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Though the shuttle had broken to pieces, the crew compartment was intact. It stabilized in a nose-down attitude within 10 to 20 seconds, say the investigators. Even if the compartment was gradually losing pressure, those on the flight deck would certainly have remained conscious long enough to catch a glimpse of the green-brown Atlantic rushing toward them. If it lost its pressurization very slowly or remained intact until it hit the water, they were conscious and cognizant all the way down.
In fact, no clear evidence was ever found that the crew cabin depressurized at all. There was certainly no sudden, catastrophic loss of air of the type that would have knocked the astronauts out within seconds. Such an event would have caused the mid-deck floor to buckle upward; that simply didn't happen.
The cabin swayed only slightly -- a degree or two each way. Behind it, lengths of wire, hundreds of them, trailed like the tail of a child's kite, helping to stabilize it. They were part of the shuttle's wiring harness.
Originally posted by wisper
Originally posted by MrInquisitive
Something went wrong, the shuttle broke apart, but the crew capsule remained intact and then crashed in the Atlantic ocean, at which point it was pulverized but remained together because of wires. The crew were likely alive, awake and aware up until the moment of the crash at which point they died instantaneously -- and were likely bug splat.
I read the height they where at they would've passed out.....
True but the crew compartment hit the ocean at 200 Plus MPH. This would be equivalent to other space modules that have successfully splashed into the ocean after a return back to earth. Thus the deployment of the parachute to be controlled during the descent and not during the initial disenagement from the shuttle's main body. I know its a complicated design but just throwing it out there. Parachutes are used on the top fuel dragsters at more than 350 mph. Although there is a big difference between object hurling down based on gravity and mass vs object rolling on a flat surface with a parachute deployed, I still believe that similar to the mars landers and several missiles and/or landing equipment delivery system does make use of the earth's surface topography during descent and deploy rocket motors to slow the impact of the cargo being delivered/dropped. What was the objective of designing a compartment crew that can seperate by itself without having a recovery mechanism during inflight failure? Just curious.
Originally posted by Foundryman
reply to post by hp1229
There was no parachute system at the time that could withstand a hypersonic ejection from the orbiter. NASA did try to design a few systems and I'm not really sure if they came up with an effective design. No one ejected from Columbia so I'm guessing no.