I fear that my list of project ideas, which I assemble out of an optimistic hope that the future will bring a long span of free time for such undertakings, includes an idea for a screenplay.

It would be a film in the style of Apollo 13 (technically and historically accurate, and developed with lots of research in collaboration with the people involved) based on the STS-27 and STS-107 Space Shuttle missions.

I have a bunch of ideas, but I definitely don’t have time to write such a script, given my work with, photography, and being on strike as a TA at U of T.

Still, I think it could be a powerful story. Ultimately, it’s a sadder story than Apollo 13, which may limit its aesthetic and commercial appeal. Still, like any story about crewed spaceflight, this is a story of courage and dedication applied in the pursuit of scientific understanding. Twelve amazing people: 5 who lived and 7 who died.

I can provide a more detailed breakdown of the screenplay idea, if someone wants to try working on it a bit.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

9 thoughts on “STS-27/107”

  1. Re: STS-51-L

    Musgrave, who is a medical doctor and surgeon was quite certain: “The crew died when they hit the water. You know that… There’s nothing controversial about that… There’s hard evidence… they died when they hit the water”

  2. Why did NASA never develop a way to repair the tiles in orbit? According to NASA’s Chief Flight Director Milt Heflin, the last time that option was seriously considered was in the late 1970s, when the agency looked into giving astronauts a tile repair kit. The plan was considered impractical and was scrapped.

    But that was a long time ago. Doug Perovic, chairman of the department of materials science and engineering at the University of Toronto, told New Scientist this week that there has been considerable progress in high-temperature ceramics since then, and that a repair kit is feasible.

    “Absolutely, there’s no reason you couldn’t do it,” he says, suggesting that a portable thermal spray or plasma spray could be used by a space-walking astronaut to fill in any chipped or missing tiles.

    But Jeffrey Hoffman, a former shuttle astronaut who now teaches at MIT, says that he has seen no signs of complacency regarding tile problems. He says developing a repair kit might have encouraged a false sense of security. “It was decided, I think correctly, that instead you need to fly with enough confidence in the tiles [that repairs are not needed].” But he agrees that, it may be time to look at the question again.

  3. Material evidence

    We all enjoy speculations of hypersonic flight and time machines (“Hot stuff”, August 12th). However, there was an error in your explanation of the Columbia space-shuttle tragedy. Its disintegration during atmospheric re-entry had nothing to due with the failure of any of the ceramic tiles lining the body of the spacecraft. The leading edges of the wings were covered with panels of reinforced carbon-carbon; a piece of insulating foam broke from the fuel tank, striking one of the panels and punching a hole.

    Once a week it is my pleasure to stand in front of the Discovery shuttle at the Smithsonian air and space museum and tell the story of those flights, as well as provide corrections to common erroneous assumptions. Perhaps the real story behind your article may be the carbon-carbon composite that you referred to as a solution to the challenge of hypersonic flight. Obviously it is so brittle that a simple piece of insulation can cause catastrophic damage.

    Arlington, Virginia

  4. A microscopic nematode worm, Caenorhabditis elegans, which is much studied and well understood by biologists, can be frozen for years and yet, within minutes of thawing in a drop of warm water, begin to squirm, eat and reproduce as if no time had passed.

    For a start, the worms are hardy. Some of the specimens in Dr Rothman’s laboratory have been in suspended animation at -70°C for 33 years. Others are descendants of animals that orbited Earth as part of Columbia’s last, fatal, mission, in 2003. Though this space shuttle’s disintegration on re-entry killed its human crew, the nematodes survived.

  5. What is maybe even more obscure is the consequence of this so called ‘stud hang up’. A shock wave – imperceptible to view – travels through the system when that stud lets loose. No deviation to the trajectory. No damage to the aft skirt of the SRB other than some cosmetic scratches. No damage to the attachment hardware that connected the SRB to the ET carrying the huge liftoff loads as those SRBs lift the fully fueled stack. No damage to the ET. No damage to the attachment hardware that connected the ET to the Orbiter. But deep inside the orbiter, analysis indicated the shock wave from the hang up release could cause significant structural damage. In some cases, analysis indicated that the structure holding the vertical tail on the orbiter could be over-stressed. Leaving the shuttle orbiter tail on the launch pad would be, well, catastrophic.

    The critical level of shock could not happen if just one stud hung up, nor if two studs hung up, it might happen if three studs hung up and released in a certain sequence with certain limited wind conditions, but the problem was certain to be critical if four or more studs hung up.

    The shuttle program decided to ‘monitor’ the stud hang ups. Observe whether they occurred, and if they did how frequently and how many on a given flight. Hang ups occurred infrequently, rather like the O-ring erosion in the early solid rocket segments or major foam losses from the ET. Monitoring was considered a viable technical way to control the problem. If one or two stud hang ups occurred – two hang ups occurred on two flights – it was worrisome but OK. If three ever occurred, the shuttle program promised to fix the problem. And so, the troublesome design set on the back burner, so to speak, simmering but not rising to the top of the priority list to fix. In retrospect, this is nothing more than playing Russian roulette. It was not a control. It was whistling in the dark. Not an acceptable management or technical protocol. Lesson 1: Do not do this.

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