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Space Shuttle Columbia (OV-102):

Back in 1981 the first shuttle launched was Columbia. In 1988 I saw Columbia launch from Florida on the STS-90 mission (see my N America page for more details). Sadly five years later Columbia and its crew were doomed to fail to return on the STS-107 mission. As the Space Shuttle lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on January 16, a small portion of foam broke away from the orange external fuel tank and struck the orbiter's left wing. The resulting damage created a hole in the wing's leading edge, which caused the vehicle to break apart during reentry to Earth's atmosphere on February 1.

NASA Statement - February 1, 2003:

"A Space Shuttle contingency has been declared in Mission Control, Houston, as a result of the loss of communication with the Space Shuttle Columbia at approximately 9 a.m. EST Saturday as it descended toward a landing at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla. It was scheduled to touchdown at 9:16 a.m. EST.

Communication and tracking of the shuttle was lost at 9 a.m. EST at an altitude of about 203,000 feet in the area above north central Texas. At the time communications were lost. The shuttle was traveling approximately 12,500 miles per hour (Mach 18). No communication and tracking information were received in Mission Control after that time."

City of Nacogdoches website statement:

"This morning, significant debris from what is believed to be part of the space shuttle Columbia has fallen within the City of Nacogdoches. City emergency dispatch has received several calls from throughout the city regarding the recovery of this debris."

City of Nacogdoches website

National Weather Service Radar Images tracking the cloud of debris drifting across Texas and Louisiana, before fading out near Mississippi:

11:43-14:31 US Central Time animation. Shreveport is the radar center.

11:43 US Central Time
11:53 US Central Time
12:03 US Central Time
12:13 US Central Time
12:23 US Central Time
12:33 US Central Time
12:43 US Central Time
12:53 US Central Time
13:02 US Central Time
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13:22 US Central Time
13:32 US Central Time
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13:52 US Central Time
14:01 US Central Time
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14:21 US Central Time
14:31 US Central Time
14:41 US Central Time - change of scale
14:51 US Central Time

A bad time of year for NASA

Jan 27 1967 - 3 Apollo 1 astronauts died in a launch-pad fire during tests
Jan 28 1986 - 7 astronauts die in the Challenger Shuttle explosion
Feb 01 2003 - 7 astronauts die in the Columbia Shuttle explosion


Columbia Accident Investigation Board website

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