Launching a Space Shuttle Columbia

Case Study
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1st February 2003 has been etched prominently in the annals of space history. It was on this day four years ago that the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated while reentering the earth's atmosphere. The loss of the Columbia was caused by a breach in its left wing inflicted by a breakaway chunk of foam, the size of a small briefcase, during the liftoff.


Launching a Space Shuttle has always been a tricky business. With so many complexities to handle and parameters to fulfill simultaneously, it involves a high level of risk. On 1st February 2003, the Flight Control Team at Columbia did not report any issues or problems related to the planned de-orbit and re-entry. The team had indicated no concerns about the debris impact to the left wing during ascent, and it seemed like any other re-entry since all the systems were normal and the weather observations and forecasts were within guidelines. However, as Columbia descended from space into the atmosphere, the heat produced by air molecules colliding with the Orbiter typically caused wing leading-edge temperatures to rise steadily. In the events that followed, a broken message was recorded from the mission commander: "Roger, uh, bu" This was the last message from the crew. Soon after that, the space shuttle started disintegrating causing a loud boom and debris being scattered in the clear skies of Dallas.
In case of any space program, the margin of error has to be next to nil since it not only entails billions of dollars of public money but also many precious lives. ...
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