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This post deals with Dr Fetzer's claims as detailed in his paper COLUMBIA MYSTERY, available here.

1. "They clearly record an electrical discharge like a lightning bolt flashing past, and I was snapping the pictures almost exactly . . . when the Columbia may have begun breaking up.."

Dr Fetzer even then quotes at least two other sources that show the lightning occurred seven minutes BEFORE the breakup. If this electrical discharge had been some type of directed energy weapon, the disruptive effects should have occurred immediately... but systems were nominal.

2. "...the foam-insulation-damaging-the-tiles, appeared to be inadequate because the computer simulations have failed to show how the insulation could have done enough damage to cause the catastrophe..."

That was the initial belief: they didn't think that it could cause enough damage. It was foam, after all, and the leading edge of the orbiter's blended wing was designed to withstand re-entry. When a full scale test was conducted though, they were all astounded to see the massive damage done to the wing by the foam impact.


3. "...Data from the Columbia's sensors, moreover, have not shown how the temperatures that were generated could have been sufficient to melt the Columbia's aluminum skin during reentry..."

That's because it was not the cause of the breakup. Damage to the leading edge of the wing allowed superheated air into the interior of the wing, which was NOT designed to withstand them. That caused the structural failure.

4. "...He also said that Columbia did not execute those turns, which are completely computer-generated, but instead came straight in..."

Incorrect. The turns were commenced as per normal.

"At 8:49:32 a.m. (EI+323), traveling at approximately Mach 24.5, Columbia executed a roll to the right, beginning a pre-planned banking turn to manage lift, and therefore limit the Orbiterʼs rate of descent and heating."

5. "...Columbia was out of control almost immediately upon its reentry..."

It wasn't. To all concerned it was a nominal profile until shortly before the breakup, when overtemps were recorded in the left landing gear bay followed shortly by the loss of various sensors around the same area. Breakup occurred shortly afterwards.

There were problems 270 seconds after Entry Interface (EI), when stresses above normal were recorded on the left wing spar but the sensor recording this was an engineering sensor, designed for post flight analysis and was not transmitted in real time to the flight crew nor ground control. What they did not know was that the flight control computer was fighting hard to keep the orbiter on a normal re-entry flight path.

6. "...Columbia was engaged in a military mission using a multi-spectral telescope to scan for emissions released at night over the Iraqi desert as waste products of chemical weapons production..."

Hardly. It was an unclassified mission:



7. "...Ilan Ramon made Earth observations with a cluster of instruments, which required an independent source of power for its infarred beam to discern images at night. Yoichi Clark Shimatsu reports that the source of that power was an exotic type of fissionable fuel called “americium-242” developed at

Ben-Gurion University..."

The camera used was a Xybion IMC-201 radiometric camera, whose power source is the orbiter's own onboard Electrical Power System... which is fed by oxygen / hydrogen fuel cells, not a radioisotope thermoelectric generator. The camera was LOOKING for Americium. Ben-Gurion University did NOT develop Americium-242; they discovered it could be used as a power source and have led development of a battery.


8. "...Ilan Ramon and Commander William McCool were both specialists in electromagnetic warfare..."

No, they weren't.

CMDR McCool was a USN pilot, whose first posting was to be the PILOT of an EA-6B Prowler EW aircraft. He later became a test pilot and had a degree in

aeronautical engineering. He certainly had a good understanding of EW but he was far from a 'specialist' in EW.

COL Ramon was a fighter pilot in the Israeli Air Force (IAF) who eventually became a department head in IAF Operational Requirements for Weapon Development and Acquisition. He had no expertise in EW.

9. "...such as the loss of control, failure to make the "S" maneuver, and abnormal temperature..."

As shown above, this is wrong.

10. "...There is no guarantee that the EMP hypothesis is true..."

Correct, because the hypothesis is wrong. The whole hypothesis is based on supposition, innuendo and inaccuracy.

So let's have a look at facts.

At 8:49 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (EI+289), the Orbiterʼs flight control system began steering a precise course, or drag profile, with the initial roll command occurring about 30 seconds later. At 8:49:38 a.m., the Mission Control Guidance and Procedures officer called the Flight Director and indicated that the “closed-loop” guidance system had been initiated. The Maintenance, Mechanical, and Crew Systems (MMACS) officer and the Flight Director (Flight) had the following exchange beginning at 8:54:24 a.m. (EI+613).

MMACS: “Flight – MMACS.”

Flight: “Go ahead, MMACS.”

MMACS: “FYI, Iʼve just lost four separate temperature transducers on the left side of the vehicle, hydraulic return temperatures. Two of them on system one and one in each of systems two and three.”

Flight: “Four hyd [hydraulic] return temps?”

MMACS: “To the left outboard and left inboard elevon.”

Flight: “Okay, is there anything common to them? DSC [discrete signal conditioner] or MDM [multiplexer-demultiplexer] or anything? I mean, youʼre telling me you lost them all at exactly the same time?”

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

Flight: “Okay, where are those, where is that instrumentation located?”

