stay behind and bring it to your knees on how much you want to know about foam.

MS. LAURA BROWN: Okay, right there in the second row.

MR. KEITH COWING: Keith Cowing, NASAWatch.com, a question for Dr. Logsdon. There's a lot of discussion about NASA's budget and how it was formulated. And I believe at least twice today you've said that you have not had access to OMB/White House interactions with NASA. I was wondering how you could possibly formulate a complete picture of NASA's budget, if you don't have access. Specifically, have you asked NASA, or the White House, for access to OMB pass back information under Dan Goldin's administration and Sean O'Keefe's?

DR. LOGSDON: Have we asked NASA? Yes. And then we entered into a discussion of the broader issue of Executive Privilege, which is something that cuts across all federal agencies for all time and is a well-established principle, that the interactions between agencies and the White House during the budget process are protected by Executive Privilege, and we are respecting that.

MS. LAURA BROWN: Ricardo?

MR. RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR: Yeah, for General Barry, back to the bolt catcher for a second. My name is Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar with the L.A. Times. And so, what you're saying is, that you found another problem that could be potentially catastrophic. But you also seem to be saying that you think it's more of a concern for future flights. Are you going to be able to rule it out as a cause of the Columbia disaster?

MAJOR GENERAL BARRY: In the fault tree that we've gone through, and NASA is very specifically and – I mean down to the umpteenth diligent levels – there are going to be elements that are not going to be able to be closed, okay. And this may be one of those. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, of the top fault tree, there are right now, today, 17 potentially permanent open items. And they fall in the category of RCC failure at impact, RCC failure to do loss of an RCC panel, substrate failure due to a mission cycle, substrate failure due to the ground cycles, as examples.

And then there are two potentially contributing factors that fall in the category of manufacturing material defect and panel improper installation. Some of these still may be closed out. They are in the process of working that. In fact, the Admiral's communicated that the close-out of the fault tree to the max extent possible is a return flight issue. Now, if you want to comment on that?

ADMIRAL GEHMAN: No, we have made – some of – some of the thousands and thousands of elements in the fault tree will not be closed out before the Board finishes its work. And the work will go on after we're – after we're done, and we – we are going to advise NASA that finishing that work is an RTF requirement. Now, some of the elements cannot be – they physically can't be closed out. I mean some of these things, you have to get the shuttle back in order to determine whether or not, you know, you could close it out, whether or not it contributed, but the number is very, very small.

MS. LAURA BROWN: Okay. Question?

MR. DAVID KESTENBAUM: David Kestenbaum, with National Public Radio. Dr. Osheroff, you talked about a sort of blowtorch test. Could you talk about it in a little more detail on what conclusions you might draw from it?

DR. OSHEROFF: Right. I think these started – these were at JSC, I believe. These started with an effort to understand how long it would take for the hot gases flowing into the left wing of the orbiter to slice through these large copper cables that carried the signals from all of the sensors. And they tried using an acetylene torch, and it was a very slow process.

And so, then they got this arc jet, which really super heated air; 8,000 degrees. So hot, that in fact the oxygen molecules are split into individual atoms. That makes them much more highly reactive, and that's – that's what they were dealing with, and it was just very impressive to see how quickly that kind of an atmosphere simulating as best they could the conditions on re-entry would slice through aluminum, in particular, was just absolutely amazing.

MR. KESTENBAUM: (Inaudible).

DR. OSHEROFF: Well, they started with hole of one inch, and oh – oh – you're talking about the crack – the hole in the RCC. They're the size of the – the orifice that they had – that the gas had to pass through the aluminum and then hit the copper was it started at one inch and went up to six inches in diameter. Those are certainly of this – I mean one inch is much smaller than what we believe would have been necessary in order to have brought down the orbiter, but six inches is probably pretty comparable to most of the things, the cross-sectional areas is about right.

ADMIRAL GEHMAN: I have a question of Dr. Osheroff.

MS. LAURA BROWN: Okay. Right there.

MS. DEBORAH ZABARENKO: I'm Deborah Zabarenko. I work for Reuters. I don't want to put too fine a point on – and I know others have asked this question. I just want to be clear that we're not thrown off the scent. This bolt issue doesn't seem to be detracting from the main theory that you've had almost from the beginning. And that is, that it's falling foam that's caused the problem. This is an interesting issue that may never be resolved, but it's still all about foam, right?

MAJOR GENERAL BARRY: The opening point when we brought this up is, this has not changed our working scenario. Our working scenario still is foam coming off of the bipod hitting the left wing, all indications there. We have no – the only thing we've got that started us on this track was, we saw a radar hit at 126 seconds. We started asking questions about bolt catchers. Then, we started finding problems with process and issues of testing, and that's lead us to another issue that we want to listen. We want to make sure that we drill it down to its finest level, and we can take it off on the fault tree as best we can.

