FEBRUARY 12, 2003

Leroy Cain, Flight Director
Milt Heflin, Chief Flight Director

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: We'll talk for just a minute and then we'll open up for questions. And we're going to go around with questions starting here in Houston, go to the centers that have multiple reporters at them, and then we'll go to some individual reporters for questions.

Okay, Milt.

MILT HEFLIN: Okay, James, thanks. And I personally am very glad that we're doing this today, 'cause I think it's very important that we continue to share with you things that we know as we find them out. I've spent this past week really doing a lot of going around the country where we've got folks deployed and talking to people in the field; been to Barksdale, over at Lufkin, up to Nacogdoches and Carswell to meet with the teams and looking at what we have and so forth, and so I've been pretty much out of the loop the last several days.

But the thing that I think that I really see is a lot of people working very hard and the stories I'm hearing about just folks out there helping us with -- do this, folks in the small towns and so forth. Boy, there's many stories out there that really make your heart (inaudible) so I've been basically off and doing that.

I know that you all are very aware of some discussions and e-mail traffic that we have shared and dealt with connected with the flight, and what we're wanting to do today is to try to characterize for you and talk to you about this sort of communication and how we operate in Flight Operations and so forth, so we really want to spend some time answering your questions and things that you might have relative to the e-mail associated with this and give you a good feel for how this -- you know, what this means and how it occurs.

I read a couple things today that I can -- that have been printed and have been out in the papers and, you know, I can tell, I mean, you know, you're not getting the whole story and that's the worst part of this, that's the thing that really bothers me, is you get a bit and piece here and you don't get the whole story, you go on that and that's not right, it hurts us, it doesn't help you, and then we all get confused. So the more that we can share with you and tell you what this all means and how we work this, I think the better off we're going to be. So that's what I wanted to say at the beginning.

Leroy Cain, the ascent/entry flight director for STS-107 and one of my senior flight directors, is here along to share with you some of his thoughts and help answer your questions connected with this today. Leroy?

LEROY CAIN: Good afternoon. You have to let me know if you can't hear me. Good afternoon again. I've spent -- I'll tell you a little bit about what I've been doing since Saturday. I've spent most of my time very involved -- I have spent -- I thought I'd just share (inaudible) Saturday. As you know, we have a lot of different parts of the organization that have been assembling our procedures for(inaudible) doing investigation. I spend a lot of my time making sure that we have the right people tied in to those various groups and elements that are involved in those portions. There are different pieces of the investigation. I, myself, have been involved in several of the technical meetings regarding (inaudible) data, the analysis of the data (inaudible). It's going to take the organization to understand what's happened with Columbia during entry. That's taken up most of my time. Most of my time has been spent here; I haven't been home very much at all since Saturday. And with that, I think I'll turn it over to you, because I think you all have some questions regarding (inaudible)

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: Okay. So I think we're going to start with questions here in Houston and I'm going to ask everybody here please go ahead and identify yourself before you ask a question, try to address it to one of the gentlemen here. And please speak up for the benefit of the people on the phone here, I know it's a speakerphone, so talk loud. Anybody have a question?

NEWS MEDIA: Hi, this is Kathy Sawyer with --

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: No, no, Kathy, we're going to start here in Houston, then I'll come around --

NEWS MEDIA: I'm in Houston.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: Well, we're going to start here in the room and then I'll come to you when we come around.



NEWS MEDIA: Robin Suriano with the Orlando Sentinel. (inaudible) when was this e-mail exchange? (Inaudible) is this the extent of the discussions, the phone calls and sum total of what was (inaudible)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys are cutting out, you know.

LEROY CAIN: Okay. Let me see if I can relay the question. We're doing this from a phone conference here, so I'm going to try to tell you what the question was from Robin. The question was with regard to the e-mail traffic and whether or not the e-mail that I believe you all have seen, what the timeframe for that was and whether or not there were additional correspondence including phone messages and things of the like. Clear?


LEROY CAIN: The answer is I believe there was other additional correspondence over the phone and things of the like, and I would tell you that that is normal in our business. This was a case where we had the mechanical systems controllers were corresponding with their respective engineering counterparts and our extended -- as part of our extended NASA family and they were getting more information on some what-if scenarios that they were looking at. So I believe there was other correspondence.

NEWS MEDIA: But you can't say how much and the number of phone calls?

LEROY CAIN: No, I wouldn't have any idea. I suspect it was an ongoing back and forth kind of thing somewhere in the order of two, three days.

MILT HEFLIN: The e-mail has in a way become a -- you know, instead of talking to each other, sometimes you do use e-mail to exchange information, and there were e-mail exchanges within the Mechanical Systems Group. They were within the group, they stayed within the group, within the team, and just what-iffy, which is something that we do an awful lot of, even when we are -- you know, we train our folks to -- when we reach some conclusions and things are going very well, then people will typically go ahead and still pursue that even further, they got the time to. You know, things are going well enough to where we're not working any other issues at the time, so they'll just take that issue and go further with it, and that's basically what occurred here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry, who was that speaking?

MILT HEFLIN: That was Milt Heflin.


NEWS MEDIA: Mark Carreau from the Houston Chronicle. If I understand the chain of events, the internal discussion about in terms of the debris having damaged on the twenty-seventh, your consultations between your team and Boeing, I'm wondering, these conversations took place subsequent to that, as I understand, but I don't understand whether it was just these two men, the men from Langley and your comptroller from Houston from USA, they were talking or whether they were necessaries in effect for a wider group of people, including Flight Control and the Mission Management Team, or were they just carrying this out, the two of them, and their subspecialty in flight control. So I'm just wondering how high up this eventually went and how much consultation they were providing the Flight Control Team and ultimately the Mission.

MILT HEFLIN: They -- Mark, they did continue to talk about this after the 27th. It was contained within the MMACS discipline, the flight control discipline and the control center responsible for the mechanical systems, in particular the landing, deceleration and the APUs and that sort of thing, so they did -- they did continue that. And so it was the MMACS team -- we got three sets of people, I'm not sure all three shifts got involved or how many on each shift, but it was shared among the members of the team, beyond the two that you mentioned.

