Today’s first class was the case discussion on the Columbia Space Shuttle tragedy. It was disheartening to learn that the root cause was mismanagement, miscommunication and a sense of complacency at NASA.
Rodney Rocha was in the class along with a Chief Knowledge Officer at NASA. He took about 35 – 40 minutes to provide his perspective and answered questions. In his view NASA’s system was to blame and he could not hold any one person accountable. Rodney was the engineer on that Mission. He is one of the Chief Engineers at NASA today.
Here is the crew on board Columbia. This mission was a science mission to conduct various experiments. Variety of different experiments were on board including studying the effect of sand storms in the Sahara. Kalpana Chawla is in the center of this picture. Kevin, Alfonso, a few others talked to Rodney after class and I asked him the question if anything could have been done to save the crew. In his view, options were not explored. They could have done a spacewalk even though back then they were not doing spacewalks. They could have also talked to the Russians or others for ideas. His biggest regret is not yelling loud enough. He was one of the guys asking for satellite pictures to assess the damage on the shuttle’s wing. The request went nowhere.
Here is a picture of him providing his side of the story to the class.
Here is a closeup when we were talking to him after class.