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Columbia's Last Moments

A transcript of the final radio transmissions between Mission Control and space shuttle Columbia on Feb. 1:

Flight Director Leroy Cain: FDO (pronounced Fido), Flight.

Flight Dynamics Officer Richard Jones: Go ahead, Flight.

CAIN: Did we get another balloon launched?

JONES: Yes sir. It's going to be a 10-minute delay basically in receipt of the data here. That's our estimate.

CAIN: What's our new estimate time to get the data, time to have the DDS in our hand?

JONES: It. We'll call it 10 'til flight. Another 15 minutes. All of this data will be in, assuming it goes to the correct altitude, 10K. We'll have this about before 10, Flight.


UNKNOWN VOICE: Richard, can you do any thing with the balloon that was lost for the 6,000 below data?

JONES: They're working that. There might be a data gap.

CAIN: We're not going to throw it away, it's just not complete.

UNKNOWN VOICE: (unintelligible)


UNKNOWN VOICE: Hydro repress, double connections not required.

CAIN: Thank you.

CAPCOM (Capsule communicator Astronaut Charlie Hobaugh): And Columbia, Houston, the hyd fluid thermo conditioning will not be required today. We'll meet you on the CARTS.

COLUMBIA: We copy, Houston. Hyd fluid thermal conditioning not required. And we copy going to the CARTS.

HOBAUGH: Rick, I don't want to lead you astray, but don't forget about the stuff on page three dash 44.

COLUMBIA: We're checking that. We've got the flight controller power on. We're working through the rest of it as well. Thanks.

UNKNOWN VOICE: Sounds good.

UNKNOWN VOICE: (unintelligible) GNC control take on 344.

CAIN: GNC, I missed your last call.

GNC (Guidance and Navigation Control Mike Sarafin): We see a good control and config on page three dash 44.

CAIN: OK, thank you. And folks I am going to the entry maneuvers cue cards.

SARAFIN: (unintelligible) accidentally downloaded two inertial. They are back in auto now.

CAIN: Thank you.

SARAFIN: We'd like another item 27. They got a few degrees out of attitude here.

CAIN: OK. We saw them get back to auto at 27.

HOBAUGH: Columbia, Houston, for Rick, we'll take another item 27, please.

COLUMBIA: Roger that, Houston. We'll give an item 27. We bumped the stick.

HOBAUGH: Not a problem, Rick.

SARAFIN: Flight, they have good ... attitude at this time.

CAIN: Good job.

COLUMBIA: We'll get the 304 at five minutes.

SARAFIN: We are ready.

HOBAUGH: Rick, we are ready for ops 304.

JONES: Flight...

CAIN: OK, go ahead.

JONES: This data set is a spliced data set. This is my backroom's attempt to get some data off that first balloon that was broken. It shows it is 1160 feet at one point. We are waiting for a balloon that just released a few minutes ago.

CAIN: What do you mean spliced together?

JONES: We did not get any data below 6K. Above 6K, excuse me. And we spliced basically a previous data set on top of this one to get an estimate.

CAIN: From where we are releasing the balloons ... are they going over the water with the wind direction from the surface on up to about 10,000 feet, the direction is from the left isn't.

JONES: Yes, Flight. We are...

CAIN: We start out with them far enough away from our HACK and then they're going the wrong way.

JONES: I would concur with that.

CAIN: The STA, the last dive here and we're not going to have them do any more was 1941 was close. We normalized at 1941 was close.

JONES: The X corrected was 1784. The X corrected normalized.

CAIN: We're talking about the normalized.

JONES: I think the STA performed a correction on top of the normalization.

CAIN: OK, we've got the last balloon data to come in before we make our decision.

UNKNOWN VOICE: Roll'em right.

MMACS (Maintenance, Mechanical, Arm and Crew Systems Officer Jeff Kling): Flight, MMACS.

CAIN: Go ahead, MMACS.

KLING: FYI I've just lost four separate temperature transducers on the left side of the vehicle, hydraulic return temperatures. (pause) Two of them on system one and one in each of systems 2 and 3.

