In 1957 the Soviet Union put up Sputnik. Science and visor Vannevar Bush figured out what to say about our slacking program. Astronomer John Hagen supervised the deign of the Vanguard's rocket, technically far superior to the Soviet boosters. It launched and blew up on the pad. Senate majority leader Lyndon Johnson said, "How long, how long, O God, how long will it take us to catch up with the Russians satellites?" We did catch up. We hired an East German scientist Warner von Braun, the father of German's V-2 rockets, and put him to work. He rigged up one of his Redstone missiles and launched the U.S. satellite Explorer. (Cohn & Harwood).
Many Factors contributed to the break-up of the Columbia.
The 24,000 tiles that protect the shuttle from the soaring temperatures of re-entry have been trouble from the start. The fact that the accident occurred at the point when the ship was at its hottest (3,000 F) immediately raised the possibility that the tiles were somehow responsible. Handfuls of tiles often flake away during lift-off, leaving the National Aeronautics and Space Administration with nothing to do but wait out the flight and hope that the skin had not been exposed in a critically hot spot. In a worst-case scenario, just a few missing tiles in even a relatively low temperature area could lead to a fatal chain reaction, with possibly hundreds of them peeling away. "Losing a single tile can do you in," says Stanford University's Elisabeth Pate Cornell, an engineer and risk-management specialist who once led a NASA study about the entire ways shuttle tiles could fail. "Once you have lost the first tile, the adjacent ones become much more vulnerable. (Kluger 30) .
Investigators will be looking at everything from a loss of insulation tiles to an explosion in the fuel tanks to a structural failure in the ship itself. This flying machine with more than 2.5 million parts, even a 99.9% reliability level would still leave 2,500 things to go wrong.