Columbia Space Shuttle Astronauts Weren’t Told They Might Die & They Deserved to Know

Columbia Shuttle crewFile this under: completely heartbreaking. Today is the 10-year anniversary of the tragic Columbia Space Shuttle disaster, and NASA just revealed that the seven crew members who lost their lives on board had no idea their shuttle had been fatally damaged and that they were most likely facing imminent death. Didn't they deserve to know the truth?

That fateful day, NASA ground control suspected that, during the mission’s takeoff, the shuttle had sustained damage that was serious enough to put its ability to safely return to Earth at serious risk. But there wasn't anything they could do -- they had NO WAY to make repairs. So NASA had a truly wrenching decision to make: let the crew in space know they were very likely going to die -- either upon reentry or, if they couldn't make it back, out in space when their oxygen eventually ran out ... or keep the astronauts in ignorance and hope for the best.

Ground control decided not to tell them and, of course, their worst fears became a devastating reality. On February 1, 2003, the Columbia Shuttle exploded on reentry and disintegrated over Texas, taking the lives of all aboard. Augh, what a horrible dilemma!

I can certainly understand NASA’s thinking in keeping back the truth from their crew, and I can’t really say that I blame them ... but I do believe it was the wrong decision. Of the five men and two women on board, six of those astronauts were married, they had 12 children between them, and all seven surely had beloved people back on Earth, waiting and praying for their safe returns.

As a mom, I would want to know if my chances of ever seeing my daughter again had just narrowed to a tiny percentage. Even though just typing that makes me cry, I know I'd want to know. I’d want to be able to write her a letter, or record her a message, and tell her how much I love her, how strong and brave she is, and that I will always, always watch over her until we can be together again in the next world. I’d want to tell my husband one last time how much he means to me, how grateful I was for the wonderful man and father he is. My mom, my sisters, my best friends ... the list goes on, and I’d want that opportunity to send a final message of love and gratitude and hope.

And, even though I'm not religious, per se, I'd want the opportunity to pray.

Yes, I’m sure most of the time astronauts were prepared for the worst -- they were incredibly brave people who knew the risks they faced, and surely many left letters or messages to be opened if they didn't make it back. But there’s a big, big difference between embarking on a mission that you understand carries inherent, theoretical danger ... and knowing the time in your hour glass is just about to run all the way out.

Should NASA have told the Columbia astronauts the reality? Or was it better to leave them in ignorant bliss?


Image via NASA

accidents, in the news, death


To add a comment, please log in with

Use Your CafeMom Profile

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Comment As a Guest

Guest comments are moderated and will not appear immediately.

purpl... purpleflower514

These astronauts were not idiots, they knew there was a chance (there is ALWAYS a chance) they might not make it home. Their families knew that also. They said meaningful good byes to them before the launch.

kelti... kelticmom

I agree with purpleflowes, they knew the risks before they went up. But has NASA told them death was imminent, they would have spent their last moments in fear and panic.

kelly... kelly24019

I agree with the posters above me

Irela... Ireland69

They were astronauts!! how would they not know they were going to die.  I'm sure they knew something was wrong and if they didn't i rather have them go in peace!  

zombi... zombiemommy916

I agree but I don' wasn't NASA's decision to wasn't their lives to be lost...ignorance is not always bliss...imo

Roxygurl Roxygurl

I live here in Houston, home of mission control, and I've been to NASA more times than I can count.

The astronauts know of the danger, challenger is never far from their minds, and I do think NASA handled it as best as they possibly could.

I'd love to see what the families of the astronauts think of what NASA did though.

Blues... Blueshark77

The families agreed with NASA's decision. I wouldn't want to spend my last moments in fear and terror. Their families and astronauts knew they were loved.

nonmember avatar NoWay

This is why it is so important to always tell your loved ones that you love them. You NEVER know when your time could be up. Although unlikely, as I write this, I could die of a sudden heart attack or an airplane could crash into my building. Astronauts know going into space is a dangerous mission and there is a good chance they will not make it back. I believe NASA made the right decision not to tell them. I would not want to spend my last days / hours knowing that I was going to die.

nonmember avatar LizzieBorden

I'd want to know so that I could say my goodbye. Astronauts are trained to be under pressure, I think they could have handled the knowledge of potential death.

nonmember avatar kevobx

Truthfully speaking, or honestly lying. You make the call.

1-10 of 14 comments 12 Last