CAIN: Four hyd return temps?

KLING: To the left outboard and left inboard elevons.

CAIN: OK, is there anything common to them, DSC or MDM or anything? I mean, you're telling me you lost them all at exactly the same time?

KLING: No, not exactly. They were within probably four or five seconds of each other.

CAIN: OK, where are those? Where is that instrumentation located?

KLING: All four of them are located in the aft part of the left wing, right in front of the elevons, elevon actuators. And there is no commonality.

CAIN: No commonality.

(long pause)

CAIN: MMACS, tell me again which systems they are for.

KLING: That's all three hydraulic systems, it's, two of them are to the left outboard elevon and two of them to the left (unintelligible)

CAIN: OK, I've got you.

SARAFIN: Flight, Guidance, we're processing drag with good residual.

CAIN: Copy. Thank you.

(long pause, silence)

GC (Ground Control Bill Foster): Flight, GC.


FOSTER: Your air to grounds are enabled for the landing count.

CAIN: Thank you. GNC, Flight.


CAIN: Everything look good to you, control and rates and everything is nominal, right?

SARAFIN: Control's been stable through the rolls that we've done so far, Flight, we have good trims. I don't see anything out of the ordinary.

CAIN: OK. MMACS, Flight.


CAIN: All other indications for your hydraulic system indications are good?

KLING: They're all good, we've had good quantities all the way across.

CAIN: And the other temps are normal?

KLING: The other temps are normal, yes sir.

CAIN: And when you say you lost these, are you saying that they went to zero (unintelligible).

KLING: All four of them are offscale low.

CAIN: Four offscale low.

KLING: And they were all staggered, they were, like I said, within several seconds of each other.


(long pause)

JONES: Flight, FDO.


CAIN: FDO, Flight.

JONES: We have the balloon, it is being run through DDS right now.



KLING: We just lost tire pressure on left outboard and left inboard, both tires.

HOBAUGH: And Columbia, Houston, we see your tire pressure messages and we did not copy your last.

CAIN, interrupting: Copy. Is it instrumentation, MMACS?

KLING: Flight, MMACS, those are also off, off-(unintelligible)

COLUMBIA (Commander Rick Husband): "Roger, buh" (he is abruptly cut off).

(long pause)

INCO (Instrumentation and Communications Officer Laura Hoppe): Flight, INCO.


HOPPE: (unintelligible), just taking a few hits here, we're right up on top of the tail, not too bad.

CAIN: MMACS, Flight.


CAIN: And there's no commonality between all these tire pressure instrumentations and the hydraulic return instrumentations?

KLING: No, sir, there's not. We've also lost the nose gear down talkback and the right main gear talkback.

CAIN: Nose gear and right main gear down talkbacks?

KLING: Yes, sir.

EECOM (Emergency, environmental and consumables operation manager Katie Rogers): And Flight, EECOM.


ROGERS: I've got four temperature sensors on the bottom line data that are offscale low.

(long pause)

HOPPE: Flight, INCO, I didn't expect this bad of a hit on comm.


CAIN: GC, how far are we from UHF, is that two-minute clock good?

FOSTER: Affirmative Flight.




SARAFIN: If we have any reason to suspect any sort of controllability issue I would keep the control cards handy on page four dash 13.

CAIN: Copy.

CAIN: INCO, we were rolled left, last data we had, and you weren't expecting a little bit of ratty comm, but not this long?

HOPPE: That's correct, Flight. I expected to be a little bit intermittent and this is pretty solid right here.

CAIN: No onboard system config changes right before we lost data?

HOPPE: That's correct, Flight, all looked good.

CAIN: Still all on string two and everything looked good?

HOPPE: String two looking good.


HOPPE: Two minutes to MILA. (Merritt Island tracking station.)

HOBAUGH: Columbia, Houston, comm check.

JONES: Flight, FDO?


