On the eve of the first public hearing into the space shuttle Columbia disaster, three prominent experts on space science -- including a Nobel Prize laureate -- were added yesterday to the board conducting the investigation.
The three -- Douglas D. Osheroff, 1966 Noble Prize winner in physics; Sally Ride, a former NASA astronaut and the first American woman in space; and George Washington University professor John M. Logsdon -- were announced by retired Adm. Harold W. Gehman Jr., chairman of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board.
Technically, the appointments must be made by NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe. But O'Keefe said this week he would automatically approve Gehman's recommendations to expand the nine-member board, which was impaneled hours after the Feb. 1 accident.
The choice of Osheroff echoes the appointment Nobel-winning physicist Richard P. Feynman to the 1986 presidential commission that investigated the explosion of the shuttle Challenger. Osheroff, a professor of physics at Stanford University, shared the prize with two physicists from Cornell University.
Ride's first space flight was aboard the Challenger in 1983. On that flight and a subsequent one on Challenger, she deployed communications satellites, operated the robot arm and conducted experiments in materials, pharmaceuticals and Earth remote-sensing. She is a professor of space science at the University of California at San Diego. She was also a member of the Challenger commission.
Logsdon is director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University's School of International Affairs. He has been a faculty member there since 1970 and has been a prominent commentator and critic of the space program.