Again, it was them just what-iffing. They were -- they were happy with the analysis and the work that was done during the mission; they understood that, they felt comfortable with that. Again, like I said, we were -- folks who are -- things are going nominal and they're not actually having to do anything else, like to stay busy, and so they were just continuing to do some more what-iffing and that's what they were sharing among themselves.

NEWS MEDIA: But if you guys had known (inaudible) coming back from the expert at Langley kind of changes the approach to the -- I mean, this seems like -- you know, I'm a lay person (inaudible) but very serious concerns about the tires and the landing gear, if this filtered up, would you not have changed how you handled the --

MILT HEFLIN: And Mark, you know, the conclusion, the conclusion we didn't have a safety of flight issue here. That was the conclusion and that was the key thing. A lot of people were involved in that discussion and so once the conclusion was there, there was -- and yes, that is an expert, but there are experts in other places, too. This was dealt with by a lot of very smart people reaching the conclusion that it was not a safety of flight issue.

And again, let's be careful here. Let's don't start taking this and assuming that we know what happened here, because we don't yet. But in that particular discussion of the foam and potential contact and damage or whatever, it was concluded it was not a safety of flight issue.

And I'm repeating myself, but again, folks, again, we train our flight controllers to even go beyond that at times and just think -- continually think of what -- maybe did we miss anything? Anything else we need to be concerned about? And in their sub -- in their discussions after that time, they came to the conclusion that what we've got on the books as far as flight rules or procedures and so forth are good, there's nothing else to do, and so therefore they did not bring this to the flight director or beyond, they did not, because they did not feel the need to do that, they had reached a conclusion that they were -- their what-iffing had reached a point to where we don't need to deal with this anymore, we're okay, you know, let's press on.

LEROY CAIN: Let me add to that just because I think I might be able to add my perspective. You know, the premise for this discussion, these were the folks, the roller levels with their respective engineering expertise held from Langley and looking at this and saying okay, and then put their flight controller hat on and say well, that's good and fine and we all agree that, you know, the analysis is good and we have no concerns. Now, what if we're totally wrong? Which we do that a lot all the time. I mean, that's how we train. We train for the worst case. And you go down a path, a logic path that says if we're totally wrong, then that leads to some sequence so that I have an opportunity to put some shelf life on my thought process before you get to that situation to say as a flight controller in the Control Center, I have thought through the scenario to the extent that I'm able to do something or I'm not. And if I am, what are my options, and of those options which one do I choose. And so that's the kind of thought process that was going on here.

But all of that was on the premise that the analysis, which as Milt mentioned with respect to the debris, was everybody had agreed to with all the normal rigor in the process that we have, that we had a good engineering analysis, we had all of the checks that we have and the process that we normally go through were in place and we had no concerns with respect to that aspect of this.

So again, the premise being that if that -- if that weren't true, then -- and that's really where all these discussions came from. And in given that, I would not expect those kinds of things to be elevated to me or for me to then take something like that and elevate it to the management team unless there was something that came out of those discussions that resulted in a recommended change to our procedures or our mission rules or something that we were going to do different in real-time related to it. And the answer to those questions from the MMACS folks was no, we understand what we would do if the analysis was (inaudible) that's really (inaudible).

NEWS MEDIA: Kelly Young at Florida Today. Can you tell us when you actually were then made aware of (inaudible)

MILT HEFLIN: Let's see, it turns out for Leroy -- I don't think Leroy actually found out until probably today, I think, or was it --

LEROY CAIN: I wasn't aware of all of the discussions until today.


LEROY CAIN: I was aware very soon after the accident some of these initial discussions that had taken place in the flight control community, but I didn't become aware of the totality later like yesterday or today.

MILT HEFLIN: And I was aware of these what-iffing discussions, I was aware of them I think it was Monday, the third, I believe. I was aware those had gone on. And what's interesting is that it didn't surprise me. I didn't think of it as something "oh my goodness" because I'm used to that kind of stuff going on all the time that we don't necessarily hear about unless they believe it's something they need to bring to the flight director and the Flight Control Team to deal with.

NEWS MEDIA: Dan Molina from NBC. Mr. Heflin, as you alluded, we don't know what happened, but we do know that something happened and there is at least a bit of tension on this area of the orbiter and its functioning, and I think the implied concern in a lot of areas for the past several days has been was enough discussion given in areas that may have been of concern. In other words, in this case is the process by which the people involved reached their conclusion that there was not a safety concern, a sufficient process? Is there reason to examine that process and wonder if the process was sufficient, should this information have come to the flight director's attention. Is that -- is it conceivable or is it worth rethinking that?

MILT HEFLIN: Well, let's be careful here, Dan. If it comes to the flight director, it's a different story. It did not, so, I mean, it's a different -- because they had concluded they didn't need to bring it to the flight director because they believed in the analysis that was done, they were through with their what-iffing and they decided there wasn't anything they needed to do as far as changing procedures and rules and so forth.

Now, to answer the other part of your question about the process. I have sat through many flight-readiness reviews, I have sat through many technical meetings and I can guarantee you that the people that do this work talk about it in excruciating detail. Sometimes you're sitting there and wondering why are we spending thirty-five, forty minutes talking about a washer, for heaven sakes. But we take -- I mean, I guarantee you, they take plenty of time in excruciating detail. And that's the way the process works around here and this was no different. I'm talking about, again, the analysis that was done in real-time that you're familiar with, I'm talking about that. There's nobody that doubted that or had any reason to not believe that. And, again, I'm repeating myself, I'm sorry, but I'm trying to make sure you understand what was done with the folks on the control team is what was normally done when they've got time to think about it further, and that's what they normally do.

NEWS MEDIA: And there's no reason to rethink the process.

MILT HEFLIN: The process that we -- the process is a good one. And, again, we don't know what happened here yet. When we know what happens, well, then, I think they'll be other questions that we'll be asking ourselves. Will some of them be process questions? I don't have a clue yet they whether it will be or not 'cause we just don't know.

NEWS MEDIA: Sorry, who said there is no reason to rethink the process? Who was that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was Milt Heflin.

MILT HEFLIN: Now, read that back to me what you just said.

NEWS MEDIA: "There is no reason to rethink the process."