MMACS: “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.”

Flight: “No commonality.”

At 8:56:02 a.m. (EI+713), the conversation between the Flight Director and the MMACS officer continues:

Flight: “MMACS, tell me again which systems theyʼre for.”

MMACS: “Thatʼs all three hydraulic systems. Itʼs ... two of them are to the left outboard elevon and two of them to the left inboard.”

Flight: “Okay, I got you.”

The Flight Director then continues to discuss indications with other Mission Control Center personnel, including the Guidance, Navigation, and Control officer (GNC).

Flight: “GNC – Flight.”

GNC: “Flight – GNC.”

Flight: “Everything look good to you, control and rates and everything is nominal, right?”

GNC: “Controlʼs been stable through the rolls that weʼve done so far, flight. We have good trims. I donʼt see anything out of the ordinary.”

Flight: “Okay. And MMACS, Flight?”

MMACS: “Flight – MMACS.”

Flight: “All other indications for your hydraulic system indications are good.”

MMACS: “Theyʼre all good. Weʼve had good quantities all the way across.”

Flight: “And the other temps are normal?”

MMACS: “The other temps are normal, yes sir.”

Flight: “And when you say you lost these, are you saying that they went to zero?” [Time: 8:57:59 a.m., EI+830] “Or, off-scale low?”

MMACS: “All four of them are off-scale low. And they were all staggered. They were, like I said, within several seconds of each other.”

Flight: “Okay.”

At 8:58:00 a.m. (EI+831), Columbia crossed the New Mexico-Texas state line. Within the minute, a broken call came on the air-to-ground voice loop from Columbiaʼs commander, “And, uh, Hou …” This was followed by a call from MMACS about failed tire pressure sensors at 8:59:15 a.m. (EI+906).

MMACS: “Flight – MMACS.”

Flight: “Go.”

MMACS: “We just lost tire pressure on the left outboard and left inboard, both tires.”

The Flight Director then told the Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM) to let the crew know that Mission Control saw the messages and that the Flight Control Team was evaluating the indications and did not copy their last transmission.

CAPCOM: “And Columbia, Houston, we see your tire pressure messages and we did not copy your last call.”

Flight: “Is it instrumentation, MMACS? Gotta be ...”

MMACS: “Flight – MMACS, those are also off-scale low.”

At 8:59:32 a.m. (EI+923), Columbia was approaching Dallas, Texas, at 200,700 feet and Mach 18.1. At the same time, another broken call, the final call from Columbiaʼs commander, came on the air-to-ground voice loop:

Commander: “Roger, [cut off in mid-word] …”

This call may have been about the backup flight system tire pressure fault-summary messages annunciated to the crew onboard, and seen in the telemetry by Mission Control personnel. An extended loss of signal began at 08:59:32.136 a.m. (EI+923). This was the last valid data accepted by the Mission Control computer stream, and no further real-time data updates occurred in Mission Control. This coincided with the approximate time when the Flight Control Team would expect a short-duration loss of signal during antenna switching, as the onboard communication system automatically reconfigured from the west Tracking and Data Relay System satellite to either the east satellite or to the ground station at Kennedy Space Center. The following exchange then took place on the Flight Director loop with the Instrumentation and Communication Office (INCO):

INCO: “Flight – INCO.”

Flight: “Go.”

INCO: “Just taking a few hits here. Weʼre right up on top of the tail. Not too bad.”

The Flight Director then resumes discussion with the MMACS officer at 9:00:18 a.m. (EI+969).

Flight: “MMACS – Flight.”

MMACS: “Flight – MMACS.”

Flight: “And thereʼs no commonality between all these tire pressure instrumentations and the hydraulic return instrumentations.”

MMACS: “No sir, thereʼs not. Weʼve also lost the nose gear down talkback and the right main gear down talkback.”

Flight: “Nose gear and right main gear down talkbacks?”

MMACS: “Yes sir.”

At 9:00:18 a.m. (EI+969), the postflight video and imagery analyses indicate that a catastrophic event occurred. Bright flashes suddenly enveloped the Orbiter, followed by a dramatic change in the trail of superheated air. This is considered the most likely time of the main breakup of Columbia. Because the loss of signal had occurred 46 seconds earlier, Mission Control had no insight into this event. Mission Control continued to work the loss-of-signal problem to regain communication with Columbia:

INCO: “Flight – INCO, I didnʼt expect, uh, this bad of a hit on comm [communications].”

Flight: “GC [Ground Control officer] how far are we from UHF? Is that two-minute clock good?”

GC: “Affirmative, Flight.”

GNC: “Flight – GNC.”

Flight: “Go.”

GNC: “If we have any reason to suspect any sort of controllability issue, I would keep the control cards handy on page 4-dash-13.”

Flight: “Copy.”

At 9:02:21 a.m. (EI+1092, or 18 minutes-plus), the Mission Control Center commentator reported, “Fourteen minutes to touchdown for Columbia at the Kennedy Space Center. Flight controllers are continuing to stand by to regain communications with the spacecraft.”

