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NASA paid $26.6 million to families of Columbia astronauts.

Old 04-15-07, 08:35 PM
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NASA paid $26.6 million to families of Columbia astronauts.

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New York, April 15: NASA paid USD 26.6 mn to the families of seven astronauts who died aboard space shuttle Columbia, a settlement that has been kept secret for more than two and a half years, a report said.

Indian-American astronaut Kalpana Chawla was among those killed when the shuttle broke up as it re-entered the earth's atmosphere on February 1, 2003.

An investigation later discovered that chunks of insulation shed from the tank during take off damaged Columbia's left wing leading to the disaster.

Reporting this, Orlando Sentinel said the space agency recruited former FBI Director William Webster, also a former federal judge, to act as a mediator and adviser in negotiating the out-of-court settlements.

The paper said its request yielded just seven pages of documents that leave many questions unanswered, including exactly when the settlements occurred.

In an interview with the sentinel, Webster, also a former CIA director, said he was bound by confidentiality and couldn't discuss details of the agreements, but defended the process as proper.

"The members of the (survivors') families wanted this to be a private matter," said Webster, a consulting partner in Washington with the international law firm of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy.

"They were healing, and they were ready to discuss, properly, their rights.... Everyone felt it had a better chance of coming together without seeing their name in lights."

In brief written responses to sentinel questions, NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said little about the settlements, citing family privacy. He said the money came from the agency's budget via a 2004 Congressional appropriation.

"The Columbia astronauts were our friends and co-workers," Beutel wrote. "Our concern always has been with the crew's families and we didn't announce details of the settlement in an effort to protect the personal privacy of the Columbia families."

Former NASA administrator Sean o'Keefe and ex-general counsel Paul Pastorek, who helped set up the settlement process, did not return phone calls and e-mails, the paper said.

Jon Clark, widower of astronaut Laurel Blair Salton Clark, was quoted as saying NASA was "deferential" in dealing with the families through a turbulent period in their lives.

"We were in a state of shock," he said. "To go the lawsuit route, it's very painful and very protracted. So we settled."

Also killed were air force Col. Rick husband, 45, mission commander; Navy Cmdr. Willia, who was the shuttle pilot; Navy capt. David M. Brown, 46; Navy Cmdr. Clark, 41; and payload specialists air force Lt. Col. Michael P. Anderson, 43; and Israeli air force col. Ilan Ramon, 48, Israel's first astronaut.

The documents were released to the sentinel last month after a reporter filed requests in 2005 and 2006. Stephen L. Mcconnell, NASA's principal FOIA officer, insisted the agency was not trying to delay the records release.

Five of the seven astronauts on Columbia were military officers and barred from suing the government because they were on active duty while on loan to NASA, making contractors likely targets for lawsuits.

Bureau Report
Ok, yes we were all saddened by their loss, it was tragedy and all that. But why are the families of the astronauts being made instant millionaires? Surly they had life insurance as part of their benefits package, is that not enough? Due to the nature of the space program, don't you have to sign a letter or something to the effect that if you die during the course of the mission, NASA cannot be held libel? I mean they knew the risks and they went anyway. Is it another NASA blunder for not protecting themselves from a legal standpoint?
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Old 04-15-07, 08:54 PM
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Was this settlement separate from their military packages? I'm not sure if being a pilot or astronaut gets you better SGLI than the rest of us (military folks), but it's not a massive payout comparatively speaking. Every single mission for them is considerably more risky than the average mission that we pull and they're responsible for a ton of equipment -- on a military salary with flight bonuses. Can't say something like this bothers me as much as some of the other post-9/11 payoffs. There was definitely some negligence on the part of NASA as well based on the earlier articles explaining cause.
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Old 04-15-07, 09:04 PM
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they knew the risks, their families shouldn't get paid other than regular life insurance.

then again, i dont think the govt should give money to the familes of 9/11 victims either
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Old 04-15-07, 09:32 PM
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It's because of negligence. By settling with the families, they keep the whole thing relatively quiet.
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Old 04-15-07, 09:43 PM
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I know its probably insensitive to say, but I don't think anyone, in any situation, should be capitalizing on a family members death. Nothing more than the usual life insurance payments, be it 9/11 widows, space shuttle families, or anyone suing to become instant millionaires after someone dies.
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Old 04-15-07, 10:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Jason
It's because of negligence. By settling with the families, they keep the whole thing relatively quiet.
I think this was the case. The government probably screwed up somewhere and wanted to move on by settling out. Companies do it all the time, why should it be any different when it comes to the government?

