Shuttle card models

I’m still intending to scan some clippings from 1981 about the first shuttle orbital mission – flown by Columbia, as it happens, and marked by the loss of heat-resistant tiles. However, my scanner is balking, so I may postpone it for a bit. Here’s some card models to tide you over.

From NASA: Shuttle Card Model – free

Columbia Shuttle Card Model, by Dan Shippey, free, in memoriam. Normally Dan sells this at Fiddler’s Green for a more than reasonable $3.00.

The NASA model is very considerably less detailed and easier to build. It’s also one of the first card models I recall building – a die-cut version was bound in to an early issue of National Geographic World, a kids’ magazine that regularly featured interesting card models, including the shuttle, a truly elegant globe, and a flying pterosaur model that was simply exquisite.

Thinking about Columbia

Challenger‘s launch plume, I was fearful of all these things – it signified the potential for the end of space, without even the surrogate of computers.

Today, it’s a different story. Although the Russian space program is regarded as something of a straw man in the U. S., it’s a valuable space resource in its’ own right, with drastically differing traditions and a wealth of expertise in, for example, making do with tight budgets.

The presence of the ISS in orbit, combined with the American fear of unemployed Russian rocketeers, means that even though shuttle-based delivery of construction modules will be on hiatus for a good long time, the ISS is likely to continue as an ongoing space program.

I’d be remiss in failing to note that American satellite launches, often on conventional, solid-fuel rockets rather than the more expensive shuttles, have proceeded apace and are likely to continue.

Meanwhile, the Ariane 5 fleet is grounded on suspicion of a design flaw.

Despite this, I expect the ESA to clean up the problem with some speed – there’s money to be made, and Airbus has not finished Boeing off quite yet. Since Boeing’s ill-starred entry into the satellite biz with the acquisition of Hughes has been costly for the formerly Seattle based company (no, I’m not bitter- just underemployed), it seems to me unlikely that the ESA will be allowed to dither about endlessly.

So that leaves (drumroll please) China, on the United States’ shortlist of useful bugaboos – er, um, valuable trading partners – once we’re done cleaning up the axis of evil, and India, a state which has repeatedly lurched to the brink of nuclear war with Pakistan over the disputed Jammu and Kashmir area.

Do I lose sleep over Chinese astronauts or Indian misslemen heading to orbit? Far from it. In fact, I wholeheartedly root for them.

Neither state is likely to see the loss of Columbia as a reason to slow down; I’d rather guess it will act as a spur, on several levels.

One, it demonstrates that American technical expertise is by no means a guarantee of perfection (something the Chinese know already from our smart-bomb obliteration of a Chinese embassy in Belgrade a few years back).

One, it demonstrates that American technical expertise is by no means a guarantee of perfection (something the Chinese know already from our smart-bomb obliteration of a Chinese embassy in Belgrade a few years back).

Two, as with any developing technology in the years before it is used on a large scale in war, persons drawn to the technology feel a great sense of comradeship for others involved with similar technologies. The Chinese and Indian space programs will also be driven to honor the memories of those who perished yesterday morning.

So I’m filled with much less angst and fear today than I was on that dreadful January day sixteen years ago. We’re still headed for space. I remain saddened by the loss of the unfortunate crew and feel for their families, but rather than projecting my worries about a loss of space to humanity, my concerns are directly and exclusively focused on the individuals and their families.

I honor their loss, and hope sincerely that their families’ knowledge of the crew’s connection to what they were doing will ease the pain and shorten the suffering of their loved ones.

Columbia breaks up in flight

EL-1994-00476.jpegSpace Shuttle Columbia lost in flight: NYT index to coverage.

The Space Shuttle Columbia, flying mission STS-107, broke up in flight over Nacogdoches, Texas at about 9 am Eastern time this morning. All aboard are presumed lost. Nacogdoches is near the eastern, Louisiana border of the state.

Not my favorite way to start a Saturday. I recall only too well the loss of Challenger. Color scheme changes here are in temporary recognition of the loss.

(The picture is of Columbia in a 1990 night launch. The spacecraft first flew a mission in 1981. Which I must say I find to be of interest. As I finish this entry, I see the NYT has added the item “Ship was fleet’s oldest” to the pre-news conference head. )

UPDATE: (2p PST) I just found a huge stash of clippings I’ve had since April, 1981. That first mission that Columbia flew in 1981? It was also the very first orbital mission for any shuttle. I will look through the clippings and scan a few, I expect.

sts107_patch.jpgUPDATES – added immediately following initial entry, circa 1pm

In the 3pm EST news conference, NASA personell described telemetry data indicating anomalous readings originating on a left wing elevon (a wing flap) and spreading to indicate loss of tire pressure on a landing gear. Unfortunately I did not think to take notes, but I recall thinking, “Oh.”

MetaFilter coverage begins at 6:23 am, less than ten minutes after the initial reports of the loss of communication with the shuttle.

links from that thread include:

a mirror of the pulled eBay auction (see below)

an animated gif of the debris problems noted on launch of the mission and the article it’s related to

a photo from a gound onlooker – not verified

an IRC feed excerpt which includes this commentary from a participant:

02/01/03 09:00 AM

Re: re entry visibility [re: astronaut23]

They got some tire pressure messages……….I hope not the left main gear, that is about where the ET foam hit the tiles………’s STS-107 thread

the planned landing paths from NASA

The Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel

Some interesting links from BoingBoing:

NOAA radar debris track

Debris rains on Nacogdoches

Dave Winer’s roundup

Steve MacLaughlin’s roundup

eBay debris listings (appeared by noon EST, discussion at Fark)