Upon launch in 1988, Space Shuttle Atlantis had a hole blasted in the underside, plus damage to 700 heat-tiles! It survived re-entry by fluke (metal antenna near the hole absorbed extra heat). Commander Robert L. Gibson felt strongly they would NOT survive re-entry. NASA admin ignored his concerns.

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That’s insanely frustrating to learn considering just two years earlier NASA leadership also ignored engineers’ concerns about the ability of the infamous O-rings on shuttle Challenger to withstand colder temperatures than they had test data for… temperatures which were predicted for its next launch window. Who knows what would have happened if they had another disaster so soon after that one. And based on what we know from Columbia, they got damn lucky.


I upvoted for the info that I didn’t know about but really want to downvote for the stupidity of NASA admin.


Everyone knows about the two “bad luck” Space Shuttle missions that ended in tragedy, few people know about the many “good luck” Space Shuttle missions where tragedy was averted by the narrowest of margins. For example, STS-9 had two separate near catastrophes (a computer malfunction and hydrazine fires in 2 out of 3 of the APUs, both near or during landing). The Shuttle was a poorly designed system and the only reason it had a perception that it was not was because of a massive amount of institutional delusion, dysfunction, and good PR (bordering on propaganda).


Same with both Discovery’s “Return to Flight” missions, STS-26R and the one post STS-107. Both missions had the biggest amount of missing tiles. This was a well known problem since STS-1 and NASA was cocky to ignore it like “we believe in the machine”. Well. Though I strongly believe the heat tiles were sufficient even with all the missing tiles after reentry, it was a cascade of events that led to the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia in reentry, not the heat tiles. However something that made me furious is the protective layer on the wings that were sumposed to be +30cm thick because during the investigations they found out it was less than 2cm (not sure, but wayyy less than 30cm), but didn’t explain why it was less. It was the main reason we lost Columbia.


NASA be like: Naw, you got this. We’ve only had explosions going up, not down.