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Columbia Shuttle Disaster; 10 Years Later


I remember this well.  On February 1st, 2003; the space shuttle Columbia broke apart over the Texas skies while re-entering Earth killing seven astronauts.  The accident jolted NASA out of a complacency that had developed in the 17 years since the other major shuttle disaster, the 1986 disintegration of Challenger shortly after liftoff.

Columbia blasted off for the final time on Jan. 16, 2003, carrying more than 80 scientific experiments on a 16-day research mission known as STS-107.  Though Columbia roared into space successfully that day, it suffered a mortal wound during liftoff.  A chunk of foam broke off the orbiter’s external fuel tank and struck the leading edge of Columbia’s left wing, punching a hole in the shuttle’s protective heat shield.  When Columbia tried to come home on Feb. 1, 2003, hot atmospheric gases infiltrated the wing through this weak spot, causing the orbiter to break apart high over Texas.

Astronauts from the STS-107 mission; commander Rick Husband, pilot Willie McCool and mission specialists Michael Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon, who was Israel’s first space flyer were killed in the accident.

It was a beautiful Saturday morning and I was watching the news when they were talking about the Columbia re-entry.  Soon, the beautiful day turned into sadness when the news broke of the disaster.  I remember seeing the videos posted online showing Columbia breaking up in the sky.  I also hated seeing pieces of the space shuttle laying across the Texas land.

This video really shook many people.  This is rare footage from inside the crew cabin of space shuttle Columbia during its final moments. You can hear the crew talking with each other and at one point they get the feeling something is wrong.  The footage you see in this video is the Columbia crew approximately 5 minutes before the catastrophic failure of the entire space shuttle.  Debris was in fact being shed while this footage was being filmed.  These astronauts did not know they were about to die.

NASA today honored the memories of the Columbia astronauts, as well as those killed in the agency’s two other spaceflight disasters; the Challenger accident, which also claimed seven lives, and the 1967 Apollo fire, which killed three.

The Columbia accident led to the end of the space shuttle program.  Ever since, NASA has had to rely on Russia to send astronauts to space.  America needs to develop something so we can send people back into space again.  Instead of politicians fighting each other; we need to be encouraging people to enter fields in math and science.  I have the feeling that NASA will be strong again one day!


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