A new report released by NASA indicates the seven astronauts aboard doomed space shuttle Columbia had seat restraints, helmets and pressure suits that worked poorly, and caused "lethal trauma" as the shuttle disintegrated.
"This report is the first comprehensive, publicly available accident investigation report addressing crew survival," according to NASA. "The results are intended to add meaning to the sacrifice of the crew's lives by making spaceflight safer for all future generations."
The finding comes as part of the NASA-backed 400-page safety study which took another look at the 2003 shuttle tragedy. The report includes many grim details about what the crew likely experienced before the shuttle fully disintegrated over the state of Texas.
There was absolutely no way the crew could have survived the crash, but NASA is interested in learning about past safety issues for future accidents.
The crew didn't have proper training, and assuming something could have been done, one crew member wasn't wearing a helmet, three astronauts didn't have on gloves, and all seven had their visors in the upright position.
Even though there is little chance the crew could have survived the re-entry into Earth's atmosphere, there were several issues brought up that must be fixed in the future: the helmet and shoulder harness issues, along with a parachute landing system that needs at least one crew member to be conscious.
NASA said that even if everything was working properly, the shock waves and harsh conditions of the upper atmosphere would have ultimately killed them.
It's likely Columbia crew members knew for at least 40 seconds they were no longer in control of the shuttle before they finally went unconscious. All the astronauts either died from lack of oxygen or smashing into something as the shuttle spun out of control -- NASA regulators are unable to accurately determine which event killed the astronauts.
Although NASA is already working on the next generation shuttle which will be responsible for ferrying astronauts and supplies into orbit, the U.S. space agency is looking at possible safety regulations that can be improved to keep astronauts safer in the future.
The Orion space vehicle is designed to fit six people and is expected to make its first flight in 2015, with NASA ultimately planning to reach the moon by 2020.