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Executive Summary

By Sonja Copley

The Columbia, a shuttle from NASA, has disintegrated upon reentry into
the Earth’s atmosphere on February 1, 2003. People have witnessed this event
across the United States of America as a fireball fell across the sky from
California to Texas. The result of this chaotic occurrence was the loss of seven
brave astronauts who traveled and conducted experiments in space for sixteen

On the day of the launch, January 16, eighty-one seconds after a

successful lift-off, the Columbia made impact with a piece of debris that
measured approximately 20” X 10” X 6” traveling at a speed between 630 and
750 feet per second. The debris collided with the left wing of the ship and
punctured a hole in the Leading Wing Edge.

The gap in the wing exposed the interior of the shuttle structure. This left
the Columbia spacecraft susceptible to heat and ignition during reentry. This
problem was ignored by authorities and overlooked as a major problem. A
turnaround, repair, or rescue mission was not initiated in order to address the

In order to determine the cause for the burn-up, all possible situations and
events must be considered. The root cause could be any of six problem bases.
These bases are Materials, Equipment, Management, Human, Environment, or

The following issues were identified and thought over by the investigators
during their investigation time:

• Faulty equipment such as inadequate film and photos.

• Bad quality or degraded material was used to construct the ship.
• Cold environment and loose debris.
• Human Mistake in design.
• Flaw in the launch procedure.
• Miscommunication and bad management.

The USA (United Space Alliance) and NASA were both aware of the
problem that occurred on the day of the launch and discussed the problem with
each other. The engineers of the USA were sure that the problem was a threat to
the crew aboard the Columbia. There was extreme miscommunication between
the engineers and the Chief of Management, therefore lacking the transfer of
information between the USA Chief and the NASA Commander. The Root Cause
of this situation is deficiency of adequate and organized management.

In consequence of the loss of seven crewmembers, I highly recommend

reorganization of the operating system of both the USA and NASA. A code of
behavior must be created to lead the people in the awareness that this sort of
situation will occur again. There must a sense of trust and morale in every
worker. A more unified team will exceed the expectations and form a more
successful procedure in future space flight missions.