Today’s Tidbits: February 1, 2018

Today’s Tidbits: February 1, 2018

Here are our tidbits for February 1, 2018:  a new book about the space shuttle Columbia tragedy on its 15th anniversary; new National Academies report on space radiation testing infrastructure; AIAA announces 2018 Fellows and Honorary Fellows. Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

A New Book About the Space Shuttle Columbia Tragedy on its 15th Anniversary

As we’ve written over the last several days, this is the time of year that the nation reflects on the astronauts who lost their lives in the pursuit of space exploration, especially the loss of the Apollo 1 crew on January 27, 1967, the loss of the space shuttle Challenger crew on January 28, 1986, and the loss of the space shuttle Columbia crew on February 1, 2013 — 15 years ago today.

Six NASA astronauts (Rick Husband, William McCool, Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, and Laurel Clark), and an Israeli Air Force pilot flying as a payload specialist (Ilan Ramon) died during their return to Earth after a 16-day science mission, STS-107.

Space Shuttle Columbia crew: from left – David Brown (NASA), Rick Husband (NASA), Laurel Clark (NASA), Kalpana Chawla (NASA), Michael Anderson (NASA), William McCool (NASA), Ilan Ramon (Israeli Air Force). Photo credit: NASA.

They died when the shuttle orbiter broke apart during its descent through the atmosphere.  The Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) concluded that superheated gases (plasma) entered the shuttle’s left wing through a hole that had been created during liftoff by a piece of foam that fell from the External Tank.  The wing deformed and aerodynamic forces pulled the orbiter apart.

Today, CBS News space reporter Bill Harwood reviewed [] a new book about the accident.  “Bringing Columbia Home” by Michael Leinbach and Jonathan Ward details the painful effort of recovering the crew’s remains and every part of the shuttle that could be found in order to piece together what happened.  Leinbach was the last shuttle flight director and oversaw the effort in a hangar at Kennedy Space Center to reconstruct the orbiter from those pieces to discover the answers.  It sounds like a compelling book.

New National Academies Report on Space Radiation Testing Infrastructure

It may sound esoteric, but having the necessary facilities to test the effects of radiation on electronics used in spacecraft is vital for mission success. The Department of Energy (DOE), the Air Force, and NASA asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to assess current capabilities and future needs and make recommendations on “how to provide effective stewardship of the necessary radiation testing infrastructure for the foreseeable future.”

The Academies released the report today:  “Testing at the Speed of Light: The State of U.S. Electronic Parts Radiation Testing Infrastructure.”  Free PDF copies can be downloaded from the National Academies Press [].

Co-chaired by Bhavya Lal of IDA’s Science and Technology Policy Institute and Paul Nielsen of the Software Engineering Institute, the study committee concluded that testing related to single event effects (SEE) poses the greatest challenge.  However, “many of the accelerators in use for SEE testing are 30 to 55 years old, past their design life, and a failure of critical systems is becoming more likely…”

Overall, it warned that the radiation-testing infrastructure is “fragile”and it is critical to overcome “roadblocks to sharing test procedures and data.”  To that end, DOE, the Air Force, and NASA need to provide “high-level strategic coordination across the radiation testing community.”

AIAA Announces New Fellows and Honorary Fellows

The American  Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the world’s largest aerospace technical society, announced its class of 2018 Fellows and Honorary Fellows today.  It is a quite an honor to be elected as an AIAA Fellow, and the rank of Honorary Fellow is the highest honor bestowed by the Institute.

The full list is posted on AIAA’s website [], but the individuals most likely to be known by readers of this website include —

  • Charles Elachi, former JPL Director and current Caltech professor emeritus, Honorary Fellow
  • Surpriya Banerjee, FAMES, Fellow
  • Carissa Christensen, Bryce Space and Technology, Fellow
  • Michael Hamel, Lockheed Martin, Fellow
  • Robert Meyerson, Blue Origin, Fellow
  • Dava Newman, former NASA Deputy Administrator and MIT professor, Fellow
  • Robie Samanta Roy, Lockheed Martin, Fellow

All of the 22 new Fellows and three Honorary Fellows will be inducted at the AIAA Aerospace Spotlight Awards Gala at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., on May 2.

Congratulations to all!

Recently Published on 

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.