I did see an article on the BBC a few days ago about the U.S. military paying Iraqi families $2,000 for wrongful deaths and stuff.
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Old 04-15-07, 11:08 PM
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Private or government entities certainly don't pay unless they see a lawsuit coming down the pipeline.

Preemptive monetary strike.
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Old 04-15-07, 11:26 PM
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How much did the inanimate carbon rod's family get?
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Old 04-16-07, 07:56 AM
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1. They shouldn't have been killed, because we shouldn't have a manned space program.

2. They knew the risks.
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Old 04-16-07, 08:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Venusian
they knew the risks, their families shouldn't get paid other than regular life insurance.

then again, i dont think the govt should give money to the familes of 9/11 victims either

if there are emails found during discovery that say something like the contractors knew it was dangerous but said let's do it anyway for whatever reason, it goes beyond risk
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Old 04-16-07, 08:59 AM
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Space flights, in themselves, pose danger and signficant risk.
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Old 04-16-07, 09:01 AM
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of course there is danger, but the people preparing the shuttles for launch have to do everything they can within the law and existing safety standards to keep the astronauts alive. that is the reason for safety standards in everything,
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Old 04-16-07, 09:10 AM
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Come on Wall Street Al.

You're ususally a lot more 'capitalistic' than that.

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Old 04-16-07, 09:15 AM
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Any reason why they mention Kalpana Chawla in the second paragraph but don't mention the others until way later?
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Old 04-16-07, 09:18 AM
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Originally Posted by kenny79
Any reason why they mention Kalpana Chawla in the second paragraph but don't mention the others until way later?
It's an artcle from an Indian news site.
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Old 04-16-07, 09:28 AM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
Come on Wall Street Al.

You're ususally a lot more 'capitalistic' than that.


wall street and capitalism has and needs rules
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Old 04-16-07, 11:47 AM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
1. They shouldn't have been killed, because we shouldn't have a manned space program.
I swear, ever since they showed you that new fangled "fire," you have been a serious opponent of anything new.


Last edited by kvrdave; 04-16-07 at 11:59 AM.
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Old 04-16-07, 11:54 AM
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The 26 million dollars is a way for NASA officials to essentially appease their own guilt. Pretty easy for them to come up with the money too, since in their eyes the taxpayers pockets are essentially bottomless.
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Old 04-16-07, 06:07 PM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
1. They shouldn't have been killed, because we shouldn't have a manned space program.
Don't worry. In a couple of years or so, we won't. When they retire the shuttle in 2010, they won't have anything to replace it with. And if there's another tragedy, it will shut down the program instantly and permanently.

[sarcasm]Then all that money wasted on science can be used to help people right here on earth. [/sarcasm]
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Old 04-16-07, 09:33 PM
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I'm for NASA.

Unmanned space probes or launching of commercial satellites.
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Old 12-30-08, 07:23 PM
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New NASA report details final minutes of Columbia

By SETH BORENSTEIN

WASHINGTON (AP) - When the first of many loud alarms sounded on the space shuttle Columbia, the seven astronauts had about a minute to live, though they didn't know it. The pilot, William McCool, pushed several buttons trying to right the ship as it tumbled out of control. He didn't know it was futile. Most of the crew were following NASA procedures, spending more time preparing the shuttle than themselves for the return to Earth.

Some weren't wearing their bulky protective gloves and still had their helmet visors open. Some weren't fully strapped in. One was barely seated.