MILT HEFLIN: Well, now, be careful. I don't -- no, that's not, you know -- at this point the process that we used and that we went through is a good process. I stand by that. What I'm saying -- and so at this point you don't want to go rethink the process because you do not know what happened to you yet. We may have to rethink the process later. I don't know, we'll find out.

Did you get it this time?

NEWS MEDIA: I heard you both times.


NEWS MEDIA: Bruce Nichols with the Dallas Morning News. This is maybe slightly off the subject but it comes back to the subject. You know, a lot of people wonder how you can be so confident when you can't look at what you want to see. And I think I've got that right, you all could never see this area, literately look at it, put a camera on it, you just couldn't see it, so you had to make an analysis. So I guess there were lots of people out there with other questions besides just (inaudible) they couldn't see what happened. So were there other discussions like this going on, exchanges that you know about? And what were they about?

MILT HEFLIN: Well, I'm not -- I'm not aware of any others than the one that we're talking about today, I'm not. And, you know, when you can't -- when you can't see something, then you bring to bear the very best that you've got to do the analysis that we did, and, you know, I think we all believed that was done very well.

Leroy, is there anything you need to add?

LEROY CAIN: I agree. I also was not aware of anything similar than some other group, if that's what you're (inaudible) and with respect to the process, I would tell you that we can point to, I think, lots of other areas where we aren't always able to see to the nth degree either with the naked eye or some sort of optical enhancement capability on parts of the airplane or the whole (inaudible) we go to launch, but we do what we can do. And then for the parts that you can't see, you use your best engineering analysis and best applied methods that, by the way, I would argue are proven with respect to (inaudible). So it's not unprecedented, let me say that.

NEWS MEDIA: You wouldn't be surprised if others surfaced that you all didn't hear about today?

LEROY CAIN: I personally would not be surprised. It's a normal -- I should emphasize again from my standpoint with my team, I frankly expect my folks to be doing this kind of (inaudible) to be doing on a regular basis and I know from growing up in that world that that's what you do. If you're not thinking about the next thing, then you're not doing your job. If you're not thinking ahead of the vehicle, then you're not doing your job. If you're not sitting around in the office throwing around ideas about hey, what if this happened or what if that happened? What would we do and how would we handle it? And our training prepares us very well for that. But it's not just a -- it's not just a technique, it's a mindset.

NEWS MEDIA: (Inaudible) when you read this now -- when you read this now, it seems like (inaudible) some gray insight (inaudible) but if you went back over other Shuttle missions and you pulled all the (inaudible), would you find things very similar to this that never came to pass? Are we giving this a lot of weight because we have the ability to know what happened? Did it seem more important in retrospect?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could you repeat the question, please?

LEROY CAIN: The question was whether or not we, in the Shuttle community, if we were to go back in our history from previous missions, if there were other similar kinds of e-mails about other subsystems similar or dissimilar, if we could drudge up those kind of things that never came to light because there was never a significant or a significant-enough problem, would we expect to find those kind of things in our past and would we be surprised by that. Was that --

NEWS MEDIA: That's better said even.

LEROY CAIN: I would tell you that absolutely I would not be surprised to find those kinds of things. In fact, again, we expect it, it's in our nature to what-if, it's in our nature to do this, it's a mindset. It's part of our process, it's part of what we do.

MILT HEFLIN: And we have -- we have standard technical forums that we do called Flight Techniques Panels. This is where the Flight Operations Team comes together and the engineering group and so forth and we do what-ifs. We -- this is the way that we build our procedures and build our contingency procedures and that sort of thing. We do an awful lot of this.

You know, e-mails, again, that's kind of like talking. I mean, before we had e-mails we did this sort of thing verbally, you know. We sat around in meetings and we just talked about it. Today e-mail's a convenient way to kind of pass it on from team to team and to me it's just like talking, basically, and we do an awful lot of that what-iffing.

NEWS MEDIA: Traci Watson with USA Today (inaudible) folks to decide that this was not a (inaudible) that they decide that this was an unlikely scenario (inaudible) that they decide that this was an unlikely (inaudible) what was it that led you to (inaudible)

LEROY CAIN: I'm closer to that team, so I'll answer you first and see if Milt has anything to add. But, again, I don't think it was a matter of ruling in or ruling out things, I think it was a matter of thinking through scenarios for a what-if kind of situation. They understood, agreed with the debris analysis that had been done. They were going beyond that to say what if we're all wrong or what if there's something else or what if, et cetera, then what would the signature be, what could we react to if anything, what are our options, and what of those options do we like the best. We want to think about that now so that when, if we see something in real-time, we have an option that's a viable option that we can -- it's plausible that we can offer to the flight director and to the (inaudible) part of the --

So to get back to your question was, I think the heart of your question was why did the MMACS controllers and associated engineering folks decide to rule this out? Well, they decided that they had thought through the what-if scenarios that they wanted to think through and they didn't have any changes to propose for procedures or mission rules and they didn't have anything that they were going to propose that we were going to do operationally any differently. What they did was they -- they talked about it and so that they understood a sequence of events that how they might react, and that's kind of going in, again, toward in the direction of our normal operating mode.

So I don't think they -- it's a matter of ruling anything in and out, I think it's a matter of they understood and agreed with the debris analysis, period. They went on and did some what-if scenarios, understood what they would do in those cases. It didn't lead them to any changes for our normal procedures and rules, period.

NEWS MEDIA: But did they ever decide whether (inaudible)

LEROY CAIN: Well, they're -- not likely. I mean, a scenario of having the kind of thing that they talked about would be considered unlikely in any set of circumstances.

MILT HEFLIN: And Leroy, wasn't it fair to say that the things that they talked about -- nobody tried to deal with or even consider that we're going to have a catastrophic event because we know --


MILT HEFLIN: -- because we know they couldn't do anything with that. What they thought about were the things down low, basically, the vehicle's still flying, if I recall, they thought about the things that, okay, the things that we have in the books relative to that regime of the flight, is there anything there that we might possibly want to do any you different, and they concluded that no, we don't see anything to do any different. In fact, of the things we were seeing earlier relative to what was done basically saying -- saying that we do not have a concern for safety of flight.

NEWS MEDIA: This is Jeff Smith. I'm wondering what order you're taking questions and I don't want to interrupt anyone else, but I would like to ask several questions.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: Yeah, and I'm going to give you a chance, Jeff. We're just going to all have to be patient here, we've got a lot of people on and I'm coming around through Houston.

NEWS MEDIA: Okay. Sorry.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: Then go to Florida and then we'll come around to individuals.

NEWS MEDIA: Okay; thanks.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: Okay. We'll get to you. Okay. Question?

NEWS MEDIA: Could you take a question off the e-mails (inaudible) just notice how everyone (inaudible)

LEROY CAIN: I'll answer the last part first and that is that our training -- as I reflected on this, our training really at one point I and other people in the room obviously knew that we were in a very dire situation and -- and -- but rather than dwell on that, our training kicked in and we immediately went into action and did the things that we needed to do.

Now, backing up from that to answer your other question, there was several minutes of time after we lost the signal and before we had any kind of confirmation that the vehicle had broken up where we marched through our normal procedures for trying to regain communication, including commanding the S-Band system over and doing -- we went through and did the things that we would normally do as a team. I was not convinced that it was anything more than a short duration of loss of comm, which is not uncommon for entry. We were coming up on the time period where I was expecting us to have a short outage, because we changed satellite antenna selections in the on board, so we didn't expect it to be that long.

I had brief moments, you know, in that timeframe of concern, but like I said we didn't dwell on those moments in the training and go on to do the next step, which whatever it might be. I mean, what time it is on the clock and how close I am to where touchdown is and whether or not I should have C-band tracking and what the UHF site is. And so we went through our normal procedures because we, in fact, didn't have any information to verify the vehicle was no longer with us and (inaudible) until such time of course we did eventually and then we did (inaudible) procedures, and there again our training kicked in and we marched through those to the extent we needed to and went on throughout the rest of the day.

I personally -- I think probably when -- not until after I left work that day at some point in time, which I (inaudible) my wife probably knows, she remembers things like that, I think it was about 9:00 o'clock in the evening on Saturday.

NEWS MEDIA: Where you said "lock the doors"?

LEROY CAIN: There was a point where we got some video, we got a video feed in the control, I believe it was from WFAA radio -- TV station in Dallas that CNN had picked it up, picked up that feed. There's a point that that was -- that was one point, of course, that was confirmation. There was one point before that where we had some information from the side of the control center actually that said they saw the flyover and saw multiple pieces, and of course that gave me pause, but that was still when we were in the process of going through our procedures and trying to regain communications, and so that being unconfirmed, I didn't yield to it and we kept doing the things that we do to try to get to regain (inaudible) some sort of information (inaudible). There were several points where -- that gave me pause and my concern increased with each one of those until we had positive confirmation that (inaudible)

NEWS MEDIA: Just to finish this up. Can you describe (inaudible) the beginning of the (inaudible) throughout the day.

LEROY CAIN: Everybody remained very composed. I'm prefacing my comments on this part of the subject with the fact that I have been extremely proud of the team on that day and since that day. They remained very composed, very professional, very dignified. I didn't notice through the real-time events if anybody was coming to tears, I didn't notice it. There was some points in time several hours after the fact where we got together and had some discussions off of the loops and there you began to see some folks be more active. But while we were still doing the job, while we were still communicating as a team and completing the procedures that we needed to complete before we could go home from work that day, with respect to the information that came into the room, it was -- somebody had gotten a phone call; this was not on the voice loops and it was -- it was relayed to me over the airwave. I had no way to confirm it and so we went about doing -- I continued doing what I was doing, which at the time I think we were trying to regain comm.

NEWS MEDIA: Meaning over the airwave --

(Talking over each other)

LEROY CAIN: Like what we're doing right here.

MILT HEFLIN: Like we're talking here.

NEWS MEDIA: Do you have your own visual (inaudible) CNN?


NEWS MEDIA: And the video showed multiple pieces you were looking at?

LEROY CAIN: Correct.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: Okay. And I know it's tempting here since we're all in the room to ignore the people that are with us on the phone, but let's don't do that. So let me go to KSC now. If there are still folks at KSC and let's let them ask some questions. KSC?

NEWS MEDIA: Hi, this is Chris Kridler from Florida Today for Leroy Cain. I understand that this particular worst-case scenario did not reach your attention. However, I'm wondering if the launch reports or the mission reports that were circulated that mentioned tile damage had passed before your eyes and if anything like that flashed through your mind when you first saw the off-scale low readings on the left wing and other failures in that area of the spacecraft?

LEROY CAIN: The answer to the first question is yes, absolutely, I was intimately aware of the debris on ascent and the subsequent analysis and the disposition of all that through our normal process during the mission. I was very aware of that, as was everybody else, to the best of my knowledge. And the -- when the MMACS controller during -- in real-time during entry when the MMACS controller called me and told me that he had these four measurements on the left wing, that's the first thing that entered my mind, but it was momentary.

NEWS MEDIA: Phil Long, Miami Herald. If you could explain a little bit, how does the MMACS team make the decision that there was no safety to flight? Where does the MMACS team fit into the overall hiearchy, and did the anomaly resolution team deal with this issue that Daugherty brought up?

LEROY CAIN: Let me -- I'll talk about the hierarchy if you want.

MILT HEFLIN: Yeah. It's three parts.

LEROY CAIN: Yeah, I'll try to keep your three parts separate in my mind. The MMACS team is one of the primary flight control disciplines in the flight control room. Of course they have back room positions that report to the front room MMACS controller.

(A), what authority do they have. Again, they were -- they, like everybody else within the operations directorate and within the other elements in Shuttle through the mission management process during the mission, they have a voice in things that are dispositioned such as this ascent debris issue. Their voice in that was they agreed with, like everybody else did, that the analysis was and the engineering behind it was adequate, we understood it, and we had no concerns, period.

Separate from all that is their what-iffing that went beyond that to say well, if that's all wrong and we begin to have some other things in the wheel well or with the landing decel system that failed, what would we do next in real-time, which would be a contingency, by the way, of course, what would we do next, is there anything we could do, and have we, you know, just to make sure we thought through all that for the sake of thinking through it beforehand.

