Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster

Feb. 1, 2003, Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart during re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere as a result of damage incurred to a reinforced carbon-carbon leading edge wing panel that had resulted from a piece of insulation foam breaking away from the external tank during the launch sequence.   Space Shuttle Columbia, OV-102,  suffered a structural failure in the shuttle's left wing and, shortly afterward, the complete disintegration of the Orbiter at Mach 19.5, or twenty times the speed of sound, at an altitude of 197,000 feet over Texas as she was attempting to decelerate while entering our atmosphere.  Seven heroes were lost that day…..We remember the crew of STS 107

Astronauts Rick D. Husband (L), mission commander; Kalpana Chawla, mission specialist; and William C. McCool, pilot. Standing are (L to R) astronauts David M. Brown, Laurel B. Clark, and Michael P. Anderson, all mission specialists; and Ilan Ramon, payload specialist - Israeli Space Agency

Godspeed, and may her crew rest in peace...

NASA's Day of Remembrance inspires thoughtful reflection and gratitude on behalf of the entire NASA Family, the nation and, indeed, the world.

This year, we recognize the decade that has passed since we lost 7 brave men and women aboard STS-107 Columbia, who were our friends, colleagues, and family members.

We will never forget these astronauts nor all those who have lost their lives carrying out our missions of exploration – the STS-51L Challenger crew; the Apollo 1 crew; Mike Adams, the first in-flight fatality of the space program as he piloted the X-15 No. 3 on a research flight.

These explorers, and their families, have our deepest respect. We work every day to honor and build on their legacy and create the best space program in the world -- to infuse it with the life and vitality that they worked so hard to achieve.

After the tragedy of Columbia, we not only returned to flight, we established policies and procedures to make our human spaceflight program safer than ever. Exploration will never be without risk, but we continue to work to ensure that when humans travel to space, nothing has been left undone to make them as safe as possible.

In the years after we returned the shuttles to flight, we completed an engineering marvel. The International Space Station now soars above us, an unparalleled and unique orbiting laboratory that is our foothold to the rest of the solar system. We are in a new era of exploration, where the work and sacrifice of those who have gone before will help us once again launch American astronauts from American soil and send them farther into deep space than we have ever gone.

So while the Day of Remembrance is in part a time of sadness, it is also a time of contemplation and thankfulness. It is a time to be thankful that these great men and women shared their lives with us; that they helped advance our nation and made life better on Earth; and that they are still united with us in that shared pursuit.

Today, I laid wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery for these fallen heroes, and at the Kennedy Space Center, wreaths were laid at the Space Mirror Memorial. Across the country, all flags at NASA Headquarters and the NASA centers will be flown at half-mast in memory of our colleagues lost in the cause of exploration.

And while those gestures will signify to the nation and the world that we have not forgotten, as we look to the future, we will each remember in our own personal way our colleagues and friends, and what their work meant to us. Together we will carry them with us in our hearts as we propel ourselves to the next big horizon and make their dreams reality.

Charles F. Bolden, Jr.
NASA Administrator

There is one generally unknown occurrence in this tragedy...Ilan Ramon, payload specialist - the Israeli Space Agency and first Israeli astronaut brought a small prayer book aboard STS-107. Somehow, as the Orbiter broke up at an altitude of 197,000 feet, and at twenty times the speed of sound, 37 pages from Ramon's orbital diary managed to survive the explosion and disintegration of Columbia and miraculously remained intact during its 37-mile free fall back to the surface of the earth.

Once recovered, Payload Specialist Ramon's diary was returned to his widow, Rona, including a copy of the Kiddish prayer Ramon used in orbit for her to hold on to...

 

 


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