This six-part series is the product of six months of reporting, encompassing 130 interviews with accident investigators, scientists and NASA employees across the United States. Staff writer Robert Lee Hotz reviewed dozens of government reports and public hearing transcripts spanning the quarter-century of the space shuttle program. He met at length with members of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. Hotz covered the 1986 Challenger accident and has reported on other manned spaceflight issues for 20 years.
When the independent Columbia Accident Investigation Board arrived at the hangar, NASA had already arranged the wreckage to suit itself and launched its own forensic analysis.
The rivalry was immediate.
On occasion, board investigators and NASA experts found themselves in shouting matches over the best way to proceed.
It was implicitly an argument over how history would judge what happened.
At NASA, the men and women who tended the space shuttles were no longer its inventors and innovators. They were by necessity curators of an operational museum piece.
Butterfly on a Bullet