So they didn't have to have any authority to disposition anything, they were just doing their job in that sense. In the earlier sense with respect to the debris analysis, they didn't have authority, per se, but they certainly had a voice within the OPS directorate and that was part of the normal management team process. I hope I answered your question.

Milt, you may have something to add.


NEWS MEDIA: Peter King, CBS News Radio. This is for Leroy. It's an investigation question but it's not, because I know we're not -- I'm not asking you about anything you found or whatever, I'm just wondering if you could tell us a little bit about the role that the Entry Flight Team is playing in the investigation and what you all have been doing for the last ten or eleven days or so.

LEROY CAIN: Okay, sure, I'd be glad to do that. We, like many other of the other of the elements in the program have been very involved in collecting data, analyzing data. We have several working groups that are involved in doing things like putting together the entry timeline, doing photo analysis.

One of the things we've done is we've gone and made sure that we are adequately supporting the various engineering teams who have their own working groups and who have been established as part of the investigation and the response team per our normal procedures for this kind of contingency. So we have been very intimately involved with analyzing the data that's available with helping the engineering directorate experts with interpretation of what went on in real time, what we could see, what we couldn't see, and beyond that we've been doing some things that we don't normally do, like looking at pictures of debris and looking at parts of hardware and trying to help people across the country get through the various processes to support the investigation.

NEWS MEDIA: And I know you're not the psychologist, you're a flight director, but I'm just wondering how tough emotionally it has been for you and the team just to be going over the data over and over again and the pictures and everything else.

LEROY CAIN: Well, let me see, for me personally I can tell you that I have a -- NASA has great resolve in general, as you all have seen over the years and you're seeing that again here and now, and I'm seeing it every day, not just with our people in Mission OPS but across the land here in our NASA family, as well as the extended family.

I think people are affected, I think people will be affected, and they'll need their own space and time to deal with this tragedy. But for my part I can tell you that it has been deeply saddening for me and for my family.

We are committed, like the rest of the team, to finding out what happened. We owe it to the Columbia crew and families to do that, we owe it to ourselves, we owe it to the country, we owe it to the program to go find out what happened and make sure that we don't have a problem like this again. And because of that and because of my faith, we're able to get through it, myself and my family.

Are there difficult times? Absolutely. This was a crew that I was particularly close to and it was a crew that was very easy to fall in love with, in my opinion. And that was my experience. And so we were very close; our children go to school together. It's a very intimate situation. But we are professionals and the Columbia crew would want us to -- I believe they would be proud of our behavior here in the last -- in the last several days and weeks.

NEWS MEDIA: This is Steven Stock with WESH and NBC. I have to go back to the what-if, forgive me, but you guys have been doing a lot of what-iffing. I want to know what would it take to get a memo like this or a concern like this or a what-iffing like this to Leroy or Milt's level? Does it take ten memos? I mean, what would rise -- how would it rise to your concern? And if you did learn of this concern and what-iffing, would it change your analysis? Would it have changed your analysis and your approach to landing?

MILT HEFLIN: Well, I've -- this is Milt Heflin. I've been a flight controller a long -- before a flight director and I was trained, I was trained that if I had an issue that I was concerned about and it was a real issue to go deal with, I needed to bring it to the flight director and to the team. That's how we teach -- that's how we teach everybody. And I'm -- you know, I'm sorry to be repeating myself, but no, it doesn't take a flurry of memos at all. All's it takes is a flight controller getting on the flight loop and saying Flight, this is MMACS, I've got something I want to talk to you about, I've got an issue. We do that all the time.

As I said a while ago, the fact that they did not do this, what it means is that they had reached a conclusion, they were satisfied with the results of the analysis done during the flight, it went through what if this, what if that, had decided that there was nothing else to do and they put it -- put it behind them.


LEROY CAIN: Let's see, I would -- I agree with all that. The only thing I would add is that, just giving an example, if we had a -- if we had any one of the elements or groups on the team, larger team, had some concerns, for example, with the debris analysis that we're talking about, they are duty bound to bring that to our attention and we are duty bound to honor, to sit down and listen to what it is that they had to say.

And I would even go further than that and tell you that if -- if it's -- if it's somebody that's at a level that doesn't feel comfortable doing that within the framework of the normal process with the management team because they might be at too low of a level, for example, then, again, they are duty bound to bring that to me and/or to their management so that we can sit around and discuss it and take it forward as we deem necessary. And so we have that expectation and I'm confident that would have happened in this case also.

The fact is they didn't have any concern with what the analysis said and what the results were and what had been dispositioned by the program management and so they didn't come forward. I wouldn't have expected them to.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: And do we still have further questions from KSC?

NEWS MEDIA: Yeah, this is Yvonne Martinez with WFTV in Orlando for either one. When did you first learn of this e-mail? What was your reaction to it when you read it and where does it fall into the big picture now?

MILT HEFLIN: Let's see, this is Milt Heflin. I think I've answered that already once, let's see if I can answer it the same way again. I'm tired. I'll try; yeah. Those of you that already recorded what I said, maybe you can -- maybe you can help me out.

The -- of course there is an e-mail that you have out there already you have a copy of. The other ones that we talked about, I -- and these -- and pardon me, ma'am, but it sounds like you haven't been there, so I want to be sure that you understand what I'm going to say; I have to back up a little bit -- that that e-mail that we're talking about now was something that was done after the analysis that was done in real-time associated with the -- with the debris, the foam debris. It was a continuation of the flight controllers looking beyond that assessment to see if there's anything else that they needed to be concerned about to bring to our attention. I -- I -- and so this occurred after that.

I was aware of that exchange. Again, it's like a conversation that occurred among peers within a technical discipline. I was aware of that, I guess it was Monday on the February third was when I was aware of that. Like I had said before, there were conversations, e-mail exchanges, which I guess you could categorize as conversations that go on among the team members in exchanging data, ideas and thoughts, and that this was not anything I considered out of the ordinary.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: Okay. And just one word, since it's been a long time already and I do want to give everybody a chance, but now if the questions get really redundant, you know, we think the time we got on here, because -- so if you have the same question that's already been asked, please just let us go on to anybody who's got new questions.

