When NASA started flying shuttles again, Hale told the new team of mission managers: "We are never ever going to say that there is nothing we can do."
NASA developed an in-flight heat shield repair kit.
The space shuttles were retired in 2011. Harpold died in 2004.
Hale said he is now writing about the issue because he wanted future space officials not to make the mistakes he and his colleagues did. The loss of the Columbia astronauts — people he knew — still weighs on Hale.
"You never get over it. It's always present with you," Hale said. "These are people I knew well. Several of them, I worked closely with. I was responsible for their safety. It's never going to go away."
Seth Borenstein can be followed at http://twitter.com/borenbears
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