2 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, February 4, 2003
Columbia: Doomed from the start? NEwsIBRiEF
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SPACE CENTER, Houston (AP) - NASA
acknowledged yesterday that its "best and bright-
est" minds may have gotten it wrong when they
concluded in a report four days before Columbia
disintegrated that a flying, 2 1/2-pound chunk of
insulation did no serious damage to the shuttle's
thermal tiles during liftoff.
Shuttle program manager Ron Dittemore said
the agency will redo the entire analysis from
"We want to know if we made any mistakes,"
Practically from the start, investigators have
focused on the possibility that a 20-inch piece of
foam insulation that fell off the shuttle's big external
fuel tank during liftoff Jan. 16 doomed the spacecraft
by damaging the heat tiles that keep the ship from
burning up during re-entry into the atmosphere.
While Columbia was still in orbit, NASA engi-
neers analyzed launch footage frame-by-frame
and were unable to determine for certain whether
the shuttle was damaged. But they ran computer
analyses for different scenarios and different
assumptions about the weight of the foam, its
speed, and where under the left wing it might
have hit, even looking at the possibility of tiles
missing over an area of about 7 inches by 30
inches, NASA said.
The half-page engineering report - issued on
Day 12 of the 16-day flight - indicated "the
potential for a large damage area to the tile." But
the analyses showed "no burn-through and no
safety-of-flight issue," the report concluded,
according to a copy released by NASA yesterday.
High-level officials at NASA said they agreed
at the time with the engineers' assessment.
"We were in complete concurrence," Michael
Kostelnik, a NASA spaceflight office deputy,
said at a news conference yesterday with NASA's
top spaceflight official, William Readdy.
"The best and brightest engineers we have who
helped design and build this system looked care-
fully at all the analysis and the information we
had at this time, and made a determination this
was not a safety-of-flight issue."
The analyses spanned a week and no one on
the team, to Dittemore's knowledge, had any
reservations about the conclusions and no one
reported any concerns to a NASA hotline set up
for just such occasions.
"Now I am aware, here two days later, that
there have been some reservations expressed by
certain individuals and it goes back in time,"
Dittemore said. "So we're reviewing those reser-
vations again as part of our data base. They
weren't part of our playbook at the time because
they didn't surface. They didn't come forward."
Yesterday, Readdy said the damage done by the
broken-off piece of insulation is now being looked at
very carefully as a possible cause of the tragedy.
"Although that may, in fact, wind up being the
cause - it may certainly be the leading candi-
date right now - we have to go through all the
evidence and then rule things out very methodi-
cally in order to arrive at the cause," he said.
Last night, searchers found the front of the shut-
tIe's nose cone buried deep in the ground near the
Louisiana border. But even more valuable in trying
to piece together what happened would be to locate
any tiles from Columbia's left wing.
"That's the missing link that we're trying to
find," Dittemore said.
Bush calls for tax cuts in budget proposal
President Bush called for $1.3 trillion in new tax relief over the next decade
in the budget he sent the Republican-controlled Congress yesterday, featuring
proposals to accelerate and then make permanent the cuts lawmakers approved
two years ago, as well as his highly contested plan to slash taxes on corporate
Apart from the biggest-ticket items, though, Bush's budget includes tax incen-
tives designed to stimulate energy production, implement pending free trade
agreements with Chile and Singapore and make telecommuting more attractive.
Tax breaks for ethanol production, set to expire in 2007, would be extended, and
some individuals who care for relatives with long-term needs would qualify for
an extra tax exemption.
Bush said he aimed to provide "critical momentum to our economic recovery"
with his tax cut recommendations, many of which were contained in a $695 stim-
ulus package he unveiled last month. "We are strengthening our economy by
allowing American families to keep more of their own money and encouraging
businesses to save, spend and grow," he said in his annual budget message.
Democrats, a minority in both houses of Congress, vowed a fight against
administration proposals they said were tilted toward the richest Americans.
Venezuelan strike ends for all but oil workers
Workers in all sectors but the vital oil industry returned to their jobs yes-
terday - abandoning a two-month general strike that devastated
Venezuela's economy but failed to oust President Hugo Chavez.
As life began returning to normal in stores, factories and banks, the gov-
ernment made gains toward restoring oil production to pre-strike levels in a
nation that is a major supplier of crude to the United States and the world's
fifth-largest petroleum exporter.
The fear of bankruptcy and shortages of gasoline and other essentials
prompted leaders to end the strike, which began Dec. 2, said Albis Munoz,
vice president of the country's biggest business chamber, Fedecamaras.
Chavez, elected in 1998 and re-elected in 2000, vows to defeat his oppo-
nents in the streets and at the ballot box. He said Sunday he will prosecute
strike leaders for sabotaging the economy.
Venezuela's opposition still hopes to generate international pressure for
new elections. The United States, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Spain and Portugal
joined the Organization of American States in mediating 3-month-old talks.
Pentagon may send
troops to N. Korea
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Penta-
gon is considering new deployments in
the Pacific Ocean to signal North Korea
that the United States remains capable of
blunting an attack in Korea despite its
focus on possible war in Iraq.
No decision has been made, but
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is
considering options including sending
an aircraft carrier to the waters off the
Korean peninsula and adding bombers
in Guam, officials said yesterday.
