Shuttle probe board will exploit IT tools, investigator says

The Columbia Accident Investigation Board has created a subgroup to handle technical and engineering analyses related to the shuttle disaster.

Hal Gehman, the board's chairman, said yesterday at a briefing that he had reviewed the investigation plan of the Challenger accident carried out by the Rogers Commission "and overlaid IT on it" for the Columbia review.

The board plans to build a library of data generated during the investigation, Gehman said, describing the role IT will play in the crash probe.

"We will use sophisticated methods of correlating and cross-checking data," he said. He noted that the large number of scientists and engineers working on the project adds to the need to manage data smartly.

"We are going to use IT systems to help brainstorm and make decisions," Gehman said, adding that the type of automated decision-assistance tools the board will use were not available to the Rogers Commission.

The board also plans to create a Web site where individuals can submit information directly to it.

The accident board is overseeing the NASA investigation and has authority to issue task orders to any part of the agency, Gehman said.

One task NASA has begun for the board is creation of a 3-D stereoscopic image of the shuttle as it flew over California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. Gehman said that images submitted by the public had been helpful in creating that imagery mosaic.

Separately, a piece of shuttle debris that officials earlier had thought could be one of the shuttle's five general purpose computers'used to help navigate the craft'had been subjected to further analysis by NASA's Mishap Review Team and found to be a radar control system.

(Related story from Feb. 11: Shuttle probe board includes IT in its plan )

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