And any more at KSC?

NEWS MEDIA: It looks like we have just one more at KSC. I sure hope it isn't redundant. Dan Billow from WESH. I would like you to just suppose that what this memo speculates about would come true, that you found yourself in a circumstance that you really did believe that a tire could blow and a wheel well door could come off. What would you have done? Are there any options for you?

LEROY CAIN: I'll answer that. If we found ourselves in a situation during entry where we had reason to believe that the -- in this case the landing and deceleration systems had been compromised somehow, then we would begin to discuss the options. Some of the options that come to mind are things like bail out, there are other options that are less desirable in a general sense like doing a wheels up kind of landing. Those are significantly outside the box contingency scenarios, but as you know, we do have a published Crew Procedure Admissions Rules that dictate the bail-out scenarios. So I -- I imagine that the discussions in real-time would have led us to asking the crew to bail out, assuming we had gotten down that low, low enough in the atmosphere to do that.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: Okay. And I guess that was the last question from KSC then?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's it from here.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: Okay, Bruce. Then we'll go to Headquarters. Do you still have a question there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No questions here.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: Okay. How about Langley? Are you still on? Do you have questions?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Langley will defer to Dave Slecks from the Daily Press.


I'm sorry, Langley, if you have a question, we're not hearing it. Do you have questions?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dave, are you still on the line?

NEWS MEDIA: Can you hear me now?


NEWS MEDIA: Okay; great. This question is for the sake of clarification. Mr. Heflin, one of the reporters asked you earlier if you thought that this e-mail would be a biggie in the investigation in the grand scheme of things. Did you reply? Is that the correct question that was asked and did you reply no, sir, you didn't think it was going to be a biggie?

MILT HEFLIN: Yes, sir, I did.

NEWS MEDIA: Okay. And Mr. Cain, you were asked a question about what went through your mind when you had those four anomaly readings and you said that was the first thing that went through my mind momentarily. What was that? What were you speaking of?

LEROY CAIN: I was speaking of the fact that the sensor indications that we had were on the left wing and the first thing that entered my mind was the fact that we had taken a debris strike on the left wing. Because in our experience base, you know, that was -- that was the only -- the only thing that we really had discussions, significant suggestions about during the mission.

NEWS MEDIA: Okay. Thank you very much.

LEROY CAIN: You're welcome.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: Okay. And that's it from Langley, I understand, so we're done with centers. So I'll go to individual reporters. I'm just going to go down the list here, so I will get to you. The first one I've got is Justin Ray, if you're still on.

NEWS MEDIA: Yep, I'm here. I was wondering if either one of you could tell us if anything has been learned of the data reviews that have been going on since the weekend news of possibly something coming off of the orbiter on the second day of the mission; that there had been talk that the flight controllers would be looking at the data to see if anything had been going on with the orbiter at that time and water dumps and things of that nature or looking to see if there was any -- any motion from the vehicle that would indicate any sort of debris impact. Could either one of you talk about that?

LEROY CAIN: This is Leroy Cain, I'll take that question. I've been involved in going over the data to try and correlate anything with respect to flight day two. The short answer is we don't know yet, the jury's still out. We are unable as yet to substantiate anything like that in terms of an event that took place on flight day two by looking at the orbiter data or any data that we have access to, and so we don't know yet.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: Okay. Next up I've got Kathy Sawyer.

NEWS MEDIA: Just a quick question. Can you hear me?


NEWS MEDIA: I'm confused about the number of people that actually knew about this memo exchange early on. I've heard that it was just a couple of re-entry flight controllers and then we were told at another point that it was many, many of the smartest minds working on it. Can you sort of give a specific figure of just how many people were aware at the time of that exchange going on?

LEROY CAIN: This is Leroy Cain again, I'll try to answer that and be more clear. There were hundreds of people involved in the debris analysis. That was one part of the subject relative to these e-mails, okay.


LEROY CAIN: There was probably I want to say on the order of a dozen people, individuals involved in these e-mail and voice mail and conversations, exchanges on the what-iffing beyond and outside the scope of the debris analysis.

NEWS MEDIA: Did you say one dozen about?


NEWS MEDIA: Okay. Thank you. That's it.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: Okay. Next I've got, let's see here, John Schwartz, New York Times.

NEWS MEDIA: Hey there. If a door had blown off into the slip stream, as was suggested in the e-mail, wouldn't that have shown up as an indicator in the telemetry? Wouldn't that have shown up? And I've got another question after that.


NEWS MEDIA: So if that had been part of what had happened, you wouldn't have had to wait to see sensors blink out one by one, there would have been a big red signal?

LEROY CAIN: Correct, eventually. If the door comes off, we'll see that in telemetry.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: Okay. Next I've got Jeff Smith, Washington Post.

NEWS MEDIA: Hi. Mr. Cain, my question is for you. And first I express my condolence to you and the others involved in the flight. But I'm wondering if in retrospect you wish you had been informed about this memo.

LEROY CAIN: Thank you for your condolences. And I would say no.

MILT HEFLIN: You know, if I may add something, too. And excuse me if I'm -- "memo" goes back many decades and "memo" has a -- it has a sound of something that doesn't move very fast. I hope you won't characterize it that way. That would be -- that wouldn't be fair. This wasn't a memo, this was a conversation by e-mail. And I wish we didn't have conversations by e-mails these days, but that's another topic. But this was a conversation by e-mail of good folks exchanging data, this was not a memo that was written and put in somebody's in basket to be picked up later to go somewhere.

Please don't characterize it that way.

NEWS MEDIA: Is this Mr. Heflin speaking?

MILT HEFLIN: Yes, it is.

NEWS MEDIA: Mr. Heflin, just to follow up briefly with a question. Mr. Lechner's response to this memo was, "Like everyone, we hope that the debris impact analysis is correct and all this discussion is moot." That sounds -- the use of the word "hope" is what I wanted to ask you about. That doesn't sound like a very certain word to me.

MILT HEFLIN: Well, you know, I think we all -- I think all of us from time to time in dealing with any kind of a critical situation --

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: Um, okay, somebody needs to mute their line, we're hearing a ring in the background. *6 and it will mute your line.

Okay, Milt.

MILT HEFLIN: Well, I think all of us at times will use the English language in a certain way to where we're -- we might express sort of concerns. You know, I can't -- I can't tell you what he meant by using the word "hope." I'm not him. Sometimes I've used the word "hope" and it doesn't mean hope, so I can't tell you. And I'm not going to conjecture as to what it might have meant coming from him; it's not fair to him.

NEWS MEDIA: Is there a reason why you chose not to have him on the line explaining it directly?

MILT HEFLIN: Well, I know today that we were asked and we thought it'd be a good idea to get the entry flight director over here to share some things with you today. Quite frankly, I'm not even too sure he's in town right now, but -- to be honest with you.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: We can work on that. I think, you know, in one sense that we are trying to let people focus on the investigation if they're working on the investigation and not distract them too much, but, you know, you can put in the request and we'll work it for you.

NEWS MEDIA: Sorry, it's just a complaint that you put out of reach the person who is most directly connected to the subject we're interested in today.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: Well, there are plenty of people here very directly connected to the subject, so -- but I won't argue that point with you.

NEWS MEDIA: I'll let it go.


NEWS MEDIA: Yes, thank you. Was Mr. Lechner the highest level NASA official, for lack of a better term, who was part of these or who was among the dozen or so people involved in this e-mail and voice discussion?

LEROY CAIN: No, he was not.

NEWS MEDIA: Can you tell us who above him was notified of this?

LEROY CAIN: There were several folks, including his NASA supervisor, his front-room flight controller position. Some of the individuals at Langley I believe would definitely be considered senior, of course in a different part of the organization. So I don't want to give you names 'cause I'll invariably forget a name or pronounce it wrong, and so we'll just take an action if James and the Public Affairs folks can get those names to you if you're interested in a compilation of all those.

MILT HEFLIN: And what Leroy -- what we're saying here is that on this team, the technical discipline again, the MMACS position in the control room, the MMACS position is a senior person in that discipline and you can look upon them to be the ones who would ultimately bring an issue to the flight director on the flight director loop, and in this case, as I've said many times, the MMACS team had gone through their thinking on the whole thing and decided that it didn't need to be pursued any further because they felt like what they had in place as far as procedures and rules were good enough, were good, good to go.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: Okay. Joe Maziago with Miami Herald, if he's still on the line.

NEWS MEDIA: Joe Mazingo.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: Yeah, Miami Herald? Do you have a question?

NEWS MEDIA: No, James, that's Seth Bornstein, I was just trying to give you the better pronunciation so he'd hear it.


NEWS MEDIA: Do you want me go ahead then?


NEWS MEDIA: I'm fine, actually, but thank you very much for your time, it's very helpful.


NEWS MEDIA: Okay. Thank you. Milt, Leroy, you talk about how this was -- it never got to you, but in the whole purpose of Daugherty's memo is saying you've got to be prepared for the worst, it would be irresponsible not to have this and you should just have this there in case something happened. So I guess I'm wondering if this is just being prepared for the worst and that's what you guys said, it's just being prepared for the worst, why wasn't this given to you to have just in case some attack happened? And does that say something -- someone screwed up by not even giving it to you in case one of his scenarios happened?

MILT HEFLIN: Let me -- let me try to answer that. The -- and I'm pausing; bear with me. I am -- you know, it's really hard to explain to you -- I think it's very hard to explain to you for you to appreciate how this team works and how they deal with these sort of things day in and day out and I'm sorry that it's hard to convey that to you, so I think it would help if you really understood the makeup and what they've got behind them.

Those sort of things are dealt with by a number of people, and as I had mentioned earlier in the process of dealing with this over -- as they exchanged information by e-mail and discussed it, that they collectively, not one person, not one person, you know, you can have one person be alarmed about something and then -- in fact, I've been there, I've been alarmed about things, I've taken it forward to my peers, I've discussed it, and after my peers have provided me with other thoughts and information, I felt better, my fears will go away, and we'll get on with it. So I look at this as a matter of the team, again, having felt that we had a good analysis, again, folks, let's don't jump ahead here and think of what happened to us 'cause we don't know yet, but at least that analysis with the foam debris, they felt good about that.

So there was -- you know, if they felt bad about that analysis, I mean, if they felt like that analysis was wrong, that's a different story, but they didn't. And I think that's a key part of trying to understand -- and it's hard for, I'm sure, you to grasp, but it's hard and it's important that you understand that they went a step further. They didn't need to, but they did, and, again, they arrived at a conclusion there wasn't anything else that they needed to do and be concerned about and therefore it was not brought forward to the flight director. And we don't want things brought forward to us that they don't have a real concern about.

NEWS MEDIA: Okay. Just to follow up on that. He also talked about Ames doing real-time simulations on landing with gear deployed but with two flat tires. Is that -- was that another part of the just normal what-ifs? Is that something that was specially designed? And what can you tell us about that whole Ames real-time simulation?

LEROY CAIN: This is Leroy Cain, let me see if I can answer that for you. You may or may not know that we have the vertical motion simulator at Ames that we use on the order of twice a year for a month or six weeks for normal training and engineering support for Shuttle. That simulator can be configured for several different vehicles. They configure it for us for twice a year. We happened to be in the timeframe where it's configured for us and so because in that sense it was convenient, folks were asking to spool up the sim and do a couple of these runs. Is that unusual? Not at all.

NEWS MEDIA: Thank you.

LEROY CAIN: You're welcome.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: Andrea (inaudible) ABC Radio. Andrea Smith, ABC Radio, are you still on? Okay. I guess she dropped off. So Craig Covault, Av Week.

NEWS MEDIA: Yes, and thanks to you both for being generous with your time here at a difficult time. Just one quick follow there on the Ames question. Were sims actually run at Ames? Did it get that far or was it just considered?

LEROY CAIN: I don't know. Maybe Milt knows.

MILT HEFLIN: Hey, Craig, I don't know either. I'm sure we can find --

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: We'll find that answer out for you; we will find that out.

NEWS MEDIA: Okay. Thanks a lot.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: Matt Walls, New York Times, are you still on?

