Space Shuttle Columbia was launched on January 16th, 2003 at 9.39am CST. Columbia (Flight STS-107) was on a 16-day science research mission in Earth orbit which performed experiments in space.
It was the 113th mission. Columbia was the oldest space shuttle in the fleet of four. It was the first space shuttle to be launched in Earth orbit in 1981.
The crew of Space Shuttle Columbia consisted of 7 astronauts:
Rick D. Husband - Commander
- William C. McCool - Pilot
- Michael P. Anderson
- David M. Brown
- Kalpana Chawla
- Laurel Clark
- Ilan Ramon - first Israeli in space
Thse images above show the Columbia during its take off and re-entry. At first, members of the public were convinced that a meteor was disintegrating on entry into the Earths atmosphere but it was not long before the news was released regarding the loss of contact with the shuttle.
The loss of Columbia was a result of damage sustained during launch when a piece of foam insulation the size of a small briefcase broke off the Space Shuttle external tank (the main propellant tank) under the aerodynamic forces of launch. The debris struck the leading edge of the left wing, damaging the Shuttle's, which protects it from heat generated with the atmosphere during re-entry. While Columbia was still in orbit, some engineers suspected damage, but NASA managers limited the investigation, on the grounds that little could be done even if problems were found.
7-8 minutes before the failure, gauges started to loose readings in Columbia's left wing, left landing gear brake system and tyre.
7.59am (CST) temperature and pressure gauges went off scale.
8am - All vehicle data was lost at 207,135 ft above the Earth at Mach 18.3 (about 12,500 mph) when the Columbia Space Shuttle broke up over north-central Texas. It was about 16 minutes prior to its scheduled landing at Florida's Kennedy Space Center.
The last communication from Houston ground control to Columbia commander Rick Husband was:
"To Columbia, here is Houston; we see your tyre pressure messages and we did not copy your last message."
After a moment, Husband replied: "Roger but ..."
After a brief crackling noise, contact was lost. The Space Shuttle Columbia was scheduled to land 8.16am (2.16GMT).
In an address to the nation on Saturday 1st at 4.45 EST, President George W. Bush confirmed the space shuttle Columbia and its crew of seven were lost after the Orbiter broke up during reentry on its landing approach to the Kennedy Space Center.