Columbia Shuttle Disaster

On February 1, 2003, my good friend Peter Jennings of ABC News had just aired the National news of the Columbia Shuttle disaster, describing how NASA was sending investigators to Texas to recover pieces to analyze. I immediately contacted Peter and pointed out to him that a respected astronomer in California had seen some preliminary parts come off the Shuttle a couple minutes earlier, while it was still over the Pacific Ocean.

I told Peter that I had done a calculation of the Physics involved and thought that the most important pieces to try to find should be in California and Arizona, and that they might be small pieces. Within minutes, Peter was again on ABC News in describing this and within an hour, NASA was sending investigative crews out to California and Arizona, based on what Peter had aired.

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As always, I had provided Peter with more specifics and more details, such as the fact that I estimated windspeeds to try to estimate where pieces of the Shuttle might have wound up, including the fact that I thought there was a significant chance that some of the foam heat insulation panels might have fallen into the huge Lake Mead Reservoir, where they might have floated and where boats might try to search the surface of the reservoir.

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NASA never found any of the critically important first pieces to come off. Those pieces might easily have completely burned up in the atmosphere, but Peter liked that he was able to give News Special Reports that no other Network gave, and about ideas that even NASA had not thought about. Peter ALWAYS liked it when I provided him some insight where government researchers had not thought about them. I still think that better than this one was my suggestion to Peter regarding the deadly Anthrax envelopes that someone sent out late in 2001. Peter LOVED the fact that no one in the FBI had thought about the suggestion he called them with!


This presentation was first placed on the Internet in April 2012.

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C Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago