Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Physics Division

Physics Division Seminars

Physics Division Seminars bring us speakers on a variety of physics related subjects. Usually these are held in the Building 6008 large Conference Room, at 3:00 pm on the chosen day, but times and locations may vary. For more information, contact our seminar chairman,

Alfredo Galindo-Uribarri
Tel (Office): (865) 574-6124  (FAX): (865) 574-1268


Fri., June 18, 2004, at 11:00 a.m.

Understanding the Columbia Space Shuttle Accident

Douglas D. Osheroff, Stanford University
Wigner Auditorium

On February 1, 2003, the NASA space shuttle Columbia broke apart during re-entry over East Texas at an altitude of 200,000 feet and a velocity of approximately 12,000 mph. All aboard perished. Prof. Osheroff was a member of the board that investigated the origins of this accident, both physical and organizational. In his talk he will describe how the board was able to determine with almost absolute certainty the physical cause of the accident. In addition, Prof. Osherhoff will discuss its organizational and cultural causes, which are rooted deep in the culture of the human spaceflight program. Why did NASA continue to fly the shuttle system despite the persistent failure of a vital sub-system that it should have known did indeed pose a safety risk on every flight? Finally, Prof. Osherhoff will touch on the future role humans are likely to play in the exploration of space.

1996 Nobel Laureate in Physics