While the nation is still reeling from the space shuttle Columbia’s explosion, information shows the accident may have been prevented.
In March, members of NASA’s safety advisory panel said that budget projections for the shuttle were inadequate to accommodate safety upgrades. Also, it turns out that though the space shuttles were built to withstand 100 missions each, they were only meant to be used for 10 years.
Don Nelson, a former engineer at the Johnson Space Center, wrote a letter to President George W. Bush in August, asking for shuttle flights to be held off until an escape module could be added to the shuttle so that astronauts could escape in case of an accident.
John Marburger, the White House’s science adviser, replied to Nelson’s letter. According to a Reuters article, Marburger wrote that he had discussed Nelson’s concerns with NASA and that “NASA places a high priority on safety and has instituted a program of developing and implementing safety upgrades to reduce the risk to space shuttle crews.”
If NASA had paid more attention to the advice of its safety board and its engineers, maybe the Columbia crew would have been saved last weekend.
Maybe in the future NASA will pay more attention to such suggestions.