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Analysis of The Space Shuttle Columbia Calamity

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The Columbia Accident

Central Issue:

The main issue of this case is the restriction of power that NASA was given by the government and the unsafe decisions they were forced to make in order to try and gain some power and respect back.

The History and Facts:

In early 2003, a space shuttle named Columbia disintegrated during reentry during a routine check, due to a lack of insulation causing a melt in the left wing and weakening of the structure itself. This technical fault is not the main issue in this case, though, as it seems NASA was already aware of the foam strikes. It is said that the “issue was fixed, but its cause and or permanent correction was never addressed (Casamayou 107)”. Many external and internal forces led to the destruction of this ship, including the following: Separation of power is a main force affecting this case, being the fact that the NASA program was severely underfunded by the government in 1990. It is said that after the Challenger incident and the budget cut, the program designed to research the management and structure of this issue was abandoned. To combat these budget cuts, NASA decided to cut the jobs implemented after the Challenger designed to deal with safety inspections for the preflight reviews. Because of this lack of workers and regard for safety precautions, workers were almost conditioned not to see foam loss or debris as a safety concern. At the same time, NASA was also trying to gain respect back from the White House by being timely and efficient in their work, resulting in a bad work ethic and rushing in relation to safety measures. Overall, the accident could have been avoided with better support from the government, less pressure to perform studies and tests with a minimal amount of budget and help given, and bigger safety precaution and understandings of the risks of these studies being taken.


The government should not have cut the budget of the NASA program so deeply while still pressuring them to complete studies and stay ahead in terms of space exploration and creating safe and efficient ways of researching.

The NASA program should not have rushed or cut down on the safety measures and precautions taken before sending the Columbia out.

The NASA program should not have allowed the same mistake of a foam strike to happen twice. It should have been one of their main focuses the second time around, because it had already ruined an attempt previously and lost them a lot of respect.

NASA should have implemented their point to the government that they could not conduct the right and safe amount of research that they expected with such a low budget and refused to send the Columbia out.

Recommended Solution and Rationale:

NASA should have refused to conduct any research or send out any missions without the full respect and support of the government, knowing the budget would not be enough to fuel a safe and efficient mission. Instead, they should have shown the government how much they would have to cut down on research and safety measurements in order to afford to send the Columbia ship out, or made the issue public in order to gain respect from the public and gain more budgeting.

Theory Piece/ Essay:

This piece relates to the essay, “The Political Environment: The Concept of Administrative Power” by Norton E. Long. In this essay, Long enforces the fact that administrative institutions, like NASA, are in a continuous battle for political survival. He says the lifeblood of the administration is power, and when they are limited by the government and the general public, it is difficult for that organization to continue. In this case study, the effects of being limited by the government and a lack of respect from the general public after many conflicts and losses in their research, NASA is left struggling to gain a good impression with such a low budget, resulting in bad security and safety measures, and their ultimate failure.

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Analysis of the Space Shuttle Columbia Calamity. (2018, December 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 21, 2022, from
“Analysis of the Space Shuttle Columbia Calamity.” GradesFixer, 11 Dec. 2018,
Analysis of the Space Shuttle Columbia Calamity. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 May 2022].
Analysis of the Space Shuttle Columbia Calamity [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Dec 11 [cited 2022 May 21]. Available from:
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