Flight: “INCO, we were rolled left last data we had and you were expecting a little bit of ratty comm [communications], but not this long?”

INCO: “Thatʼs correct, Flight. I expected it to be a little intermittent. And this is pretty solid right here.”

Flight: “No onboard system config [configuration] changes right before we lost data?”

INCO: “That is correct, Flight. All looked good.”

Flight: “Still on string two and everything looked good?”

INCO: “String two looking good.”

The Ground Control officer then told the Flight Director that the Orbiter was within two minutes of acquiring the Kennedy Space Center ground station for communications, “Two minutes to MILA.” The Flight Director told the CAPCOM to try another communications check with Columbia, including one on the UHF system (via MILA, the Kennedy Space Center tracking station):

CAPCOM: “Columbia, Houston, comm [communications] check.”

CAPCOM: “Columbia, Houston, UHF comm [communications] check.”

At 9:03:45 a.m. (EI+1176, or 19 minutes-plus), the Mission Control Center commentator reported, “CAPCOM Charlie Hobaugh calling Columbia on a UHF frequency as it approaches the Merritt Island (MILA) tracking station in Florida. Twelve-and-a-half minutes to touchdown, according to clocks in Mission Control.”

MMACS: “Flight – MMACS.”

Flight: ”MMACS?”

MMACS: “On the tire pressures, we did see them go erratic for a little bit before they went away, so I do believe itʼs instrumentation.”

Flight: “Okay.”

The Flight Control Team still had no indications of any serious problems onboard the Orbiter. In Mission Control, there was no way to know the exact cause of the failed sensor measurements, and while there was concern for the extended loss of signal, the recourse was to continue to try to regain communications and in the meantime determine if the other systems, based on the last valid data, continued to appear as expected. The Flight Director told the CAPCOM to continue to try to raise Columbia via UHF:

CAPCOM: “Columbia, Houston, UHF comm [communications] check.”

CAPCOM: “Columbia, Houston, UHF comm [communications] check.”

GC: “Flight – GC.”

Flight: “Go.”

GC: “MILA not reporting any RF [radio frequency] at this time.”

INCO: “Flight – INCO, SPC [stored program command] just should have taken us to STDN low.” [sTDN is the Space Tracking and Data Network, or ground station communication mode]

Flight: “Okay.”

Flight: “FDO, when are you expecting tracking? “ [FDO is the Flight Dynamics Officer in the Mission Control Center]

FDO: “One minute ago, Flight.”

GC: “And Flight – GC, no C-band yet.”

Flight: “Copy.”

CAPCOM: “Columbia, Houston, UHF comm [communications] check.”

INCO: “Flight – INCO.”

Flight: “Go.”

INCO: “I could swap strings in the blind.”

Flight: “Okay, command us over.”

INCO: “In work, Flight.”

At 09:08:25 a.m. (EI+1456, or 24 minutes-plus), the Instrumentation and Communications Officer reported, “Flight – INCO, Iʼve commanded string one in the blind,” which indicated that the officer had executed a command sequence to Columbia to force the onboard S-band communications system to the backup string of avionics to try to regain communication, per the Flight Directorʼs direction in the previous call.

GC: “And Flight – GC.”

Flight: “Go.”

GC: “MILAʼs taking one of their antennas off into a search mode [to try to find Columbia].”

Flight: “Copy. FDO – Flight?”

FDO: “Go ahead, Flight.”

Flight: “Did we get, have we gotten any tracking data?”

FDO: “We got a blip of tracking data, it was a bad data point, Flight. We do not believe that was the Orbiter [referring to an errant blip on the large front screen in the Mission Control, where Orbiter tracking data is displayed.] Weʼre entering a search pattern with our C-bands at this time. We do not have any valid data at this time.”

By this time, 9:09:29 a.m. (EI+1520), Columbiaʼs speed would have dropped to Mach 2.5 for a standard approach to the Kennedy

Space Center.

Flight: “OK. Any other trackers that we can go to?”

FDO: “Let me start talking, Flight, to my navigator.”

At 9:12:39 a.m. (E+1710, or 28 minutes-plus), Columbia should have been banking on the heading alignment cone to line up on Runway 33. At about this time, a member of the Mission Control team received a call on his cell phone from someone who had just seen live television coverage of Columbia breaking up during re-entry. The Mission Control team member walked to the Flight Directorʼs console and told him the Orbiter had disintegrated.

Flight: “GC, – Flight. GC – Flight?”

GC: “Flight – GC.”

Flight: “Lock the doors.”

Having confirmed the loss of Columbia, the Entry Flight Director directed the Flight Control Team to begin contingency procedures.

Edited by Evan Burton
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  • 2 years later...

Over 2 years an Jim cannot refute any of my facts. I believe this just demonstrates how Jim Fetzer says whatever suits him, and then doesn't worry about trying to back up his statements with actual fact.

Jim Fetzer is a very unreliable source of information.

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