The Pursuit of Images of Columbia

Abstract: Soon after the launch of Columbia STS-107, a piece of insulating foam struck the orbiter’s left wing. Launch video did not reveal the extent of the damage, and engineers’ analyses were inconclusive. The case follows the futile attempts of the chief structural engineer at Johnson Space Center to persuade upper management that obtaining images of Columbia’s wing is critical to the safe return of ship and crew. Includes an interview with Rodney Rocha.

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This case has been approved for public release under the terms and conditions of the License Agreement associated therewith. The views expressed in this document do not reflect official policy or position of NASA or the United States Government. It was developed for the purpose of discussion and training by the Goddard Space Flight Center’s Office of the Chief Knowledge Officer with support from the NASA Academy of Program/Project and Engineering Leadership. This material is extracted from publicly available sources and personal interviews with key mission personnel. It is not a comprehensive account of the mission and should not be quoted as a primary source. Feedback may be sent to Dr. Edward Rogers, Chief Knowledge Officer, at or (301) 286-4467.