Whose responsibility is it to decide if there’s time to save seven innocent people from an untimely death? New evidence suggests the NASA senior engineers may have thought they were the ones.
The day before the space shuttle Columbia broke apart during its descent, Jeffrey Kling, a flight controller at Johnson Space Center’s mission control, wrote that, if the shuttle’s left wing were to burn off, his engineering team’s recommendation “is going to be to set up for a bailout (assuming the wing doesn’t burn off before we can get the crew out).”
An MSNBC report states that a debate broke out between engineers, supervisors and the head of the space agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va when they realized the left wing may burn off and result in the death of the astronauts on board.
This group, while well aware of the tragedy that could result, decided against taking their concerns to NASA’s top mangers. As a result, seven people died.
They didn’t have the right to make that decision, and they should have shared their fears with those at NASA who may have been able to help the astronauts. It’s frightening to realize that people with information that could save lives wouldn’t try to help those in peril.
This is the second set of evidence that has come forth since the accident that suggests it may have been preventable. Almost immediately after the accident, former engineers came forth saying they had issued a report to NASA that suggested all missions be delayed until an ejector pod could be added to the shuttle. At that time, concerns were ignored, and listening to that suggestion may have saved lives.
Hopefully, NASA will learn from its mistakes. Others who may be able to prevent an accident, no matter how small, will realize how important it is to share their concerns with others.