JONES: Closing end point with the one-hour balloon shows us touching down at 1496, 1,500 feet down the runway. Our crosswind right now is on the left, from the left, on thg ;2-end. (Referring to 33-end of runway.)

HOBAUGH: Columbia, Houston, UHF comm check.

JONES: Flight, I'd like to stay where we're at.

CAIN: Copy.



KLING: On the tire pressures, we did see them go erratic for a little bit before they went away, so I do believe it's instrumentation.


HOBAUGH: Columbia, Houston, UHF comm check.


JONES: Flight, FDO.


JONES: I know this data is a little late. The one-hour balloon protects us for wind (unintelligible)

HOBAUGH: Columbia, Houston, UHF comm check.

JONES: I think we're in a smaller wind persistence case than that. In other words, we shouldn't expect to have that big of a change. I'm comfortable with 1,500 feet down the runway.

FOSTER: Flight, GC.


FOSTER: MILA's not reporting any RF at this time. (radio frequency.)

HOPPE: Flight, INCO ... (unintelligible).


CAIN: FDO, when you expecting tracking?

JONES: One minute ago, Flight.


HOBAUGH: Columbia, Houston, UHF comm check.

(long, long pause)

JONES: No C-band yet.

CAIN: Copy.

(long, long pause)

HOBAUGH: Columbia, Houston, UHF comm check.


HOPPE: Flight, INCO.


HOPPE: I could swap strings in the blind. (switch to backup communication system)


CAIN: OK, command us over.

HOPPE: In work, Flight.


HOPPE: Flight, INCO, commanded string one in the blind.


HOPPE: I commanded string one in the blind, Flight.

CAIN: Copy.

(long pause)

FOSTER: (unintelligible)


FOSTER: MILA's taking one of their antennas off into a search mode.

CAIN: Copy. FDO, Flight.

JONES: Go ahead, Flight.

CAIN: Did we get, have we gotten any tracking data?

JONES: We got a blip of tracking data, it was a bad data point, Flight. Uh, we do not believe that was the orbiter. We are in a search pattern with our C-bands at this time. We do not have any valid data at this time.

CAIN: OK. Any other trackers that we can go to?

JONES: Let me start talking, Flight? I know we'll get it.

(long, long pause)

CAIN: GC, Flight. GC, Flight.

FOSTER: Flight, GC.

CAIN: Lock the doors. (Make sure no data enters or leaves the room. This is the first sign of a realization something was wrong)


CAIN: FDO, do you have any tracking.

JONES: No, sir.

MOD (Mission Operations Representative Phil Engelauf): Flight, MOD. On the flight loop.

JONES: Flight, FDO.


JONES: My C-bands have not acquired anything, we are only acquiring false locks at this time.

CAIN: I copy, FDO.


CAIN: OK, all flight controllers on the flight loop, we need to kick off the FCOH (flight control operations handbook) contingency plan procedure. FCOH checklist, page two, point eight, dash five.

CAIN: FDO, Flight. FDO, Flight.

JONES: Go ahead.

CAIN: Do you have any information or reports from Space Command?



(long pause)

CAIN: OK, and all flight controllers on page nine of the FCOH procedure. You need to make sure you step through the actions required in step 20. That's for your work station logs, display printouts, there's a whole list of data collection items that we need to make sure we log through.

CAIN: GC, flight.

FOSTER: Flight, GC.

CAIN: FDO, Flight. We need to take the equivalent of a command server, TSU checkpoint.

UNKNOWN: Yes, sir.

CAIN: We don't have the old DFC checkpoint, but we've got an equivalent capability that we need to do.

UNKNOWN: We'll get that done.

CAIN: GC, Flight.

FOSTER: Flight, GC.

CAIN: You understand how to do the end of file log tapes that we need in the checklist.

FOSTER: Yes, sir.


CAIN: "And folks, listen up again on the flight loop, no, no phone calls off site, outside of this room, our discussions are on these loops on the recorded DVS (digital voice communications system) loops only. No data, no phone calls, no transmissions anywhere into or out."

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