Although it is highly unlikely that the particular circumstances of this accident were survivable, I was especially surprised that the crew was supposed to perform entry not only with visors up, as keeping them down "results in high oxygen concentrations in the cabin," but were also allowed to proceed without gloves and even helmets. The result was that they were immediately knocked unconscious from cabin depressurization following the orbiter's break-up (maybe a blessing in disguise).
I understand one can never predict all contingencies that can arise in something as complex as space flight, but there must be other scenarios where such a sudden loss of cabin pressure was expected. And in view of Soyuz 11's fatal mishap, it makes you wonder why they had these SOPs in place.
Also, their parachutes could only be manually deployed. I know the likely scenario for their use was after egress through the escape pole, but I can't understand why a barometric deployment system wasn't included. Maybe it's explained deep in the 400-page report and I've just made it pass the executive summary.
MCIGuy From United States of America, joined Mar 2006, 1936 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (5 years 7 months 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 6427 times:
The Colmbia incident was not survivable at all. However, there was evidence to suggest that at least some members of the Challenger crew survived the initial explosion and very well may have realized what was happening to them.
Thorny From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 2, posted (5 years 7 months 3 days 11 hours ago) and read 6372 times:
Quoting MCIGuy (Reply 1): The Colmbia incident was not survivable at all. However, there was evidence to suggest that at least some members of the Challenger crew survived the initial explosion and very well may have realized what was happening to them.
It's a virtual certainty. The flight deck crew's emergency air bottles were found to have been activated and a few minutes of air had been used. It was Judy Resnik's job to turn on the air bottles for the Commander and Pilot in an emergency.
The air bottles for the mid deck were recovered in too poor condition to reach a conclusion, but it seems likely the four "downstairs" were alive after the accident as well.
All seven likely lost consciousness due to depressurization long before impact, fortunately. The ballistic flight of the severed crew compartment carried it to around 60,000 feet, if memory serves, which means the crew would have needed pure oxygen to remain conscious, but the air bottles were only normal atmosphere meant to protect against toxic fumes.
Areopagus From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 1369 posts, RR: 1
Reply 3, posted (5 years 7 months 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 6190 times:
What particularly struck me was that like Challenger, Columbia's crew module broke away from the rest fairly intact, and that the astronauts survived that initial breakup. The spacecraft had been in a flat spin.
"It was a very short time," Hale said. "We know it was very disorienting motion that was going on. There were a number of alarms that went off simultaneously. And the crews, of course, are trained to maintain or regain control in a number of different ways and we have evidence from (recovered debris that they) were trying very hard to regain control. We're talking about a very brief time, in a crisis situation, and I'd hate to go any further than that."
Said Melroy: "I'd just like to add we found that those actions really showed the crew was relying on their training in problem solving and problem resolution and that they were focused on attempting to recover the vehicle when they did detect there was something off nominal. They showed remarkable systems knowledge and problem resolution techniques. Unfortunately, of course, there was no way for them to know with the information they had that that was going to be impossible. But we were impressed with the training, certainly, and the crew."