LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES
Foam to Blame for Columbia Disaster
Aired August 26, 2003 - 19:08 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The news is in for NASA and it is not good. The accident investigation board that was looking into the Columbia shuttle disaster issued its report today.
Space correspondent Miles O'Brien has details.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The technical answer to the Columbia disaster, simple.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In four simple words, the foam did it.
O'BRIEN: For nearly two months the shattering conclusion has held up. A piece of foam broke off the shuttle's external tank during launch, struck the orbiter's wing and breached the protective tiles.
Sixteen days later the spacecraft disintegrated during re-entry, killing all seven astronauts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The machine was talking but why was nobody hearing? How were the signals missed?
O'BRIEN: The alarm sounded in today's final report, a long- standing culture at NASA with the wrong priorities.
MAJ. GEN. JOHN BARRY, COLUMBIA INVESTIGATION BOARD MEMBER: NASA had conflicting goals of costs, schedule and safety, and unfortunately safety lost out.
O'BRIEN: Stinging criticism from the Columbia accident investigation board of a gradual relaxation of safety standards at NASA.
To ensure safety the report calls for the creation of a new safety, a so-called technical engineering authority within NASA, but independent of the shuttle program.
The board did not say the shuttle fleet should be grounded, but it did recommend the development of a temporary vehicle to replace the shuttle, a so-called orbital space plane to be used as ferry to the international space station over the next decade until the next generation of shuttles is developed.
From the report, quote, "Previous attempts to develop a replacement vehicle for the aging shuttle represent a failure of national leadership." STEVE WALLACE, COLUMBIA INVESTIGATION BOARD MEMBER: The leadership, not just the administrator, all levels of leadership, are going to have to actively drive the bad cultural traits out of the organization. And it's something they're going to have to buy into personally.
O'BRIEN: Miles O'Brien, CNN, Washington.
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