WHY NASA HAD SO MANY FATAL ACCIDENTS IN THE PAST?
NASA’s Tragic History
The American space shuttle program was one of the most iconic projects in the history of the world. The program lasted 30 years, costing NASA billions of dollars and unfortunately several lives. Initially, the space shuttles were used to send astronauts to the space to carry out certain experiments, and later on, it was used to build the International Space Station.
It consisted of 5 space shuttles namely:-
The odds of a catastropic end for the first space shuttle launch was 1 out of 9, the people related to the industry knew this but they never talked about it.
Accidents of the Shuttle at Multiple Occasion:-
The program had many ups and downs due to the fact that it was not the safest thing in the world, it was real rocket science that they were dealing with here which made it astronomically difficult for the scientists. The program had 2 accidents in the year 1986 and 2003 of Challenger and Colombia respectively.
The Challenger accident was especially bad because it was the first time a teacher (non-astronaut individual) was flying on the shuttle. It was done to promote the existence of the shuttle in the eyes of the general public as it was said they had presumably lost interest in the space programs. It was also broadcasted all around the world in schools. Think about the reputation of NASA here, it must have been completely shattered.
THE CHALLENGER ACCIDENT
The challenger accident happened because of the failure of a rubber o-rings in the right SRB (Solid Rocket Booster) which let the super-hot flames directly aiming at the big orange tank filled with fuel, as a result just after 73 seconds into the missions it exploded like a fireball.
In the other point of view, it happened because that particular mission was delayed several times because of the cold conditions at the launch pad and NASA did not want to delay it further and ordered the launch to happen. Due to the cold condition, the rubber o-ring was not able to contract and relax properly and led the flames out of it. This accident was ultimately blamed on NASA for not taking proper care of the mission and caused the grounding of the remaining space shuttle for 2 years.
THE COLOMBIA ACCIDENT
The Colombia accident was a special case as it was known what had gone wrong with the shuttle but people at NASA didn’t know to what extent, this confusion mainly caused the accident. Even if they had known the extent of the damage, there was no guarantee that NASA was able to keep their astronauts safe.
During the ascend into space, foam particles are usually seen around the shuttle falling. But due to some obvious reasons, a big chunk of particle fell from the top and hit the front part of the left-wing, which presumably made a big hole around 16 inches in diameter on the body of the shuttle. This part of the wing was immensely damaged and couldn't be seen from the cockpit.
Colombia's accident was the actual reason why the American space shuttle program was grounded forever.
Even if the astronauts on the shuttle had known the intensity of the damage, they didn’t have proper tools to do the repair in space and they had to evacuate the shuttle and probably had to return in a different spacecraft. Obviously, they didn’t know about it and returned after completing their mission. During reentry, in the last leg of the journey, all the sensors in the left-wing started going haywire and started showing unacceptable values. First, the mission control thought the sensors were showing incorrect values but soon they established the sensors were correct and the spacecraft was in deep unavoidable trouble because once you start the reentry phase you can’t back out of it as not enough fuel is left with the spacecraft it solely relies on the gravity to pull it down. And the inevitable happened, during mid-flight, the spacecraft burned in the atmosphere flying over Texas.
All in all, NASA has been very successful with its launches of many satellites and spacecraft. After the accidents, these spacecraft were asked to be grounded by the American government as they posed a major threat to people's lives but eventually, people at NASA found a way to make it a successful venture.
The space shuttle was very sleek, it was so unsmooth that with its best flying capability it had a decent rate of about 10,000 feet a minute, which is like a falling stone.
During the early 2000s plans were being made to build an International Space Station (ISS) permanently stationed in space, for which tens of launches were needed to make it happen. Although it was an international agreement the American spacecraft was chosen to be the transport vehicle. It cost nearly $55 billion alone in launching the things to space and took nearly 15 years to complete. And after about 135 total launches (on the 8th of July 2011) when the ISS was fully complete all the remaining shuttle were finally grounded as agreed before as a result NASA had no way of sending people to the ISS, so they used Russian spacecraft. By taking advantage of this problem, private companies like SpaceX stepped into action and started investing heavily. On 30th May around 3:22 local time, SpaceX became the first private company to send astronauts to space other than NASA since 2011.
Other private players like Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic are jumping on the opportunity of sending humans to the ISS. In my opinion, this a good thing as we are going to see a boom in this industry, which means we are on a spree of seeing some extraordinary things in our lifetime.