NEWS MEDIA: Yes, I am, thank you. The Boeing analysis of the -- gentlemen, I want to thank you for your time also -- the Boeing analysis of the lift-off debris talked about a contingent -- there being no flight issue contingent upon an analysis of multiple tile loss at the site of the gear doors. Is this that analysis? Was there some separate analysis that covered that?

MILT HEFLIN: No, that's the one that was done in real-time, as I recall.

NEWS MEDIA: That's correct.


LEROY CAIN: We're talking about the same one.

MILT HEFLIN: We're talking about the same one.

NEWS MEDIA: So in other words this memo is the analysis of the possibility of multiple tile loss?

LEROY CAIN: No, not at all.

MILT HEFLIN: Maybe you can answer that.

LEROY CAIN: Not at all. And again, I thought Milt's speech on using the word "memo" was good; I would give you the same caution, it's clearly not a memo.

NEWS MEDIA: Well, no, there's a Boeing Power Point and there's a Boeing PDF document that are memos, they're not e-mails.

LEROY CAIN: Sure. And that's not what we're talking about. Is that what your question's about? I'm sorry.

NEWS MEDIA: Well, my question is that they refer to they are two out of three analyses, they refer to a third analysis and I'm trying to figure out if that was actually done. And the reason I'm asking whether this was it was that the third analysis was of potential damage at the -- at the gear doors, and here we have an extended discussion the possibility of damage to the landing gear bay doors.

LEROY CAIN: Oh. No, I believe that's -- that could be a confusing point, but they're not associated.

NEWS MEDIA: Okay. And then you read through, you know, the actual sequence of loss of -- during the flight of loss of various sensors, the sensors going off line or off scale, they talk about hydraulics, I would presume those lines go through this bay, main landing gear door -- yeah, main landing gear door, several tires lost, and there's no -- you know, Boeing says there's no analysis -- this isn't an e-mail, it's a formal presentation -- Boeing gives various results and that box is blank in the results.

I'm wondering where that analysis is, whether that was done. You know, the conclusions contingent upon multiple tile loss thermal analysis showing no violation of M slash OD criteria, sanford turn indicated even with significant tile damage. So here we are it seems like a separate disconnected stream where you have a different party worried about damage to these doors, damage in the landing gear bay. Boeing's talking about the same thing. Does anybody put these things together? Or because it didn't bubble up to the top because you didn't want to hear it because you failed to connect the dots?

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: Matt, I think the length of your question there, before you get to did we connect the dots, has lost us for some reason.

NEWS MEDIA: Okay. There are two different signs of anxiety with -- during the flight within NASA. One of them is this e-mail that you published today, the other comes from the Boeing analysis of January 23 which says there's no safety of flight issue contingent on a separate study multiple tile loss thermal analysis showing no violation of M/OD criteria. So here we have two different parts of the flight team saying we're okay unless we have a big problem on the doors, on the bay. Did anybody -- was anybody aware of both of these simultaneously? Am I the first person to say my God, you've got two different groups worried about the same thing and you dropped the ball on both of them? Is any one of you on the line aware that there were these two separate concerns about the same part of the Shuttle?

LEROY CAIN: Well, let me try --

MILT HEFLIN: Go ahead, Leroy.

LEROY CAIN: -- to answer part of it first, at least -- first of all, I have to go back to these e-mails.


LEROY CAIN: This community of folks that were having this e-mail exchange and these conversations were not concerned about this debris analysis. They were part of the team, part of the mission management process where we dispositioned this in real-time and said we have analysis, we have engineering data, we have previous analysis that goes to this kind of a problem and we do not see this as an issue for STS-107. Everybody, including this team, before, during, and after agreed with that.

NEWS MEDIA: No, no, no, no, no, no, Boeing did not agree. Boeing has it here in black and white, January 23, 2003. Boeing says it is a concern if we've got multiple tile loss in the area of the bay doors.

LEROY CAIN: Right. And what I'm saying is that the debris analysis said that we weren't going to have multiple tile loss, so --

NEWS MEDIA: The debris analysis doesn't say that. Boeing's analysis says we need a third analysis to look at that particular contingency.

LEROY CAIN: Okay. Matt --

NEWS MEDIA: I think it's explicitly -- not only does it not say that, it explicitly says we don't say that, it explicitly says this is a loose end we got to tie up.

LEROY CAIN: I think you may be taking it out of context --


LEROY CAIN: -- so I'm not comfortable answering --

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: Yeah, Matt, I think we're just going to defer your question, because it seems to be difficult to answer you, so --

NEWS MEDIA: No, let me narrow it down. Are you gentlemen -- is there anyone within NASA who was simultaneously aware of the Boeing report and the e-mail memo you published today?

LEROY CAIN: I don't know what Boeing report you're talking about.


NEWS MEDIA: I'm -- we're talking about the Boeing report of January 23, 2003 "orbiter assessment of STS-107 ET bipod insulation ramp impact."

MILT HEFLIN: James, we probably have to get --


MILT HEFLIN: In order so we don't -- don't really make this worse than it is as far as you understanding, we probably need to see --

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: What you're talking about and have a better understanding of what you're asking us, Matt, because unfortunately we're having a hard time understanding your question. Do you want to keep asking --

NEWS MEDIA: No, no, no, no, it is not a complicated question. Milt, are you aware of "orbiter assessment of STS-107 ET bipod insulation ramp impact" of January 23?

MILT HEFLIN: If that -- I know I'm aware of the -- of the presentation that was done to the MMT, I can't remember the exact day, I can't remember the exact title of it, and I don't have it here in front of me.


MILT HEFLIN: So I'm not sure we're talking the same thing, and I apologize, but I'm really not. And I really don't want to lead you astray here and compare one thing to another if I don't have it in front of me.

NEWS MEDIA: All right.


NEWS MEDIA: Okay. If you can't answer the question, you can't answer the question, I won't badger you over it. Okay. Thank you.

PUBLIC AFFAIRS REPRESENTATIVE: Okay. It's been a marathon session, so I'm going to let them go now and then I appreciate you being on the line. Thanks, Milt, for the time.

NEWS MEDIA: Thank you, gentlemen. Thank you. Thank you all.