The Columbia Tragedy and Iraq: An Omen of Impending Disaster?
By William Thomas /
February 14, 2003

February 2, 2003 - Does the shuttle Columbia's fiery accident high over Texas represent more than a tragic technological glitch? The last communication with the spacecraft came just seconds before breakup, when NASA Flight Control asked the crew if their instruments were showing the same temperature "spike" in the descending spacecraft's left wing wheel well that flight specialists were seeing on the ground. [CBC News Feb. 1, 2003]

Though garbled by the fierce frictional heat of re-entry, the last reported radio transmission from Columbia confirmed the high temperature reading. All onboard must have known that the craft's heat shielding had been breached, and that they faced a critical emergency. At 12,000 mph, even the slightest digression from a flight path computer-controlled to within half a degree would cause the craft to cartwheel. Catastrophe instantly followed this realization as the aerodynamic imbalance caused by the burning left wing apparently slewed, then flipped a machine flying at the speed of a bullet. Breakup was instantaneous.

The tragic sequence apparently began moments into liftoff from Florida, when a piece of fuel tank insulation broke off and struck the underside of the shuttle's left wing, where it straddled the rocket's booster tanks. After examining video footage of the debris strike, NASA engineers rated the problem as "minor".

That verdict now appears as questionable as ignoring written warnings of imminent "O-ring" failure in the Challenger's fuel tanks. Considering the delicacy of tiny tiles critical to dissipating the high heat of re-entering Earth's atmosphere at Mach 18 - and their domino-like tendency to peel away or "unzipper" if only a few are dislodged - any adverse impact during the violent stress of liftoff could spell trouble on re-entry.

Unaccountably, before returning to Earth, the crowded crew schedule was not altered to include a space suited "walk around" to determine visible damage to a craft first flown into space in 1986.

Perhaps no one wanted to know. If a visual inspection confirmed Columbia unfit for the rigors of re-entry, 10 marooned astronauts in an unfinished International Space Station (ISS) supplied with water, air and food for three permanent inhabitants would have presented an unprecedented and perhaps unsolvable emergency.

Uninterrupted shuttle flights are required not only to re-supply the space station. Each mission also nudges the ISS slightly higher in an orbit that is otherwise decelerating and inexorably descending. Without timely shuttle shoves, the $100 billion ISS, like the much smaller Soviet space station Mir, will become uninhabitable. And a structure equivalent in size to a 15-story building will fall to Earth, most likely within this decade. [San Francisco Chronicle Nov. 1, 2000; CBC News Feb. 1, 2003]

With no margin for the minutest malfunction, shaken but stoic space program participants refer to disastrous fatalities as the "inevitable price" of space exploration. But the timing of this monstrous mishap, coming halfway through the troubled mission of a man already known as the "Disaster President", was particularly unpropitious.

A Warning Written in Fire?

Coming as it does on the eve of an ill-conceived US military assault on the sanction-shattered people of Iraq, the fiery crash has shaken the particularly American arrogance of technological supremacy with yet another drastic reminder that even the best planned endeavors can go tragically wrong. Even to the mightiest nation on Earth.

But the deeper significance of the Columbia crash cannot be lost on anyone alert to signs from on high. In a bygone age more in touch with heavenly symbols than the unquestioned superstitions surrounding today's technologic marvels that border on magic, everyone from children to shamans would have "read" such lethal fireworks as an ominous omen.

In the East, followers of the Tao would say that a mighty, male-dominated nation is seriously out of harmony with the "flow" of natural female-male energies that must constantly seek harmonious balance with nurturing and aggressive behavior.

Even in a Western consumer culture severely "out of synch" with supposedly external events, many of us would view a major accident or illness in our own lives as an indication that our own intentions and actions have digressed far enough from universal laws and processes to attract a calamity big enough to serve as an unmistakable lesson.

Far from being mere mumbo-jumbo, back onboard a disintegrating spaceship called Earth, acknowledging the spiritual "feedback" of the Columbia calamity is far more important than analyzing instrument readouts.

The lesson over Texas was not lost on Arabian television viewers, who quickly called the loss of six Americans and one Israeli over the President's home state, "a sign of God's retribution on America."

While "retribution" is a far stronger and more presumptuous term than "wake up call," there is no indication that apocalyptic fundamentalists in the Bush administration will pause to reflect on the underlying significance of the disaster's endlessly replayed comet-like sign, before carrying the world over a Middle East precipice - without parachutes or an escape capsule.

Militarization in Space; Domination on Earth

True to their own cult of technology, NASA maintains that yesterday's tragic accident was strictly a mechanical malfunction that can be "fixed" by better engineering. Even that may prove impossible without replacing the remaining shuttles' thousands of critical ceramic tiles with some more resilient, as yet unknown, heat-dissipating "skin".

But identifying the malaise of unchecked militarism in space and below by a few unelected men is much more vital than debating an engineering problem - already being used to divert attention from the final assault on the world's first civilization, which gave us the very alphabet and mathematics necessary for space flight.

It is urgent that we address a crisis much deeper than the loss of a lynchpin to American prestige and the space station's eventual completion. What the shuttle crash clearly calls for is coast-to-coast introspection concerning the course of a once great nation hijacked in a rigged election by a small cabal of oilmen bent on world conquest.

Cheney, Rumsfeld, Libby and Wolfowitz are the same gang who, in 1992, drafted plans to rule the world through military force. The four men returned in 2000 to plan Washington's conquest of Iraq and a host of other "problem" nations, including neighboring Syria and Iran. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution Sept. 29, 2002]

But the real "problem nation" is the USA. Terrestrial signs of an ill-fated invasion came in a recent European poll by Time magazine, which asked readers to name the nation posing the greatest threat to world peace. More than a quarter-million Europeans responded: 7.8% replied North Korea; 8.9% named Iraq; 83.3% said the United States.

With American and British casualties already mounting steeply from anthrax-shots given before their assault on uranium-strafed cities, where airborne dust remains as radioactive as Hiroshima, all signs point to a terrible rerun of "Gulf War Illness II" - and casualties even more severe than the 250,000 American veterans, spouses and children stricken by a Desert Storm.

Following the breakup of Columbia over north Texas, many Americans must be asking themselves, "What else can go wrong?" once an attack on Iraq begins. With an answer to that worldwide worry perhaps only weeks away, the deeper tragedy of yesterday's "sign in the sky" is that without such urgently flagged introspection, we will have not understood - and acted on - yesterday's deeper meaning of the dramatic demise of seven astronauts over America.

William Thomas is the author of Bringing The War Home, Chemtrails Confirmed and All Fall Down: The Politics of Terror and Mass Persuasion.

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