Ron Dittemore Is Sure It Was Something Different 

2/4/03 8:49:10 AM Pacific Standard Time

"Yesterday, NASA shuttle program manager Ron Dittemore held a
press-conference at the NASA Mission Control. As Russia's news agency RIA
Novosti reports, Dittemore said that "it couldn't be because of the loss of
a thermal protection tile" that temperature on board the shuttle suddenly
rose before the catastrophe."

13:43 2003-02-04

Ron Dittemore Is Sure It Was Something Different

The loss of a thermal protection tile couldn't cause catastrophe of the
shuttle. Something different occurred on Columbia's board. What could it be?

Today George W. Bush and his wife Laura Bush will participate in a ceremony
dedicated to memory of perished Columbia astronauts. The ceremony will start
at 9:00 p.m. Moscow time and will be broadcast by all central American TV
channels. The event is to take place at NASA's Lincoln Space Center in
Houston, right at the place where an analogous ceremony was held in 1986
when Challenger shuttle exploded at a take-off. The president and his wife
will meet with families of the perished astronauts.

Yesterday, NASA shuttle program manager Ron Dittemore held a
press-conference at the NASA Mission Control. As Russia's news agency RIA
Novosti reports, Dittemore said that "it couldn't be because of the loss of
a thermal protection tile" that temperature on board the shuttle suddenly
rose before the catastrophe.

The temperature rise registered in the undercarriage trunk and in shuttle's
left wing before the catastrophe made up 30-40 degrees Fahrenheit. Ron
Dittemore says that if the hull of the shuttle was broken, the temperature
would have been much higher; at landing a shuttle is wrapped in plasma and
the temperature makes up 2000 degrees Fahrenheit overboard. He says, the
cause of the catastrophe was something different.

Thus, the temperature rise inside the shuttle is just an evidence of some
problem on its board. Experts cannot say so far what kind of problem this
may be. Dittemore says it is not ruled out that this problem will never be

Besides, new, more precise data concerning what was going on the shuttle
before the catastrophe were reported at the press-conference.

At 4:52 p.m. Moscow time, 24 minutes before scheduled landing, three
undercarriage sensors in the shuttle's hull registered a sudden temperature
rise. A NASA spokesman says, "it was the first warning of some troubles on
board the shuttle."

At 4:53 p.m. Moscow time, the shuttle Columbia was over California, the
fourth sensor registered a temperature rise of 30-40 degrees Fahrenheit in
the left undercarriage. In two minutes (4:55 p.m.) the fifth sensor also
registered a temperature rise. Temperature sensitive elements of the left
wing's upper and lower covering failed when the shuttle was over Arizona and
New Mexico at 4:57 p.m. At 4:59 p.m. Moscow time, when Columbia was over
eastern Texas, the airborne computer responded to the shuttle list to the
left and gave a command to the right maneuvering engine to start for a
couple of seconds to straighten the shuttle out. Soon after that
communication with the shuttle was lost.

On the whole, it will take NASA one more day to obtain all information
concerning the shuttle's catastrophe. At present, searches of the shuttle's
debris still continue. Specialists say it is unlikely that the thermal tile
that was damaged with the thermo-insulation at the take-off will be found.
According to the recent information, about 12 thousand of different debris
of the shuttle have been already found; searches for more wreckage is
carried out on the territory of 28 thousand square miles and delivered to
the Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. Experts will try to reconstruct
the shuttle in order to find out the cause of the catastrophe. Fragments of
bodies of all of the seven astronauts have been already recovered.

Meanwhile, as Britain's Guardian reports today, the NASA leadership was
informed two days before the catastrophe that a thermal tile protecting the
shuttle from thermal overload was seriously damaged. The newspaper writes,
one of NASA engineers informed that a 76-to-19 centimeter section of the
tile on the left wing was damaged. And the edition wonders if anything could
be done in this connection to avert a catastrophe.

As Russia's news agency RBC informs, NASA still insist on the main version
of the Columbia catastrophe saying that the accident occurred because of a
damaged thermal tile of the shuttle's upholstery. Now specialists are trying
to estimate the injury caused by a part of the thermal protection system
damaged at the start and dropped into the shuttle's left wing.

Israel's Air Force command is considering the possibility of posthumous
raising the rank of Colonel Ilan Ramon perished in the Columbia catastrophe.
As BBC reports, the rank of colonel was conferred to Ramon seven years ago,
he would have been obligatorily conferred the rank of a brigadier general
after his return from the orbit. A final decision on raising the rank of
Ilan Ramon will be taken after official recognition of the colonel as

So, it is not clear yet what was the true cause of the US shuttle's
catastrophe just 16 minutes before scheduled landing. All possible variants
of the tragedy and all versions are to be considered to find out the cause.
As Russian radio Golos Rossii (Russia's Voice) stated: "One thing is for
sure: space exploration won't be stopped no matter how hard human losses

Russian astronaut Yury Gidzenko, member of the first crew of the
International Space Station, knew the astronauts killed by the Columbia
explosion. He said in an exclusive interview to the Russian radio station:
"I grieve over the perished astronauts like all Russian cosmonauts. The
Columbia demise is a tragedy not only for the USA, but also for Russia. I
knew personally four of the perished. I meet with all of them in NASA. When
I got back from the International Space Station in March 2001, I was
delivered to the Earth in a shuttle as well."

In the words of Yury Gidzenko, Russian astronauts say that shuttles of this
construction are good, they are very convenient for the crew.

Press-secretary of the Russian Aerospace Agency, Vyacheslav Mikhailichenko
is sure that cooperation of both countries will continue: "Specialists must
count up everything and check the plans for errors. Everything can be
restored. I am perfectly sure that Russia-America space cooperation will

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