Crash probe panel urges in-flight shuttle imagery

Crash probe panel urges in-flight shuttle imagery

The Columbia Accident Investigation Board, a panel of experts convened to probe the Feb. 1 fatal crash, today recommended that NASA arrange for the National Imagery and Mapping Agency to obtain images of shuttles in flight.

The board also recommended that NASA use advanced nondestructive inspection methods, some of which rely on IT, to check the structural integrity of shuttle structures before flight.

NASA should 'make on-orbit imaging for each shuttle flight a standard requirement,' the board said as it issued two preliminary recommendations this morning. Crash investigators had sought to obtain satellite imagery of the Columbia in orbit, but detailed images were not available.

'This recommendation was issued because of the board's finding that the full capabilities of the United States government to image the shuttle on orbit were not utilized,' the board said.

CAIB also said NASA should carry out a comprehensive inspection plan for all 'reinforce carbon-carbon' systems on shuttle, including the spacecraft's thermal protection system, or skin. Spokesman Terry Williams said advanced technologies that could be deployed in this effort include thermography, thermal scanning, tomography and x-rays.

The board said it would issue its final report, including additional recommendations, this summer.

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