In seconds, the darkened module holding the crew lost pressure. The astronauts blacked out. If the loss of pressure didn't kill them immediately, they would be dead from violent gyrations that knocked them about the ship.

In short, Columbia's astronauts were quickly doomed.

A new NASA report released Tuesday details the chaotic final minutes of Columbia, which disintegrated over Texas on Feb. 1, 2003. The point of the 400-page analysis is to figure out how to make NASA's next spaceship more survivable. The report targeted problems with the spacesuits, restraints and helmets of the Columbia crew.

Many of the details about the astronauts' deaths have been known - they died either from lack of oxygen during pressure loss or from hitting something as the spacecraft tumbled and broke up. However, the new report paints a more detailed picture of the final moments of the Columbia crew than the broader investigation into the accident five years ago.

Astronaut Pam Melroy, deputy study chief, said the analysis showed the astronauts were at their problem-solving best trying to recover Columbia, which was starting to crack up as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere with a hole in its left wing, damage that had occurred at liftoff. "There was no way for them to know that it was going to be impossible."

The crew had lost control of the motion and direction of the spacecraft. It was pitching end-over-end, the cabin lights were out, and parts of the shuttle behind the crew compartment - including its wings - were falling off.

"It was a very disorienting motion going on," NASA deputy associate administrator Wayne Hale said in a telephone conference call. "There were a number of alarms going off simultaneously. The crew was trying very hard to regain control. We're talking about a brief time in a crisis situation."

The NASA study team is recommending 30 changes based on Columbia, many of them aimed at the spacesuits, helmets and seatbelts for both the shuttle and the next space capsule NASA is building. Since the accident, NASA has quietly made astronauts put more priority on getting their protective suits on, Melroy said.

NASA's suits don't automatically pressurize, "a basic problem of suit design and it is one we intend to fix with future spacecraft," Hale said.

Had the astronauts had time to get their gear on and get their suits pressurized, they might have lived longer and been able to take more actions. But they still wouldn't have survived, the report notes.

The report lists events that were each potentially lethal to the crew: Loss of cabin pressure just before or as the cabin broke up; crew members, unconscious or already dead, crashing into objects in the module; exposure to a near vacuum at 100,000 feet; and crashing to the ground.

Killed in the Columbia disaster along with pilot McCool, were commander Rick Husband, Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark, and Israel's first astronaut, Ilan Ramon.

Columbia was the second space shuttle NASA has lost. The hole in its wing was caused by a piece of foam insulation that broke off the fuel tank and slammed into it at launch. The shuttle Challenger blew up shortly after liftoff on 1986, also claiming seven lives. Investigators in both accidents pointed to a NASA culture of ignoring problems that later turned fatal.

Dr. Jonathan Clark, a former NASA flight surgeon and husband of Laurel Clark, praised NASA's leadership for the report "even though it says, in some ways, you guys didn't do a great job."

"I guess the thing I'm surprised about, if anything, is that (the report) actually got out," said Clark, who was a member of the team that wrote it. "There were so many forces" that didn't want to produce the report because it would again put the astronauts' families in the media spotlight.

Some of the recommendations already are being applied to the next-generation spaceship being designed to take astronauts to the moon and Mars, said Clark, who now works for the National Space Biomedical Research Institute at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Kirstie McCool Chadwick, sister of William McCool, said a copy of the report arrived at her Florida home Tuesday morning but she had not read it.

"We've moved on," Chadwick said. "I'll read it. But it's private. It's our business ... Our family has moved on from the accident and we don't want to reopen wounds."

NASA held the report till after Christmas at the request of the families.

John Logsdon, who was a member of the original Columbia accident investigation board, questioned the need for the report, saying, "Those people are dead. Knowing in specifics how they died should be a private matter."

But for friends of the astronauts working on the investigation, confirming that the crew didn't suffer much "is a very small blessing," Melroy said.

http://www.nasa.gov/news/reports/index.html
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