The United States has 37,000 troops
stationed in South Korea, where it has
maintained a force since the 1950-53
Korean War ended in a truce. Tension
between Washington and Pyongyang
over North Korea's nuclear program
has been rising since October, howev-
er, and officials said they want to deter
the North from provocations during
any war to remove Saddam Hussein as
White House spokesman Ari Fleisch-
er said President Bush still believes the
North Korean standoff can be resolved
peacefully. "That doesn't mean the Unit-
ed States won't have contingencies and
make certain those contingencies are
viable," Fleischer told reporters.
Rumsfeld held a 45-minute meeting
yesterday at the Pentagon with Chyung
Dai-chul, a special envoy for the South
Korean president-elect, Roh Moo-
hyun, who takes office Feb. 25.
Chyung is on a weeklong Washington
visit, to include talks today with Secre-
tary of State Colin Powell.
Rumsfeld and Chyung discussed the
future of the U.S.-South Korean military
alliance and the need for updating and
modernizing it, according to Pentagon
spokesman Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Davis.
"They also discussed North Korea
and the need to continue working togeth-
er for a peaceful solution," Davis said.
American officials disclosed Friday
that spy satellites had detected what
appeared to be trucks moving spent fuel
rods from a North Korean nuclear facili-
ty. It was viewed as a possible sign Kim
Jong Il's government might be preparing
to process the rods to produce nuclear
weapons, which would be an escalation
of the confrontation that has developed
with the United States since October.
The Navy has long had a carrier
deployed to the Pacific region, home-
ported in Yokosuka, Japan. But because
of the possibility that the carrier there,
the USS Kitty Hawk, could be ordered
to the Persian Gulf, officials were con-
sidering sending another totheKorean-
area - possibly the USS Carl Vinson.
fear of war
KUWAIT CITY (AP) - Kuwait's
two main American schools announced
yesterday that they will suspend class-
es, and foreign companies considered
evacuations - signs that threats of ter-
rorism and a possible U.S.-led attack
on Iraq are unnerving Westerners liv-
ing in this oil-rich emirate.
Americans and other foreigners have
begun to leave Kuwait, heeding a U.S.
State Department recommendation.
Several said they feared for their fami-
lies' safety following an Iraqi threat to
attack Kuwait if the United States
launches a war, considered likely in the
Oil companies British Petroleum,
Texaco and Chevron were reportedly
holding meetings yesterday and today
to decide whether to evacuate their
The moves followed three recent
attacks on U.S. citizens in Kuwait that
killed one U.S. Marine and an Ameri-
can businessman working on a contract
with the U.S. Army. Kuwaiti Muslim
extremists are suspected in two of the
"I'm worried that one of these fanat-
ics will see an American woman with
her kids and try to take a potshot at us,"
said Sharon Margolis, a Californian
who has lived in Kuwait for 20 years
but now says she may leave with her
four sons and Kuwaiti husband.
A survey by The Associated Press of
international schools elsewhere in the
Middle East - including Egypt,
Lebanon, Bahrain and the United Arab
Emirates - found no other institutions
with firm plans to close because of
fears of a war in Iraq.
But Kuwait is especially vulnerable
because the small emirate lies within
range of Iraqi missiles and is a major
staging area for U.S. forces preparing
for a possible war.
An estimated 30,000 U.S. troops
have already assembled in this country
of 23 'millin nonl . nd tn of tha.
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast
Ivorians Speak against
Loyalist women surrounded the
French Embassy yesterday, swaying to
music in an 8,000-strong protest against
a French-brokered peace deal - the lat-
est in an outpouring of anger that has
sent countless French fleeing their one-
time West African hub. "Chirac, liar!"
women chanted, dancing and waving tree
branches as they denounced French Pres-
ident Jacques Chirac.
French leaders, unyielding, demanded
that Ivory Coast President Laurent
Gbagbo stick to the peace proposals
negotiated outside Paris, which have
angered many government supporters.
Ivory Coast rebels declared yesterday
they would win, thewar in-two days if
the peace efforts collapse. "We went to
Paris not only because we know our
cause is jvstbunt because we wantedto,
preserve human life - because under
the military option, 48 hours is enough
to finish off Laurent Gbagbo," rebel
leader Guillaume Soro said.
Tens of thousands of Americans face
the heart valve replacement that.Sen.
Bob Graham underwent last week, open-
heart surgery that is likely to increase
dramatically as the population ages.
But what if a simple pill could slow
the rusting of the aortic heart valve and
let patients postpone, maybe even avoid,
the surgery that is today's only fix?
Scientists have uncovered tantalizing
evidence that statins, those pills so popu-
lar to lower cholesterol, might do just that
- and not through any cholesterol
effect, but by a completely different
action that suggests even patients with
low cholesterol might benefit.
"It's very exciting," said Dr. Ann Bol-
ger of the American Heart Association,
who is monitoring early research that
suggests bad valves are half as likely to
worsen if patients take statins. "No one
The aortic valve shunts oxygen-rich
blood from the heart's main pumping
chamber to the rest of the body.
Gray wolf returns to
Once driven to near-extinction in the
lower 48 states, the gray wolf is loping
across the Northern Rockies in num-
bers not seen in a century, and the gov-
ernment is about to declare victory in
its $17 million effort to bring the preda-
Possibly as early as this month, the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will ease
the federal protections that allowed the
wolves to make a comeback. And as
early as next year, all federal protec-
tions for wolves could be removed and
their management turned over to the
Conservationists fear the move will
only lead to the wolves' numbers drop-
ping off again.
"There is very little out there to indi-
cate that we're not just headed back to
the bad old days of wolf pelts all over
people's walls," said Tim Preso of the
Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund in
- Compiled from Daily wire reports.
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