BIOGRAPHY

Scott Thurston

Director of Civil and Commercial Programs, a. i. solutions, Inc., Titusville, FL, USA


Scott Thurston is the Director of Civil and Commercial Programs with a.i. solutions in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Scott has over 32 years’ experience in leading and supporting launch site operations and development of NASA human spaceflight systems both as a civil servant and contractor. He was the NASA Flow Manager for the Space Shuttle Columbia on STS-109 and STS-107 and subsequently for the return to flight on Space Shuttle Atlantis and led creation of the Columbia Research and Preservation project. Scott has also been significantly involved in the launch site architecture development and activation for Artemis, NASA’s Return to the Moon program and establishment of the Commercial Crew program. Scott holds a Master of Science in Engineering Management from the Florida Institute of Technology and Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Central Florida. He also holds his Professional Engineering license in the State of Florida.

ABSTRACT

Space Shuttle Columbia 20 Years Later: Lessons Learned and Beyond

February 1, 2023 will mark 20 years from the day when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated as it reentered the atmosphere, killing all seven crew members. As both the NASA manager responsible for preparing Columbia for flight and subsequently the rapid response team leaving Kennedy Space Center (KSC) that dreadful afternoon I was faced with the enormous task of recovering the crew and hardware remains to determine what caused the accident. With heavy hearts the recovery team departed KSC that very afternoon only knowing that a shuttle entering the earth’s atmosphere at nearly 17,000 mph was now somewhere, in pieces, across the south-central United States. This talk will summarize the process and lessons in which an immense collaboration and partnership between several large and small federal, state and local agencies came together in a never performed before search and collection of nearly a 250-mile-long debris path, exceeding all expectations for hardware recovery. During the next 3-months we quickly determined the mechanism of the External Tank bi-pod ramp foam striking the wing leading edge reinforced carbon-carbon (RCC) creating the aerodynamic failure. But how do we make actionable all the findings and recommendations of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board? The speaker will discuss the process NASA used to implement the solutions/mitigations and where we stand on those recommendations today. Included in the talk is the answer to the questions so many people and organizations either helping or wanting to help asked “what are you going to do with all this hardware debris?” and “isn’t there so much science to be learned from material properties and re-entry physics?”


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