Image 1-Front from left: Rick Husband William McCool. Standing from left: David Brown, Laurel Clark, Kalpana Chawla and Michael Anderson and Ilan Ramon. (Credit: NASA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
Image 2- From left (bottom row): Kalpana Chawla, mission specialist; Rick Husband, commander; Laurel Clark, mission specialist; and Ilan Ramon, payload specialist. From left (top row) are astronauts David Brown, mission specialist; William McCool, pilot; and Michael Anderson, payload commander. Ramon represents the Israeli Space Agency. (Credit: NASA/JSC)
1 Feb, 2003
A dark day in space history. Space shuttle Columbia’s last flight ended catastrophically on its way back to Earth tragically killing all seven on board. Columbia left Earth on 16 January, 2003 and its almost 16 day research mission (STS-107) was focussed on scientific experiments. Ironically the disaster occurred just minutes before the scheduled landing at the Kennedy Space Center.
The main reason for this disaster was a piece of insulating foam that fell from a “bipod ramp” and got into the left wing about 82 seconds after Columbia took off. This eventually lead to a hole on the left wing that allowed atmospheric gases to enter the shuttle as it went through its fiery re-entry, destroying the sensors and eventually, the astronauts inside.
A special tribute to the brave members on board the flight:
👤Rick Husband (Shuttle Commander) – Astronaut and fighter plane pilot who flew into space twice.
👤Michael Anderson (Payload Commander) – NASA engineer was responsible for overlooking dozens of science experiments
👤David Brown (Mission Specialist ) – Former Navy captain. This was his first flight to space.
👤Kalpana Chawla (Mission Specialist) – First Indian born woman to ever go to space.
👤Laurel Clark (Mission Specialist/Medical Doctor) – After the mission, she was posthumously awarded the the ‘Congressional Space Medal of Honor.
👤William McCool (Shuttle Pilot) – He received the NASA space flight medal
👤Ilan Ramon (Payload Specialist) – He was the first Israeli astronaut.
🚀Columbia was the first space shuttle to fly in space in April 1981.
🚀Columbia completed 27 missions before the disaster, with its maiden journey in April 1981.
🚀The search for debris took weeks, over 2,000 square miles in east Texas alone.
🚀The investigations cost roughly over $400 million and involved more than 2500 workers.