'Lock the doors' - words that marked loss of hope for shuttle

Final radio transmissions chronicling the efforts of mission control as it became painfully aware of the destruction of the space shuttle Columbia were released by Nasa yesterday.

Final radio transmissions chronicling the efforts of mission control as it became painfully aware of the destruction of the space shuttle Columbia were released by Nasa yesterday.

The transcripts show problems that seem to worsen by the minute as the shuttle breaks into pieces, killing all seven astronauts aboard.

The first bad news comes when Jeff Kling, the maintenance, mechanical arm and crew systems officer, reports a sudden loss of data from spacecraft sensors."I just lost four separate temperature transducers on the left side of the vehicle," he says.

Flight director Leroy Cain asks if there is anything common to the sensors. Mr Kling says there is not, suggesting a general failure instead of a single system.

Moments later, Mike Sarafin, the guidance and navigation officer, announces that Columbia's wing is encountering drag, or increased wind resistance. Mr Cain asks if everything else is normal and Mr Sarafin assures him: "I don't see anything out of the ordinary."

Then Mr Kling says the landing gear tires have lost pressure. Capsule communicator Charlie Hobaugh addresses the spacecraft: "And Columbia, we see your tire pressure messages and we did not copy your last."

Columbia commander Rick Husband's response - "Roger, buh -" is abruptly cut off.

In short order, flight controllers begin reporting a string of problems. There is evidence of small collisions on the tail, and signals are cut off from the nose landing gear and the right main landing gear. Then more sensors are lost and the drag increases to the left.

Mr Hobaugh begins a series of radio calls to Columbia. There is no response. Mr Cain asks hopefully when a radar signal was expected. "One minute ago, flight," comes the response from Richard Jones, flight dynamics officer.

Finally, Mr Cain says the phrase that marked the lack of hope: "Lock the doors." This meant nobody could leave mission control until they had stored the data in their computers, finished reports and written accounts of what they saw, heard and did.

The GuardianTramp

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