Why did the space shuttle Columbia perform so flawlessly? One Theory: because a crew was aboard. Testing a spacecraft without a crew and then flying it with one requires design alterations that can lead to problems. The shuttle was designed to be manned from the start. "We were able to concentrate on just doing one thing right, and that turned out to be an advantage," says a NASA official.
By the way, those famous thermal tiles kept the heat reaching Columbia's aluminum shell at about 200 degrees F. --felt it could tolerat e.m