Did anyone piloting a Space Shuttle ever make a significant pilot error? (I've never heard of any, and I'm curious if that is due to their extensive training, or if it's just that that sort of incident isn't well-publicized)


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Here are two famous incidents that happened on landing. One was a test landing and software changes were made afterwards. The other was an early flight and the experience base was not very large. Pilot error / poor handling qualities / design of the ship? You can make up your own mind.

The first is the "Enterprise PIO" (PIO standing for Pilot Induced Oscillation). The only time an Orbiter landed and took off again without SRBs... Shuttle Approach and Landing Test 5, 26 October 1977.

The second is the only time an Orbiter ever landed at White Sands, on STS-3, 30 March 1982. I well remember former astronaut Gene Cernan who was serving as a TV commentator calling this "aerodynamic braking". Nice spin, Gene. Touchdown is at about 4:24 into this video and the incident happens shortly thereafter.

There were many other small incidents over the long history of the Space Shuttle Program.

A funny Wayne Hale blog post about how each shuttle landing was extensively analyzed and each little discrepancy pointed out, and how the crew feared this, can be read here.

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    $\begingroup$ The phrase "aerodynamic braking" is almost as impressive as "spontaneous deconstruction". $\endgroup$ Jan 9, 2019 at 17:32
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, he was a quick thinker, I'll give him that! $\endgroup$ Jan 9, 2019 at 17:32

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