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Columbia crew had no chance to survive

Astronauts on the shuttle Columbia were trying to regain control of their craft before it broke apart in 2003, but there was no chance of surviving the accident, a NASA report said on Tuesday.

From the crew’s perspective, the shift from what appeared to be a normal descent on February 1, 2003, into disaster happened so fast that the astronauts didn’t even have time to close the visors on their helmets.

Columbia broke apart about 12 miles over Texas as it headed for landing at the Kennedy Space Center. The cause of the accident was traced to a hole in one of the shuttle’s wings, which was hit by a piece of falling foam insulation during launch 16 days earlier.

Seven astronauts, including Israel’s first astronaut Ilan Ramon, were killed when superheated atmospheric gases blasted inside the breach like a blow torch, melting the ship’s structure.The crew cabin broke away from the ship and started spinning rapidly. Analysis of the wreckage indicated the crew members had flipped cockpit switches in response to alarms that were sounding. The astronauts had also reset the shuttle’s autopilot system, the report said.”We have evidence from some of the switch positions that the crew was trying very hard to regain control. We’re talking about a very brief time in a crisis situation,” said NASA’s deputy associate administrator, Wayne Hale.

But rapid depressurization caused the Columbia crew to lose consciousness, and medical findings show that they could not have recovered, said the report, which took four years to compile.

“This report confirms that although the valiant Columbia crew tried every possible way to maintain control of their vehicle, the accident was not ultimately survivable,” said Hale, who oversaw the shuttle program during its return to flight after the accident.

TRAUMATIC INJURIES

Analysis shows the astronauts’ shoulder harnesses failed and their helmets did not adequately protect their heads. The lack of safety restraints caused traumatic injuries.

The investigation also found problems with the shuttle’s seats and parachute landing system, which requires astronauts be conscious to operate manually.

Even if the safety gear had worked, the astronauts would have died due to the winds, shock waves and other extreme conditions in the upper atmosphere.

Designing spacesuits that are more automated and integrated into future spaceships is among 30 recommendations made in the report.

“I call on spacecraft designers from all the other nations of the world, as well as the commercial and personal spacecraft designers here at home to read this report and apply these hard lessons which have been paid for so dearly,” Hale said.

Also killed in the accident were shuttle commander Rick Husband, pilot William McCool and astronauts Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla and Laurel Clark.

January 2, 2009 Posted by | global | , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Jumbo Hostel

hostel view

When you exit Arlanda Airport on the highway towards Stockholm, you will see a Boeing 747 on your left that looks curiously out of place.

The plane sits idle and lonely on a grass-covered mound just outside the airport perimeter, without any recognizable airline colours.

You might think the giant aircraft got lost on the way to the runway and was abandoned here, were it not for the inscription on the side: “Jumbo Hostel.”

Turns out this former Pan Am jumbo jet is no longer taking passengers to the skies, but will soon be accommodating them on the ground. Left inactive at Arlanda, Stockholm’s main airport, after its last owner went bankrupt, the plane was rescued by a Swedish entrepreneur looking to expand his hostel business.

“I got information about this airplane standing abandoned at Arlanda,” says Oscar Dios, who runs a hostel in Uppsala, about 20 miles north of Arlanda. “I thought why not try to convert it into a hostel? Since you’ve been converting boats and light houses and trains before into hostels.”

Construction crews are working through the holidays to get the 25 rooms ready for the scheduled opening on January 15. Jumbo Hostel is already taking bookings.

The 65-square-foot rooms are spartanly furnished, with a bunk bed, an overhead luggage compartment and a flat screen TV with entertainment as well as flight information.

There will be a reception and small cafeteria just inside the front entrance, two rows of rooms on each side of the aisle, and showers and toilets in the rear. The bubble on top is being remodelled into a conference room .

Mr. Dios is hoping for a diverse clientele, including airport taxi drivers stopping for a coffee break in the cafeteria. Rates range from 300 kronor for a bed in a shared four-bed dormitory to 1,350 kronor for a private room with a twin bed and a single bed. The bridal suite costs 3,300 kronor per night.

January 2, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment