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 Toronto350.org, 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.

Report a typo or inaccuracy

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

ANON March 1, 2015 at 7:30 pm

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”


. June 25, 2015 at 7:22 pm
. July 15, 2016 at 2:42 am

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.


. September 9, 2017 at 6:12 pm

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

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