DR. OSHEROFF: If I may comment on that? It's very – what we've done with the foam in addition to actually seeing it, they've modeled the path aeronautically that the foam should have traveled, and they've isolated the RCC panels that it's very likely to have hit. We haven't done anything like that yet with either the bolt, or the bolt catcher, or the ablator, and I dare say that those things are actually off to the side. But I would guess that given the explosive charge, there will always be much more uncertainty in that, because it will come off of there with a very substantial velocity to begin with.

MS. LAURA BROWN: Okay, more questions over here? Okay, Frank?

MR. FRANK MORRING: Frank Morring with Aviation Week for Dr. Osheroff.

Have you determined where the duct tape that was found in the foam came from and any impact it might have on this pumping mechanism you were describing?

DR. OSHEROFF: Well, I think that – I believe the tape was a pretty small piece, and so, I think it's unlikely – if it was – again, if it became comparable to the thickness of the foam or something like that, then I think it would have been a real problem. I mean I've watched those guys doing mock bipod ramps. I don't understand where the tape would have come from, frankly. But I don't regard it as anymore of a problem than the voids that they found in it.

MAJOR GENERAL BARRY: That was a quality issue that we found in ET-120. Now, ET-120 was cut into first as a test article. That's when we started filing these voids, and lo and behold we found a piece of tape. So, that's a quality assurance issue that we were concerned about. We didn't find anymore tape in any of the other ones we cut into.

DR. OSHEROFF: There's another interesting issue, and that is that if you actually – when I was in the chute I looked at – they'd done a bunch of sectioning and there was, in fact, one of these knit lines, which essentially, you know, kind of come apart in a very strange manner. And that would give you a rather large area. That actually, I mean, that's something that I'm much more concerned about.

MS. LAURA BROWN: I'm going to take a couple of quick questions from the phone bridge, and then we need to move on to the next briefing, so we can continue to enthrall you. Peter, are you there on the phone bridge? Okay, Irene?

MR. RALPH VARTABEDIAN: I'm here.

MS. IRENE BROWN: Yes, I'm here, too.

MS. LAURA BROWN: Okay, Peter.

MR. VARTABEDIAN: This is Ralph Vartabedian –.

MS. LAURA BROWN: Okay, Ralph, you don't get a question, because Ricardo asked your question. But, Irene?

MS. IRENE BROWN: Yes, thank you. This is Irene Brown with the Discovery Channel. I just wanted to clarify, I think that you'd already said this, but you have not done a trajectory analysis to determine if the bolt or the bolt catcher could have impacted the left wing?

MAJOR GENERAL BARRY: That is correct. That's ongoing and that will be the next step.

MS. IRENE BROWN: Thank you.

MS. LAURA BROWN: Okay.

MR. PHIL CHEN: Phil Chen here.

MS. LAURA BROWN: Okay, go ahead. One question, Phil, only one.

MR. CHEN: I file this one question, although I wish Dr. Osheroff could ask it for me – ask the question. For Dr. Logsdon, during the congressional hearings, which I believe you attended last month, there was a comment from John McCain about the entitlement spending, which NASA had not asked for. Is this something you're planning on addressing in the report, and what do you think about his comments?

DR. LOGSDON: Well, so-called earmarks as seen by one member of Congress are important projects as seen by other members of Congress. If you wish, STS-107 was an earmark. It was a mission undertaken at the direction of Congress to satisfy the demands of the research community to fly a science mission while the station was being assembled. So, are we going to start listing earmarks as earmarks, no? Are we going to indicate which congressional directives with respect to the shuttle program move resources around, yes? So, our focus is on the shuttle program and not the overall NASA budget.

ADMIRAL GEHMAN: Even though – this is Admiral Gehman. I'll interject that Senator McCain has asked us to do something specific and we probably will – we will respond to him. It may not be in the report, but we might write him a letter or something like that.

MS. LAURA BROWN: Okay.

MR. PETER KING: Laura?

MS. LAURA BROWN: Yeah?

MR. KING: Laura, it's Peter King.

MS. LAURA BROWN: Okay, Peter, one question.

MR. KING: Sorry about that, I was listening off the Web and got mixed up there. And my apologies for beating a dead horse. Peter King at CBS News Radio. But, I guess for General Barry, are you feeling – I'm real sorry about this, but are you feeling that the bolt issue is going to be a return to flight issue in all – in all likelihood?

MAJOR GENERAL BARRY: I think what we'll probably end up doing is list that as a return to flight. My opinion only, and we'll have to get the Board's consensus on that, but it does have certain potential to be catastrophic in the future. So, with that qualification, that qualification alone, I think it's certainly something that we have to pay attention to.

MS. LAURA BROWN: Okay, I think that's it today, and I think we're going to have – not have our usual access to the Board members afterwards. I think we're going to have to move on to Scott Hubbard's briefing. So, if you guys – if you guys all hang in there for a minute, we will do the transfer of power here.


END



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