10 Disasters Caused By Human Error

9. Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster

As the Space Shuttle Columbia re-entered Earth€™s atmosphere on 1 February 2003, it began losing pieces of insulation and disintegrated over Texas and Louisiana. All seven crewmembers perished. The shuttle was on a mission to assist with building the International Space Station (ISS). After the disaster, space operations were put on hold for two years, which delayed the construction of the ISS. NASA personnel on the ground noticed a piece of thermal insulating foam impacted the left wing of the shuttle during take off, but the crew was not notified because NASA managers reasoned that the crew could do very little to fix it while in space. The problem with the foam insulation had been known for years and NASA came under severe media scrutiny following the explosion. While the Columbia was in space, NASA officials decided not to develop a contingency plan and presumably just crossed their fingers upon the Shuttle€™s re-entry. An independent investigation board was established after the disaster and was comprised of military and civilian experts. The board concluded that NASA€™s organizational structure and processes were seriously lacking and that compromising the safety of astronauts was a cultural norm. Their findings also indicated that a repair focused spacewalk or a rescue mission, though risky, could have saved the crewmembers if NASA would have acted quickly.
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Hailing from the sandiest of Southern states, Susan enjoys horror films and comic books. She writes many things, but mostly wrongs.