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Columbia's First Victims

By Burlison, Terry

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Book Id: WPLBN0003548819
Format Type: PDF eBook :
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Reproduction Date: 2014

Title: Columbia's First Victims  
Author: Burlison, Terry
Language: English
Subject: Nonfiction, Essay, History
Collections: Science Fiction Collection, Baen Library Collection
Publication Date:
Publisher: Baen Publishing Enterprises


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Burlison, T. (2013). Columbia's First Victims. Retrieved from

Description: Nick Mullen along with three fellow astronauts were the first victims of the Columbia space shuttle. This article describes exactly what took place during the accident as the four astronauts were poisoned by gasses from the space shuttle and how they almost lost their lives.

Summary: Mrs. Mullon describes Nick as “hard-working, loved by everybody, the kind of guy people gravitate to . . . and handsome as a movie star.” A man who enjoyed playing guitar and working with his hands, Nick began taking night classes in mechanical engineering while working as an aft fuselage wiring technician on the shuttle. Like thousands of others, Mullon worked tirelessly through long days and weekends toward the moment Columbia would roar into the heavens. After nearly two years of delays, launch day finally approached. The morning of March 19, 1981, Mullon and his fellow workers stood watch at Launch Complex 39A, awaiting the conclusion of Columbia's final Countdown Demonstration Test (CDDT), the last major milestone before flight. After the test, they would enter and inspect the orbiter. Liftoff was less than a month away, and the future burned bright for the 25-year-old father of two. Among him were three other astronauts that would be joining him on their mission to space. In the end they were all poisoned and knocked unconcious by a gas leak and nearly lost their lives. Unfortunately for Nick, he now has permanent health damage.

Excerpt: At 9:15 a.m., when they reached the 130-foot level of the RSS, Bjornstad, Cole and Wolford logged in, walked across the access ramp to the shuttle, then climbed down the four-foot ladder to the platform outside door 50-1 of the orbiter. Their task was to inspect and “close out” equipment in the back of the vehicle, near the main engines. The access door had been replaced by a curtain to provide easier access. According to their timeline the aft GN2 purge was complete, and the compartment was now filled with breathable air.

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